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Yahaya Bello Absent As Court Adjourns, EFCC Mulls Military Option To Fish Him Out 

The former Kogi State governor was absent from court for his arraignment on Thursday.


Photo illustration of Yahaya Bello and troops

 

Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court Abuja has adjourned the suit instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), against the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, to April 23, 2024.

The adjournment is for substituted service and possible arraignment of Bello for alleged N84bn money laundering.

At the resumed sitting, Counsel for the EFCC, Kemi Phinro, told the court that the immediate past governor of Kogi State was absent from court for his arraignment because he was being protected by someone with immunity.

Phinro said the former governor was whisked out of his Abuja residence by the same person with immunity.

Phinro said the anti-graft agency might seek the help of the military to fish him out to come face his arraignment.

Responding to this submission, Yahaya Bello through his counsel, Abdulwahab Muhammad, told the court that there is an order of the court restraining the EFCC from arresting or arraigning him.

Muhammad said a Kogi State High Court had on February 9, 2024 restrained the EFCC from arresting or arraigning the former governor.

He added that the EFCC has appealed the ruling and the Court of Appeal was yet to decide on the matter.

He pointed out that the action of the EFCC was unconstitutional and the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain any charge from the EFCC.

Counsel for the EFCC, however, disagreed with the submission of the counsel to Bello.

The EFCC counsel held that the ruling in the substantive matter on the suit was delivered on March 17, 2024 by the Kogi State High Court.

He cleared the air that the court in its ruling held that for the former governor to be arrested or arraigned, the EFCC must first seek leave from the court to do so.

He said it was in line with that judgment that the EFCC, through an exparte application, filed for the order seeking the arrest of the former governor which was granted by the court.

Counsel for Yahaya Bello, however, insisted before the court that the order for the ex-governor’s arrest was made out of jurisdiction. He said the former governor is not a fugitive, but relying on the order of the Kogi State High Court to take protection.

Stern-looking EFCC operatives in front of the Abuja residence of ex-Kogi governor, Yahaya Bello on Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Yahaya Bello Whisked Away

On Wednesday, EFCC stormed Yahaya Bello’s residence in the Wuse area of Abuja and spent most part of the day attempting to arrest the former governor whom the Commission later confirmed was whisked away by his successor.

 

 

The EFCC subsequently warned members of the public that it is a criminal offence to obstruct officers of the Commission from carrying out their lawful duties.

The Commission’s spokesperson said that Section 38(2)(a)(b) of the EFCC Establishment Act makes it an offence to prevent officers of the Commission from carrying out their lawful duties.

According to him, culprits risk a jail term of not less than five years.

“On several occasions, operatives of the Commission have had to exercise utmost restraint in the face of such provocation to avoid a breakdown of law and order.

“Regrettably, such disposition is being construed as a sign of weakness.

“The Commission, therefore, warns that it will henceforth not tolerate any attempt by any person or organisation to obstruct its operation as such will be met with appropriate punitive actions,” the statement added.

Stern-looking EFCC operatives in front of the Abuja residence of ex-Kogi governor, Yahaya Bello on Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Charges Against Bello

The EFCC has insisted that it would arraign Bello before Justice Emeka Nwite alongside three other suspects, Ali Bello, Dauda Suleiman and Abdulsalam Hudu on 19- count charges bordering on money laundering to the tune of N80, 246,470, 088.88( Eighty Billion, Two Hundred and Forty Six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand and Eight Nine Naira, Eighty Eight Kobo).

Bello’s arraignment is coming on the heels of a warrant of arrest and enrolment order granted the EFCC by the court on Wednesday, April 17, 2024.

“Count one of the charges reads: That you, Yahaya Adoza Bello, Ali Bello, Dauda Suliman, and Abdulsalam Hudu( Still at large), sometime, in February, 2016, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to convert the total sum of N80, 246,470, 088.88( Eighty Billion, Two Hundred and Forty Six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand and Eight Nine Naira, Eighty Eight Kobo), which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity to wit, criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the Money Laundering ( Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended”.

“Count 17 of the charges read: “That you Yahaya Bello between 26th July 2021 to 6th April 2022 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court aided E-Traders International Limited to conceal the aggreagate sum of N3081,804,654.00( Three Billion, Eighty One Million Eight Hundred and Four Thouand Six Hundred and Fifty Four Naira) in account numbder 1451458080 domiciled in Access BankPlc, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful activity to wit, criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a), 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering ( Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15( 3) of the same Act.

“Count 18 of the charges reads: “That you Yahaya Adoza Bello sometime in November 2021 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court indirectly procured E-Traders international Limited to transfer the aggregate sum of $570,330.00( Five Hundred and Seventy Thousand , Three Hundred and Thirty Dollars) to account number 4266644272 domiciled in TD Bank, United States of America which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful activity to wit, criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering ( Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15( 3) of the same Act”.

The Commission said its attempt to execute the Warrant of Arrest lawfully obtained against Bello met stiff resistance on Wednesday, April 17, 2024.

“The security cordon around the former governor’s residence in Abuja was breached by the current Governor of Kogi State, Usman Ododo who ensured that the suspect was spirited away in his official vehicle. As a responsible law enforcement agency, the EFCC exercised restraint in the face of the provocation, waiting for his arraignment on Thursday, April 18, 2024.

“It is needful to state that Bello is not above the law and would be brought to justice as soon as possible.”

A photo combo of Ododo, Bello and EFCC logo

Conflicting Orders

Meanwhile, there was conflicting court order over the arrest of the Kogi former governor on Wednesday.

One of the rulings, which came from a Kogi State High Court sitting in Lokoja, restrained the EFCC from arresting, detaining or prosecuting Bello.

Justice I.A Jamil, who gave the order in a two-hour ruling on Wednesday, said that infringing on the fundamental human rights of the former Kogi is null and void except as authorised by the Court.

“By this order, the EFCC is hereby restrained from arresting, detaining and prosecuting the applicant except as authorised by the Court.

“This is a definite order following the earlier interim injunction given,” he said.

The EFCC, however,  obtained permission from the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to arrest the ex-Kogi State governor in preparation to his arraignment on Thursday.

Justice Emeka Nwite granted the warrant this afternoon at the instance of the EFCC.

Bello served as the governor of the North Central state from January 27, 2016 to January 27, 2024, when he handed over to his fellow party man in the All Progressives Congress (APC), Usman Ododo.