The embattled former speaker of House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, was docked yesterday at the Federal High Court, Abuja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged corruption charges.
Bankole, who was brought to the court at about 8:30am, however, pleaded not guilty to the 16–court charge.
The court has remanded him in the custody of the EFCC till tomorrow for the commencement of the case proper.
Meanwhile, the anti-graft agency has invited some former principal actors of the sixth House of Representatives to explain all they know about the allegations which were leveled against the former speaker.
The affected officers include former deputy speaker Hon. Usman Bayero Nafada, former leader of the House Tunde Akogun, former deputy leader Baba Shehu Agaie, Suleiman Kawu, Bello Mohammed, and Ali Ndume, the former minority leader of the House.
A source in the anti-graft agency stated that the lawmakers were likely to be granted bail after their interrogation.
The EFCC had brought Bankole to court for alleged involvement in inflation of contracts for the purchase of cars, television sets and computer accessories to the tune of N894 million.
Bankole, who wore his usual white kaftan, with a white cap to match, appeared pensive and remorseful throughout the court session.
EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, had urged Justice Donatus Okorowo to allow the ex-speaker take his plea. But when the charges were read to Bankole, he pleaded ‘not guilty’.
Justice Okorowo later adjourned the matter till July 26 and 27 to commence the actual trial of the ex-speaker. The judge further directed the lead lawyer to Bankole, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), who is leading other three other Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) and 14 lawyers in the defence of Bankole to formally file his client’s bail application which would be heard by noon tomorrow.
Justice Okoroowo also asked Bankole’s lawyers to serve the prosecution the bail application the moment the application was filed.
The court, which was packed full with prominent members of the House, including former chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon. Bature Usman, was treated to a drama of hostility when Keyamo first told the court that the accussed was ready to take plea to the 16-count charge and that the court should read it to him.
But Awomolo told the court that the accused would take his plea on protest and wait to be heard.
The senior advocate drew the court’s attention to the way and manner Bankole’s arrest was subjected to national and international media coverage even when his trial was yet to commence.
But Keyamo told the court that Bankole had been evading arrest, saying that even the International Monetary Fund(IMF) boss was arrested in the same manner recently.
Keyamo also opposed the oral bail application by Awomolo on the grounds that he required two days to respond to it. According to him, there are other matters Bankole is being investigated upon, adding that the security information before the EFCC indicates that Bankole had wanted to flee the country, which makes it very dangerous to release Bankole based on oral application for his bail.
Justice Okorowo later told Awomolo that since it was difficult to persuade or force an “unwilling horse of the prosecution” for him to move his oral bail application by which Bankole could be released yesterday, the court could only adjourn for a formal bail application to be filed and heard on Friday, June 10.
The EFCC had on Tuesday filed a 16-count charge of alleged contract inflation amounting to N894 million against Bankole.
The charge, which was filed on behalf of the commission by Keyamo, chronicled series of allegation bordering on units of Range Rover and Mercedes Benz cars to computer units, scanners and other accessories.