An Abuja Federal High Court on Friday discharged and acquitted a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission could not prove a 16-count criminal charge bordering on a N9bn contract scam filed against him.
Justice Evoh Chukwu, in a ruling on a no-case-submission filed by Bankole after the prosecution had called its witnesses, held that there was no evidence linking the former speaker to the alleged offences.
The EFCC had accused Bankole of perpetrating a contract fraud, involving the purchase of two Range Rover bulletproof vehicles; two Range Rover vehicles (without bullet proof); three Mercedes Benz S-600 cars; 400 units of DSTV systems; 400 television sets; 800 units of desktop computers; 100 units of Sharp digital copier; and 400 units of HP LaserJets 2600N.
The addresses presented by the companies which executed the contracts for the procurement of the items turned out to be false as well as other information provided in their profiles.
The anti-graft agency alleged that most of the purchases were contrary to Sections 17 to 56 of the Public Procurement Act No.14 of 2007, and punishable under Section 58(5) of the same Act.
With a private lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, prosecuting the case, Bankole was arraigned over the 16-count charge, to which he pleaded not guilty.
However, the trial proceeded with the prosecution calling six witnesses, including officials of the National Assembly, to testify.
After the prosecution had called its last witness, Bankole, through his lawyer, Mr. O. Akoni, SAN, filed an application for a no-case-submission, asking the court to acquit and discharge him on the grounds that the EFCC had not established a prima facie case against him.
Ruling on the no-case-submission on Friday, Justice Chukwu stressed that, in order to prove the case against the former Speaker, the EFCC must prove that the “accused person (Bankole) colluded with the supplier or contractor to supply at inflated prices.”
He held that the anti-graft agency was unable to prove such. The judge further noted that witnesses brought by the prosecution all admitted that Bankole was not the chief accounting officer of the House.
Justice Chukwu added that all the witnesses also admitted that the contract for the purchase of the controversial items followed due process.
He said, “All the witnesses told the court that the procedure for the award of the contract followed due process. None of them showed that the accused person entered into a collusive agreement with the contractors or their agents.
“The accused person does not own any of the companies,” he added, citing the testimony of some of the prosecution witnesses, who told the court that investigations did not disclose that Bankole was a shareholder, director or signatory to any of the companies that benefitted from the contract.
Continuing, the judge held that the prosecution did not provide any evidence to prove that Bankole benefitted from the contract.
“In the totality of the evidence of the prosecution, there is nothing to show that the accused person acted with intention to defraud – there is no evidence to show that he selected the companies that were awarded the contract.
“There is no evidence to show that any of the companies were fronting for the accused person.
“There is no evidence to show that the accused person was a director or a shareholder in any of the companies.”
On January 31, 2012, a Federal Capital Territory High Court headed by Justice S. B. Belgore, had freed Bankole and his former Deputy, Ibrahim Nafada, of a criminal charged involving an alleged mismanagement of N38m.