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Nigerian Politician Accused of Misusing Millions of Dollars

  • Anne Look

The bail hearing opened Friday in Abuja for former speaker of Nigeria's House of Representatives, who has plead not guilty to charges that he misappropriated millions of dollars in state funds.

Nigerian authorities arrested former House Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, on Sunday at his home in Abuja after a four-hour stand-off. Authorities said they had reason to believe Bankole was planning to flee the country.

The country's anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, of EFCC, accuses Bankole of misappropriating at least $60 million in state funds.

Bankole went before the judge Friday for a bail hearing, which will continue Monday. Bankole remains in police custody over the weekend.

Speaking to the press before the hearing, attorney for the EFCC, Festus Keyamo, said they would oppose bail.

"We have facts. We have documents to prove that this is not an accused person who can willingly come to his trial because of his manner of arrest. The press followed it. The public followed it. I'm sure you are quite aware of his unwillingness to bring himself to justice," Keyamo said.

Bankole is accused of conspiring in fund-diversion schemes including inflating the cost of hundreds of computers, printers and televisions for the National Assembly and rigging a bid to purchase luxury cars.

Keyamo said the EFCC is still investigating these and other breeches of the Public Procurement Act.

"There are 16 counts for now, but I made it known to the court that there are other areas of investigation that the commission is still looking at and more charges will be brought," Keyamo said.

Bankole plead not guilty to those 16 counts in federal court on Wednesday. A spokesman for Bankole told the Associated Press that the former parliamentary speaker had not resisted arrest or planned to flee the country.

Newly-elected president Goodluck Jonathan has pledged to weed out the corruption that has characterized Nigeria's government and politicians for decades.

Analysts say the case against Bankole, a prominent and influential politician during the last administration, could be a telling test of that commitment.