Alleged N80.2bn fraud: Court orders ex-Gov Bello to appear physically for arraignment

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EFCC Vs Ex-Gov Bello

By Mark Longyen

The Federal High Court, Maitama, Abuja on Friday, ordered that former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, must physically appear before it for his arraignment before any of his applications can be entertained by the court.

Justice Emeka Nwite held that Bello, who is facing prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on an alleged N80.2billion fraud, was acting in disrespect and contempt of the court.

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According to the trial judge, by resisting lawful arraignment, the former governor lacks any entitlement for his applications to be heard by the same court.

Justice Nwite held that any party that disrespected the court was not entitled to his prayers to be heard by the same court.

“Yahaya Bello is acting in disobedience of the court. Anyone in contempt of the court is not entitled to be heard.

“The defendant should make himself available. He ought to make himself available in court.

“The defendant is taking this court for granted. The application of the defendant cannot be heard, unless he is present in court,” he said.

The Judge gave the order following  the applications filed by Bello’s lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN seeking the revocation of the arrest warrant issued by the court on Bello.

Bello’s counsel had also challenged the the court’s jurisdiction in entertaining the suit, and filed a preliminary objection seeking the enforcement of Bello’s fundamental human rights as earlier granted by the Kogi State High Court, Lokoja.

Earlier at the last sitting of the court, the Prosecution counsel, Kemi Pinhero,  SAN,  had responded that entertaining the applications without arraigning the defendant was improper in the administration of criminal justice and tantamount to putting the cart before the horse.

The defence counsel responded to the ruling by praying for a stay of proceeding in the trial in the manner he claimed the Kogi State High Court, Lokoja had done pending the determination of EFCC’s appeal against the contempt proceeding initiated by Bello against the EFCC.

“We have filed a contempt proceeding against the EFCC Chairman, which has been challenged in the Appeal Court.

“We are applying that this court should wait for the outcome of the appeal since the Appeal Court is a superior court,” he said.

Responding, the lead prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, took umbrage at the defence team’s prayer  for a stay of proceedings, stating that such was at variance with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

“My Lord did not mince words in affirming the sanctity of the court and its hallowed temple. If anyone feels that because he has attained a certain level in the society and begins to treat the court with contempt,  that is a master key and the flood gate to anarchy.

“I expected my learned counsel to thread the path of honour and clearly show that his client should not treat his Lordship and the court with disdain. His Lordship’s ruling clearly forbids entertaining applications from the defendant. My Lordship should not entertain the application until the defendant is here.

“A fugitive cannot be seeking redress in court. Section 40 of EFCC Act states that your Lordship shall not entertain any application for stay of execution. Section 306 of ACJA also states that stay of proceedings shall not be entertained”, he said.

Justice Nwite came down hard on the defence lawyer after listening to the submissions.

He said: “You are the one who is misleading the defendant. What is your fear? How many people have you heard that the EFCC killed? The EFCC is a law-abiding agency.

“Is your client the only past governor that has been invited by the EFCC? Bring him to court and I will entertain your applications”,  he said.

The Judge then adjourned the matter till June 13, 2024 for Bello’s arraignment.

Periscope International reports that the EFCC is prosecuting Bello alongside his nephew, Ali Bello, Dauda Suleiman and Abdulsalam Hudu on a 19-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N80, 246, 470,089.88k (Eight Billion, Two Hundred and Forty-six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand and Eighty-nine Naira, Eighty-eighty Kobo).

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