Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nigerian EFCC Questions Officials in Probe of Former House Speaker

EFCC grills N’Assembly Clerks, Bankole returns to court today

Thursday, 16 June 2011 00:00
From Azimazi Momoh Jimoh and Abosede Musari, Abuja
Nigerian Guardian

IN its facts gathering exercise and search for witnesses to prosecute the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and his deputy, Usman Bayero Nafada, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has interrogated the two clerks of the National Assembly.

Feelers from the anti-graft agency yesterday indicated that two top management officers, Alhaji Abubakar Salisu Maikasuwa, Clerk to the National Assembly and Mr. Sani Omolori, the House of Representatives Clerk, might serve as prosecution witnesses in the trial of Bankole and Nafada.

Another set of top officials of the Assembly bureaucracy was also allegedly interrogated by the commission to avoid a floppy trial of the former House leaders.

It was also learnt that the political leadership and top management staff of the National Assembly met behind closed doors yesterday to review the unfolding development.

Sources said during the interrogation, the two clerks were asked to prepare to serve as prosecution witnesses in the two separate cases of contract inflation to the tune of N9 billion preferred against Bankole and illegal sourcing of N40 billion loan and unauthorized increase of their allowances by the former Speaker and Nafada.

The bail application by Bankole and Nafada will be heard today at the High Court, Abuja. The former principal officers of the House were arraigned on a 17-count charge of criminal breach of trust, misappropriation and theft. They were arraigned before Justice Sulaiman Belgore over a fresh N40 billion loan scam.

The EFCC accused them of obtaining and dishonestly disbursing N37.7 billion without the consent of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

However serving and former members of the House have expressed reservations about the action of the EFCC to use the Assembly Clerks as prosecution witnesses in the two cases.

“Judging from the recent happenings, what is obvious is that the National Assembly will not be the same in terms of image and reputation at the end of all these. Remember the series of corruption related cases that had emerged since 1999 in the National Assembly and the havoc they had caused to the reputation and image of the National Assembly.”

“On the current issue, the EFCC invited some top management staff of the National Assembly including the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and the Clerk to the House of Representatives, Mr. M.A. Sani Omolori. They were asked some specific questions about the allegations. The issue arising from that is that the EFCC wants to use the Clerks as prosecution witnesses in the ongoing trial of former presiding officers of the House of Representatives.

“If any of them agrees to the idea of serving as prosecution witness, then I can tell you the worst would happen to the Institution of the National Assembly. And that include the National Assembly Bureaucracy, the Senate and the House of Representatives put together. I expect that the current leadership of the National Assembly, particularly the highly respected Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly, Senator David Mark, should not allow this to happen.”

“EFCC should be advised to source its prosecution witnesses from outside the National Assembly. I am aware that a meeting of National Assembly leadership and heads of National Assembly bureaucracy has been held. They need to hold more of such crucial meetings and come out strongly against any thing that is capable of shattering whatever remains of the image of the National Assembly,” a worried lawmaker said.

The commission’s spokesman, Femi Babafemi, confirmed yesterday that the submissions of both Clerks sufficiently indicted former Bankole and Nafada.

According to him, “the commission now has more than enough documented evidence to carry the prosecution of both Bankole and Nafada to fruition.”

On plans to use Omolori and Maikasuwa as prosecution witnesses, Babafemi said “the option is not impossible.”

Meanwhile, a top EFCC source has said Bankole and Nafada, were “co-operating” with the commission in its investigations. He hinted that the Clerk of the House and the other colleagues of the accused, who have been questioned, have been offering useful information on the case.

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