A Federal High Court in Abuja Friday discharged and acquitted former speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole of any complicity in a 16-count charge brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over his alleged involvement in contract inflation and fraudulent embezzlement of public funds totalling N874 million.
The trial judge, Justice Evoh Stephen Chukwu, held that based on the testimonies of the six witnesses called by the prosecution, no wrong doing could be imputed into the processes leading to the award of the said contracts to justify his being called to enter his defence in the trial.
Justice Chukwu, in a ruling on a no-case submission by Bankole, held that the prosecution â€œfailed woefullyâ€ to establish a prima facie case against the ex-speaker to warrant the court calling him to enter defence in the N874million contract fraud charge against him.
The prosecution was led by led by rights activist, Festus Keyamo.
He further held that the prosecution failed to prove the essential ingredients of the crimes to justify the charge that the former speaker colluded with others as covered by counts 3, 6, 9, 12, 13 and 14 of the charge.
The judge explained that collusion connotes an agreement to commit a crime. In the instant case, the judge found that the evidence led by the prosecution witnesses did not through their testimonies show that there was collusion.
He said: â€œFrom the totality of the testimonies of the six witnesses, nothing shows any act of collusion on the part of the accused person.
â€œNothing shows that he interfered with the process of the award of the contracts. No mention about anybody fronting for him was made by the prosecution witnesses and the process was also said to have complied with the requirements.
â€œBased on the totality of these witnessesâ€™ testimonies, I hold that there is nothing to justify his being called to enter his defence, as none of the essential ingredients have been proved by the prosecution.â€
The judge held that where the prosecution had not proved the essential ingredients of the offences charged, the court will be engaging in an inquisitorial trial should it insist that the accused must prove his innocence.
He held that under the nationâ€™s adversarial criminal procedure, it is left for the prosecution to prove its case against the accused and not the other way round.
â€œIn the end, the no-case submission of the accused person succeeds. The accused is hereby discharged and acquitted,â€ the judge held.
The court thereafter discharged and acquitted the former speaker of all the charges and upheld the no case submission pleaded by his lead counsel, Chief Olawale Akoni (SAN).
Prior to yesterdayâ€™s judgment, an Abuja High Court had also discharged and acquitted Bankole of charges bordering on breach of trust and illegally obtaining loan? of about N9 billion for the House of Representatives while at the helm of affairs.