- Category: Law, Crime & Judiciary
- Published on Sunday, 12 June 2011 09:39
- Written by Admin
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The ongoing trial of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, has assumed a new dimension with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) probing alleged purchase of his official residence by the embattled Speaker.
The commission has also identified five posh houses in Abuja allegedly owned by the former speaker. But the most controversial is the official residence of the Speaker which has been allegedly bought by Bankole for N48 million.
Four former members of the House have also reportedly agreed to testify against him over contract scam allegations.
It was also gathered that the EFCC may extend its investigation to the ownership of the official residence of the senate president.
As at press time, there were indications that about five posh mansions had been traced to Bankole by the EFCC. They may be temporarily confiscated after due diligence under the Assets Forfeiture Clause in EFCC Act 2004.
One of the houses is the official residence of the Speaker in Apo Legislative Quarters which was allegedly bought for N48million under the guise of monetization.
It was learnt that the residence had initially been renovated by the government with over N600million before the purchase by the ex-Speaker.
The EFCC source added: "Out of three teams sent out, one of them succeeded in tracing five houses to the ex-Speaker, including the official residence of the Speaker. He is to respond to our enquiries on the said houses. We have got petitions on the sale of the official residence of the Speaker at pittance rate of N48million. The petitioners alleged that the residence was grossly undervalued.
"They also alleged that the residence ought not to have been bought because that is the official quarters meant for all successive House Speaker. The petitioners alleged that monetization has been taken to a ridiculous level with the sale of the Speaker’s residence. They drew analogy that it is like President Goodluck Jonathan buying Aso Rock under the cover of monetization.
"We are already probing how the house was sold; the valuers involved; when the bid was conducted and how it was won. We will try as much as possible to unearth how the official residence was sold so that the public will appreciate our investigation."
Investigation by The Nation showed that four ex-lawmakers quizzed by the EFCC during the week had claimed that the buck stopped at the ex- Speaker’s table on the controversial purchases made by the House.
It was gathered that in their statements, the four lawmakers tried to absolve themselves of blame on issues being probed by the commission.
A top source in the commission said: "These lawmakers have made confessional statements and they may end up being our witnesses against the former Speaker. They tried to wriggle out of the scam in the House by admitting certain lapses by the House leadership.
"This was why the EFCC chairman was confident enough to tell lawmakers at an interactive forum during the week that the commission has evidence against him.
"Conveniently, we are set for trial and not the media trial being alleged by Bankole’s strategists."
Meanwhile, Bankole may be arraigned next week on separate charges on different allegations.
The allegations bordered on alleged N2.3billion car scam and the controversial N10billion loan.
The EFCC source added: "We will arraign the Speaker separately on these two allegations anytime next week."
A group, Youth Anti-Corruption League had about four weeks ago staged a protest to the EFCC demanding Bankole’s probe.
The League submitted a one-page petition to the EFCC through its President, Jumoke Iliyasu. In the petition the group said: "We are aware that your commission has received several petitions against the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, about the N2.3billion car scam arising from the purchase of 407 Peugeot cars for the House sometimes in 2008.
"We are further aware that certain members of the ‘Progressive’ group of legislators submitted a petition against the same Speaker on the abuse of due process and corrupt practices associated with the N9bilion capital budget of the House of Representatives for 2008/2009 sessions. To the best of our knowledge, no visible action has been taken against him upon any of the petitions." (The Nation)