Nigeria’s former parliament speaker pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of fraud, the first charges in a case involving the alleged diversion of tens of millions of dollars.
Dimeji Bankole, one of the most powerful politicians in the last administration, appeared at a high court in the capital Abuja and spoke only to enter his plea. He was remanded in custody pending a bail hearing on Friday.
The charges brought so far accuse Bankole of conspiring to inflate the cost of hundreds of television sets, computers, printers and photocopiers, and rigging the bid for two bullet-proof Range Rovers and three luxury Mercedes cars, Reuters reports.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, has said it plans to file more charges in the coming days against Bankole, who ended his term as parliamentary speaker last week.
The EFCC says the allegations include the misappropriation of 9 billion naira, the diversion of funds in a 2.3 billion naira car-buying scheme, and taking a 10 billion naira personal bank loan using parliament’s account as collateral.
The case is seen as a test of the new government’s resolve to fight endemic corruption in Africa’s most populous nation.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who was sworn in for his first full term in office at the end of May after winning elections a month earlier, has pledged to fight graft.
But the EFCC has arrested senior political figures in the past, including powerful former state governors whose cases have largely failed to end in prosecution.