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Monday 14th June 2021,
Hope for Nigeria

Ex-Speaker Bankole weeps as court frees him

Reprieve came the way of ex-Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, yesterday as a Federal High Court in Abuja discharged and acquitted him on charges bordering on fraud and abuse of office.

Justice Evoh Chukwu, in a ruling on a no-case submission by Bankole, held that the prosecution “failed woefully” to establish a prima facie case against the ex-Speaker to warrant the court calling him to enter defence in the N874million contract fraud charge against him.

The prosecution was led by rights activist, Festus Keyamo.

On hearing the judge’s pronouncement, Bankole, dressed in white native attire, succumbed to emotion, and wept.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had in 2011 filed a 16-count charge against Bankole, and on which basis he was later arraigned.

EFCC’s action was informed by a petition by former House of Representatives member, Dino Melaye.

Bankole was charged with inflation of contract, procurement fraud and bid rigging, offences contrary to section 58 (4) (a), (b) and (e) of the Public Procurement Act (PPA). The alleged offences, on conviction, attract a minimum of five years and maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

Bankole pleaded not guilty to the charge, prompting the commencement of trial, during which the prosecution called six witnesses.

When the prosecution closed its case, Bankole chose to make a no-case-submission on the grounds that, from the totality of its evidence, the prosecution was unable to establish a prima facie case against him to warrant his being called by the court to defend himself.

In the ruling that lasted about two hours, Justice Chukwu held that the prosecution failed to make out a case against the accused person.

He declared that the prosecution failed to link the ex-Speaker to all the alleged offences, particularly when it was unable to establish that Bankole was the House’s Accounting Officer who handled its contract transactions or that he was involved in contract inflation, contract fraud and bid rigging.

The judge held that where the prosecution fails to prove the essential ingredients of the offences charged, the court will be engaging in inquisitorial trial should it insist that the accused must prove its innocence.

He held that under the nation’s adversarial criminal procedure, it is up to the prosecution to prove its case against the accused and not the other way round.

“In the end, the no-case submission of the accused person succeeds. The accused is hereby discharged and acquitted,” he said and retired to his chamber.

Bankole, who had all along stood in the dock reached for his cap which he had placed on an edge of the dock.

And as he tried to put the cap on his head, tears flowed freely from his eyes, wiping the tears with his right hand.

He supporters, majority of who were dressed in white, like Bankole, sang victory songs.

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