Wednesday, November 16, 2011

N37.91b loans: Lawyers abandon Bankole’s trial

Former  House Speaker Bankole Former House Speaker Bankole
Case reopens in six days
FORMER House Speaker Dimeji Bankole and his deputy, Bayero Nafada, are shopping for new lawyers to fight their legal battle. 
Six days to their trial for alleged corruption, their lawyers have withdrawn from the case.
Bankole and Nafada are standing trial at both the Federal High Court, Abuja Division and in the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
They were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged inflation of contracts and obtaining over N37.91billion loans during their tenure.
The loans were used to pay jumbo allowances to members of the sixth House of Representatives.
Part of the loans was a N12billion facility obtained by the House leadership three days to the end of its tenure in May. The allowances were allegedly paid outside the approved Remuneration Package for Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and the extant Revised Financial Regulations of the Federal Government of Nigeria, 2009.
Although the trial judge at the FCT High Court, Justice Suleiman Belgore, has devoted next week for the trial of the ex-Speaker and his deputy, their counsel sent two notices yesterday, announcing their withdrawal from the two cases.
The counsel are Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), Dr. Awa Kalu (SAN) and Prof. Charles Ilegbune (SAN).
One of the notices, dated November 15, 2011, reads: “Take notice that the law firm of Adegboyega Solomon Awomolo(SAN)  along with Dr. Awa Kalu(SAN) and Prof. Charles Ilegbune(SAN) herewith withdraw appearance/representation for Hon. Dimeji Bankole forthwith.
“Take further notice that all processes be served on him personally or through his appointed counsel.”
The lawyers were, however, silent on why they have decided to withdraw from the case. But, according to sources who pleaded not to be named, the accused persons and their counsel had some “irreconcilable disagreement”, which neither side was ready to disclose.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The withdrawal is a setback and we are suspecting a ploy to delay or frustrate the case. It is like starting the two cases all over.
“When a new counsel comes in now, he will begin a new kind of rigmarole, claiming that he has just been briefed.
“It may not be unconnected with the fact that the scenario has changed, with the new practice directive by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Dahiru Musdapher.”
“And with the withdrawal from the cases by counsel, there is no way the trial of the accused persons can start earlier than 2012 when it is obvious that one of the trial judges has fixed a week for speedy trial of Bankole and Nafada.”
Justice Musdapher last week directed that corruption cases must be disposed of by Judges within six-months.
The CJN ordered Judges to either conclude corruption cases within the period or strike them out if there is no diligent prosecution.
He spoke last Thursday in Abuja at a lecture organised by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) and conferment of honourary Fellowship of the Institute on distinguished personalities.