Sunday, June 05, 2011

Nigerian EFCC Arrests Former House Speaker

EFCC arrests Bankole

Monday, 06 June 2011 00:00
From Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Abosede Musari (Abuja) and Bertram Nwannekanma (Lagos)

Foils ex-Speaker’s ‘plan to flee’

Bankole puts up four-hour resistance

Details how N10b was shared in the House

IN a surprise move last night at 8pm, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested the former Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole. A statement by EFCC’s spokesman, Mr Femi Babafemi noted that the commission had to arrest Bankole ahead of the Monday (today) date he gave to surrender himself, because of its intelligence report, which indicated that Bankole was allegedly plotting to escape.

Bankole, according to the statement, was picked up at his Asokoro residence in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

The commission’s sources revealed that there was a stand-off as Bankole resisted arrest for about four hours from 4pm Sunday evening before he was eventually picked up.

“We eventually got the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Director General of the State Security Service (SSS) to withdraw their men from him. Then we were able to arrest him,” a top EFCC official affirmed. He arrived at the commission’s office in a Toyota Corolla car with aFederal Capital Territory registration number BJ 167 KWL, wearing a black T-shirt and grey trousers.

According to the statement, “the EFCC Chairman, Mrs Farida Waziri was compelled to order the immediate arrest of Mr. Bankole after analyzing an intelligence report which showed that the former Speaker was planning to leave Abuja for Lagos on Sunday evening and thereafter flee the country through an illegal route.

“It will be recalled that Mr Bankole had twice shunned two invitations extended to him in the last two weeks by the EFCC, an impunity that climaxed last Friday when he resisted attempts by operatives to arrest him in his Asokoro, Abuja residence.

“The EFCC operatives had to be withdrawn after over five hours stand-off after a commitment from Mr Bankole that he was going to surrender himself on Monday.

“While our men kept surveillance around the former speaker hoping he will honour his promise to report on Monday, a fresh intelligence gathered by the Commission showed that Mr. Bankole was not ready to keep his promise but was rather planning other schemes to escape from the country through an illegal route or obtain a restraining court order early on Monday to prevent the Commission from effecting his arrest or prosecution.

Meanwhile, the former Speaker will remain in custody to enable him have sufficient time to answer questions on the numerous fraud allegations against him.”

Bankole had earlier got a hint that he may not retire into an exciting post-service life, as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) tightened their noose on him.

While the EFCC, before last night’s action, had fixed noon today for Bankole to report at its office as against the 2.00.p.m. the former lawmaker requested, the ICPC said it had initiated investigation into the N10 billion loan obtained by the leadership of the former House.

And yesterday, the immediate past Speaker opened up on how the controversial N10 billion loan was shared among principal officers and other members of the House.

In a statement he issued in Abuja yesterday, Bankole denied benefitting from the loan, insisting that he continued to collect the old allowances even after the loan was taken until he left office.

According to him, the increment took effect from the first quarter of last year (2010) and lasted till the end of the tenure of the House.

He said all the beneficiaries enjoyed the increment for five quarters.

Bankole listed the principal officers who benefited from the loan as the Chief Whip of the House, Emeka Ihedioha, who got N14 million per quarter.

He said Aminu Tambuwal, who was the Deputy Chief Whip and now eyeing the Speakership was another beneficiary. Tambuwal, he alleged got N14 million per quarter.

The statement, titled “N10 billion loan: Bankole, Deputy did not benefit from loan” was signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Idowu Bakare.

He said: “Contrary to media reports that the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and his deputy, Alhaji Usman Bayero Nafada, benefited from the increases in allowances that necessitated the taking of a N10 billion loan, the former speaker and his deputy never benefited from the loan as they received only the old rate they have been receiving before the issue of increment was recommended by a 37-member committee and endorsed by an Executive session of the House.

“Before the increment quarterly allowance to the office of the Speaker was N100 million while his deputy received N80 million. The loan in question was distributed among other principal officers and the remaining members of the House as shown in the table below.

“Others principal officer’s increment shows that the Minority Whip, Deputy Minority Leader and Deputy Minority Whip that have been receiving N36 million per quarter received an increment of N14 million to make up N50 million each while the rest of the members got an increment of N14 million on the usual N28 million per quarter.

“The total sum shows that the increment amounted to N5.012 billion per quarter and the loan was taken for two quarter amounting to N10.024 billion plus interest.

“The loan was taken pursuant of an Executive session decision of the House on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 where the report of a 37-member committee set up on March 25, 2010 to look into agitation of members for enhancement of running costs of members was reported by Independence Ogunewe. The report was approved by the House in Executive session of March 30.”

In a letter to the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), signed by one F. Popoola for the ICPC Acting Chairman, the anti-graft body said it had started investigations into the loan facility.

The letter read: “I am directed to acknowledge with thanks the receipt of your petition requesting us to investigate the alleged mismanagement of the N10 billion loan obtained by the leadership of the House of Representatives. We are taking steps to look into the matter, and in due course, you will be notified of further development.”

But SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, in a statement yesterday said: “The investigation both by the ICPC and the EFCC into the N10 billion scandal would help to re-invigorate the fight against high level official corruption and the impunity of perpetrators, especially at a time when the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act has been enacted.

“Without doubt, the ongoing investigation by the two anti-corruption agencies would lend momentum to the anti-corruption fight in Nigeria; and is good for improving the credibility of the agencies among the citizens as a serious body can and will rise up to the occasion and act without fear to address the problem of corruption especially at the highest level of political authorities,” he said.

Last Friday, men of the EFCC attempted to arrest Bankole at his 8, Richard Clapperton house in Asokoro, Abuja, on a tip-off that he would flee the country.

Though Bankole through Bakare, denied trying to run to the United Kingdom (UK), the drama that ensued between him and the EFCC operatives was brought to a halt by Ringim, who allegedly pleaded with commission to allow the former Speaker complete the handover process today.

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