President Goodluck Jonathan may not intervene in the corruption trial of immediate Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, finding by THE PUNCH has revealed.
Bankole, who was granted bail by a Federal High Court in Abuja last Friday, is being prosecuted for the inflation of contracts and securing loans totalling N40bn to increase the allowances of 360 members of the lower legislative chamber.
Reports had claimed that Jonathan was under pressure from the leadership of the National Assembly and other prominent Nigerians to intervene in the trial of the former Speaker, and his erstwhile deputy, Alhaji Bayero Nafada.
However, a source in the Presidency told our correspondent that Jonathan believed that the law courts had the final say on the cases against Bankole. The source , who did not want his name in print, added that Jonathan also believed that the nation’s anti-graft agencies needed a free hand to be able to perform their duties creditably.
He said, “The President will not intervene in the cases, he won’t. They are corruption cases instituted by the EFCC in courts; the President does not interfere in the activities of the EFCC or in law suits. “As a rule, the President does not intervene. It is a judicial process, a matter that is entirely within the jurisdiction of the courts.“The President believes the courts have shown themselves capable and competent enough to discharge their mandate.
“The law will take its course, the President won’t intervene.”
The source noted that the President, in his inaugural speech, had vowed to consider ‘common good’ in making every decision, stressing that intervening in Bankole’s trials would make nonsense of his pledge.
Jonathan had on May 29, 2011 declared, “The bane of corruption shall be met by the collective determination to rid our country of this scourge. The fight against corruption is a war in which we must all enlist, so that the limited resources of this nation will be used for the growth of our common wealth.”
However, feelers from the National Assembly showed that its members, including the immediate ones, were uncomfortable with Bankole’s travails in the hands of the EFCC.
The new speaker, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, had, in company with the President of the Senate, David Mark, met with Jonathan a couple of times in the Presidential Villa.
The pressure on Jonathan is partly informed by the feeling that an intervention from the President will reinforce the goodwill between the Executive and the Legislature.
It was learnt that the National Assembly and other prominent Nigerians mounting pressure on Jonathan to intervene in the former Speaker’s case preferred a political solution to the matter.
Some view Bankole’s trial as his price for allegedly supporting the rebellion in the House that led to the emergence of Tambuwal as Speaker instead of Mrs. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, the ‘anointed’ candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the post.
Under Bankole, the House amended its rules against open voting in the speakership balloting, which worked in Tambuwal’s favour and emboldened PDP lawmakers to vote against Akande-Adeola.
Others have added that a power sharing arrangement where the senate presidency, speakership of the House of Representatives and the position of vice-president are all in the North should be a source of concern for national stability.
Bankole was arrested on June 5, 2011, the eve of the inauguration of the seventh National Assembly.
Three days after his arrest and interrogation, the EFCC filed a 16-count charge of contract inflation amounting to N894m against him.
In the suit filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja by its counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo, the commission said Bankole and other principal officers of the House ‘now at large’ hiked the cost of vehicles, television sets and office equipment purchased by the House in 2008.
The commission said the action contravened some sections of the Public Procurement Act No. 14 of 2007, which carried a five-year prison term on conviction.
Just as he was granted bail by the FHC, the EFCC arrested him again and slammed a 17-count charge against him for breaching public trust by approving the allowances and running cost of members of the House in violation of the approved Remuneration Package for Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission and the extant Revised Financial Regulations of the Federal Government of Nigeria, 2009.