A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole yesterday claimed that no court has the power to try him for any action he took in office as the speaker.
In an application to quash the charges of illegally obtaining a N38 billion loan leveled against him before an Abuja High Court, Mr Bankole, through his lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo, said there was no shred of evidence to sustain the 17-count charge.
Subsequently, Mr Bankole asked for an order quashing the charges against him because “the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has neither statutory nor Constitutional power to issue authority to a private prosecutor, to prosecute offences created by or under the Penal Code Act in any court of law, without the fiat of the Attorney-General of the Federation first being sought and obtained and usage of the powers as a vindictive weapon against the applicant.”
Citing the provisions of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act and the National Assembly Service Commission Act, Bankole said no court has jurisdiction to try or subject him to jurisdiction in all matters which are related to, connected with, or arose from any exercise of his official functions.
He argued that in the exercise of his duties in matters relating to his office as Speaker of the House of Representative, he cannot be prosecuted for the acts, decisions, and resolutions of the House of Representatives, taken at its Executive or Committee sessions because the principle of vicarious liability was unknown to criminal law in Nigeria.
Specifically, he said there is no evidence contained or shown in the evidence placed before the court warranting the inference or conclusion that he was at any time entrusted with the House of Representatives Account No.0039007000018 with UBA bank as alleged in counts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the charge or at all.
No conclusive evidence
Mr Bankole also claimed that there is no evidence leading to the conclusion that he breached the provisions of Section 311 of the Penal Code Act Cap. 532, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (Abuja) 1990 in the manner alleged in counts 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the charge or at all.
He claimed the offences of criminal breach of trust and theft as alleged in Counts 2-17 if the Charge (as contemplated or defined in the Penal Code) cannot be committed by him by ‘obtaining a loan to augment allowances and running costs of members of the House of Representatives in violation of the extant Revised Financial Regulations of the Federal Government of Nigeria, 2009’ or at all.
“The accused/applicant in his capacity as Speaker of the House of Representatives and in exercise of his powers as Chairman of the Principal Officers of the House of Representatives at plenary, executive or committee session of the House of Representatives acted in official capacity and not personally, he cannot be personally liable for any criminal prosecution.”
He is also asking for an order condemning the EFCC for an abuse of court process, malicious, and reckless use of prosecutorial power of the Attorney-General of the Federation when it had no power or authority to appropriate such powers.