Nigeria’s battle against corruption hardens

By Konye Obaji Ori

Posted on June 6, 2011 09:51

Nigeria’s hard-line battle against corruption and financial misappropriation by public officials as promised by President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has begun with the arrest of the outgoing speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, on Sunday June 5, 2011.

Mr. Bankole, who had ended his term with the Nigerian parliament on Thursday June 2, has be

en arrested for economic crimes including the alleged mismanagement of a 10 billion naira (64.5 million dollars) bank loan obtained by the parliament prior to the country’s elections in April.

Local media reported that Mr. Bankole had ignored two earlier writs for questioning by the anti-corruption agency and resisted arrest on Friday June 3rd. According to eyewitness reports, he was arrested after a four-hour blockade on his official residence in the highbrow Asokoro District of the Federal capital territory, Abuja at 7:00 GMT. He was later driven away to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Headquarters.

“The former speaker will remain in custody to enable him to have sufficient time to answer questions on the numerous fraud allegations against him,” a statement released by EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi. According to him “the former speaker was planning to leave Abuja for Lagos on Sunday evening and thereafter flee the country through an illegal route”.

Selfish and Fraudulent

Mr. Bankole, a businessman before being elected to the House at age 37, was accused of spending over N52b as travel expenses, an act many members of the House of Representative described as “selfish and fraudulent.”

A former Director of Freight Agencies Nigeria Limited from 1995 until 1998, Executive Director of Operations of West African Aluminum Products Limited from 1998 until 2003, and Director of ASAP Limited from 2000 until 2003, Mr. Bankole is the youngest Speaker in the history of the House. However, his career has been strewn with accusations of financial crimes.

“There has been a pending allegation over a three-billion-naira cars purchase; there has been another pending over alleged misappropriation of nine billion naira budgetary allocation; and there is the latest allegation of misappropriation of 25 billion naira which is made up of 15 billion budgetary allocation and 10 billion naira which is a loan,” Babafemi told AFP.

The administration of President Jonathan vowed to tackle endemic corruption in Africa’s most populous nation. Meanwhile, observers say the Nigerian anti-graft police established to lead the battle against corruption have scored another point in its credibility register.

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