A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory was on Monday, November 21st, 2011, told how a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and his deputy, Usman Bayero Nafada unilaterally increased allowances of members from N17 million per quarter to N42 million per quarter, amounting to N60.480 billion annually.
At the resumed hearing of the case before Justice Sulaiman Belgore, two witnesses, Adeniyi Adebayo and Ibrahim Ahmed led by prosecution counsel, Festus Keyamo, gave a testimony explaining how the Bankole and Nafada- led House approved the increment and took a loan of N42billion from two banks to fund the increment. Besides, the witnesses said that Dimeji and Nafada diverted the excess accruing from the loan into their personal accounts.
One of the prosecution witnesses, Ibrahim Ahmed, an EFCC investigating officer told the court that United Bank of Africa, UBA, and First Bank were the two banks that funded the illegal increment. He said the first loan taken from UBA without recourse to due process was a N10 billion which was rolled over thrice and another N12 billion from First bank.
Ahmed told the court that upon investigation, letters were written to the Clerk of the National Assembly, the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Salaries Wages and Incomes Commission, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation,SGF, UBA plc and First Bank of Nigeria plc with regards to the allegations.
He further told the Court that another letter was written to the Clerk of the NASS to provide the minutes of meeting held by the principal officers of the House, Internal memos between the Clerk and the then Speaker concerning the loan collected from UBA and First Bank, Payment schedule sent to the bank from the House, agreement(s) between the House and the Banks and any House resolution concerning the loan matter.
Ahmed also told the court that because the tenure of Bankole led administration was nearing its end and the facility was yet to be repaid, UBA held unto the allocation of the House from the Federation account; which starved the house of funds, a development that led to the last loan of N12 billion taken from First Bank.
Besides, he said that the increment the members unilaterally did was not captured in the 2010 budget and as such there were great discrepancies between figures given by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission and what the House paid members.
Ahmed also said that the decision to obtain the said loan was taken at the guest house of the former Speaker (Dimeji Bankole) with him presiding; adding that investigation also established the total lawful quarterly allowance’s accrued to each member from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
Justice Belgore, after listening to the two witnesses, adjourned hearing till Tuesday November 22, 2011.
The duo of Bankole and Nafada were arraigned on Monday, June 13, 2011, on a fresh 17 count charge of criminal breach of trust, misappropriation and theft. It would be recalled that the bid by the former legislators to quash the charges filed against them by the EFCC was dismissed by Justice Sulaiman Belgore who ruled that there is sufficient evidence placed before the court linking them to the alleged crime and dismissed all three applications.
The three grounds contained in the applications filed by the accused persons before Belgore are: an order to quash the 17 counts charge against them; an order to disqualify the prosecution counsel, Festus Keyamo from prosecuting the case and another one querying the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the case.
Justice Belgore had in his ruling, also frowned at the application of the accused persons challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the case. On this, he said: “This prayer amuses me. The Speaker never enjoyed immunity when he was Speaker of the House of Representatives. Even now, he enjoys no immunity as a former speaker; so it really amuses me when he talks of lack of jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit”.
Count one of the charges against Bankole and Nafada reads, “That you Dimeji Sabur Bankole and Usman Bayero Nafada, being Principal Officers of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on or about the 12th day of May, 2010, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, did agree amongst yourselves to commit a felony, to wit: criminal breach of trust by agreeing to approve the allowances and/or “running costs” of Members of the House of Representatives in violation of the approved Remuneration Package for Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission and the extant Revised Financial Regulations of the Federal Government of Nigeria, 2009 and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 97(1) of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (Abuja) 1990 and punishable under Section 315 of the same Penal Code Act.
Count two reads: “That you Dimeji Sabur Bankole and Usman Bayero Nafada, being Principal Officers of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sometime around January 2011, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, being entrusted with House of Representatives’ Account No. 00390070000018 with the United Bank of Africa, Plc, property of the Federal Government of Nigeria, dishonestly used that account to obtain a loan of Ten Billion, Three Hundred and Eighty Million Naira (N10,380,000,000.00) from the United Bank of Africa, Plc, to augment allowances and “running costs” of members of the House of Representatives in violation of the extant Revised Financial Regulations of the Federal Government of Nigeria, 2009 and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 311 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (Abuja) 1990 and punishable under Section 315 of the same Penal Code Act.
By Femi Babafemi-Head, Media & Publicity of EFCC