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Contradictory court orders as EFCC moves to seize Yahaya Bello

Yahaya Bello – My hands are clean

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday moved to arrest the immediate past governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, as the anti-graft agency prepared to arraign him over corruption charges.

The attempt to arrest the ex-governor led to the laying of siege to his residence located in Wuse Zone 4 on Wednesday.

Officials of the EFCC cordoned off the road and entrance to the residence of the former Kogi State governor for most of Wednesday.

Despite the heavy presence of EFCC operatives around Bello’s residence, his successor in office, Usman Ododo, paid him a solidarity visit.

Ododo arrived the ex-governor’s residence in the afternoon and was cheered by the loyalists of the former governor who were present to give support to their embattled principal.

Also, while the siege on Bello’s residence was still on, two conflicting court rulings emerged in respect to the attempt to arrest the former governor by the EFCC.

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.

In another development, however, the EFCC 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 Wednesday 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.

EFCC indictment

The EFCC had in March indicted Yahaya Bello, in an alleged diversion of about N100 billion, an offence said to have been committed months before he assumed office as governor in September 2015.

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

The anti-graft agency had joined Yahaya Bello in the amended suit alongside the Chief of Staff to Kogi State Governor, Alli Bello, and one Daudu Suleiman, who was re-arraigned by the anti-graft agency before Justice James Omotoso, of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The ex-governor was not a defendant in the original suit, and was not in court on the said day.

Justice Omotoso had granted an accelerated hearing in the matter and had also ordered that all forms of objections must be kept in abeyance till the address stage and the charge were read to them.

In the first count, the former governor, and the two suspects were accused of conspiring with each other in September 2015 and converting N80, 246, 470, 089 to their personal use.

They were also alleged to have run foul of section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 because they ought to have reasonably known that the money was a product of fraud and criminal breach of public trust.

In other charges, the suspects were alleged to have concealed several millions of naira with one Rabiu Musa Tafada, a Bureau De Change (BDC) operator trading under Global Venture in Abuja.

The Kogi State Government had swiftly faulted the anti-graft agency and described as a “witch-hunt,” the charges against the immediate past governor.

‘EFCC flouting court order’

Reacting to the presence of EFCC operatives at Yahaya Bello’s Abuja residence on Wednesday, the ex-governor’s Media Office faulted the activities of operatives of the anti-graft agency who were at Bello’s residence to “effect his arrest”.

Bello’s media office, in a statement, described the EFCC’s move to arrest him as illegal, adding that it was sad the anti-graft agency was flouting the court order.

It also urged President Bola Tinubu to call the EFCC to order.

“This is despite a subsisting Order of injunction granted on 9th February 2024 by the High Court of Justice, Lokoja Division in Suit No. HCL/68M/2024 between Alhaji Yahaya Bello v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, restraining the Commission either by itself or its agents from harassing, arresting, detaining or prosecuting Alhaji Yahaya Bello, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive fundamental rights enforcement action,” the statement partly read.

“The EFCC was duly served with that Order on 12th February 2024 and on 26th February 2024; the EFCC filed an Appeal (Appeal No.: CA/ABJ/CV/175/2024: Economic and Financial Crimes Commission v. Alhaji Yahaya Bello) against the said Order to the Court of Appeal Abuja division.

The Appeal was accompanied by a Motion for Stay of Execution of the Order of the High Court which the Court of Appeal adjourned for hearing till the 22nd day of April 2024.

“Furthermore, Judgment in the substantive case between Alhaji Yahaya Bello and the EFCC is to be delivered at 12 Noon today in Lokoja.

“Contrary to all of the above, the EFCC has now laid siege to the home of H.E Yahaya Bello seeking to arrest him in contravention of the extant orders!

“It is a surprise that an agency led by a lawyer could flagrantly disobey a subsisting court order by taking actions contrary to the reliefs granted.

“Nigerians have perceived the desperation of the anti-graft agency to embarrass and harass the former governor by all means through spurious allegations, especially the latest one dating back to September 2015, way before he assumed office.

“We are aware that there are clandestine moves to correct the error, but with even more questionable allegations, which would embarrass the Commission and Nigeria more than the initial one.

“It is unfortunate that an agency that is supposed to enforce the law is now the first culprit with respect to disobedience of court orders.”

 

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