Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole
By Tobi Soniyi
The trial of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, for alleged fraud was Monday stalled because the trial judge, Justice Donatus Okorowo, was transferred to the Taraba Division of the Federal High Court.
Bankole was arraigned in June 2011 on a 16-count charge of contract inflation and embezzlement of public funds.
At the last hearing, Justice Okorowo had adjourned the trial until September 24, 25, 26 and 27.
Reacting to the judge’s transfer, the prosecutor, Mr Festus Keyamo, said he was waiting to hear from the chief judge of the court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to know if Justice Okorowo would be coming from Taraba to preside over the trial or if the case would be assigned to another judge.
He said: “Anyhow it goes, this is part of the problem of a corruption trial. It is for this reason that a special court for the trial of corruption cases remains the way out.”
The court had on December 19, 2011, dismissed two applications filed by Bankole to stop his trial.
Justice Okorowo said that there was sufficient evidence placed before the court linking him to the alleged crime.
Bankole had challenged his trial on the grounds that the proof of evidence did not disclose any shred of criminality against him and also that Keyamo should be disqualified from prosecuting the case as he had through his antecedents, shown that he was biased.
But in his ruling, the judge cited Section 4 of the constitution which states that the legislative powers of the House of Representatives should be vested in the National Assembly.
He further said that under the Public Procurement Act (PPA), the National Assembly was in contempt of the Act which made it culpable.
On the question of who should be charged under the Act, the judge pointed out that the PPA had shown in the extended scope of the Act that the National Assembly could be charged and it was on record that there was a body of principal officers responsible for awarding contracts.
On whether a prima-facie case has been established, Justice Okorowo said there was enough evidence tendered by the prosecution linking the accused to the offences charged against him.