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Yahaya Bello unravels



Court restates order for arrest of Yahaya Bello, accuses him of plotting to truncate case

…as “White lion’s” date with law divides Nigerians

Yahaya Bello may never have contemplated his present fugitive status in the same country he was part of the high and mighty in the past eight years, as a governor and confidant of the former president.

“Power, they say, gives illusion of eternal security, which itself reinforces the reign of impunity.” May be at some point in his imperial reign, the former Kogi State governor, with a sweet sobriquet: The White Lion, actually believed in the eternal inviolability of his immunity”, says Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist, this, “perhaps, may be the plausible reasons for his inability to reconcile current ordeal within himself.”

For the past two weeks, the political landscape as well as the social and mainstream media has been entertained with a melodrama between The Economic and Financial Crime Commission on the one hand, and Bello, on the other hand, as the former is trying to bring him to accountability for his eight years in office as governor of the conference state, as it is popularly called.

The roiling drama was explained last week when the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ola Olukoyede, claimed on Tuesday that investigation by the anti-graft agency showed a layer of corruption committed by the former governor, the most ludicrous of which was that the embattled former governor withdrew $847,000 from the state’s coffers to pay his child’s school fees in advance.

The EFCC Chairman said he had personally put a call through to Bello, inviting him to clear the air on the issues but he refused to honour invitations. This was after series of appeals sent to him to come to the anti graft agency’s Abuja’s headquarters.

Olukoyede spoke with editors, Bureau Chiefs, and media executives at the EFCC Headquarters, Jabi, Abuja, last Tuesday, amid the raging controversy and counter-claims between the EFCC and the ex-governor.
On his side, backed by many lawyers, as his case has divided opinion among lawyers and civil society, Bello is insisting that the attempt by the EFCC to arrest and prosecute him for an alleged N80.2bn fraud was in violation of a February 6 order of the Federal High Court in Lokoja restraining the anti-graft agency.

Bello had earlier rushed to Lokoja Federal High Court to obtain injunction restraining EFCC from arresting him.

He noted that though the EFCC had appealed the order, he could not be arrested or arraigned until the order had been lifted. This development was a sequel to a failed attempt to arrest him in his Abuja residence last Wednesday and the ex-governor’s absence from the Federal High Court, where he was scheduled to be arraigned last Thursday. Feeling frustrated, the EFCC declared him wanted, and had encouraged sister security agencies to be on the lookout for him, while the Nigerian Immigration Service placed him on watchlist. He has been in hiding since.

Competent sources told Business Hallmark that his rushed visit to Presidential Villa to see Tinubu yielded no result.

Ironically, last week, some youths in Kogi State protested the move by the EFCC against Bello. The protesting youths barricaded the popular Lokoja-Abuja Road, causing a gridlock on the highway. Also last week, hundreds of civil society organisations (CSOs) took to the streets of Lagos to protest “the continued disrespect for the rule of law and undue harassment of a citizen of Nigeria” by the EFCC.

The activists condemned the fact that the EFCC chairman failed to provide any documentary evidence of an official invitation sent to Bello, yet the Commission declared him wanted and had subjected him to “unprecedented and reckless media trials despite a subsisting court order, which protected him at the time they laid a siege on his residence.”

They alleged that the EFCC-Bello saga appeared like a case of selective justice targeted at an individual for no concrete cause.

The movement, led by the chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), Debo Adeniran, and several frontline anti-corruption and human rights crusaders, led the protest. The activists addressed a press conference before staging the rally.

Adeniran called on the younger ones in the mix to rise up and become activists if they were not already, saying that a society, where fundamental human rights were not obeyed and rule of law broken by enforcement agencies could not stand the test of time.
The activists said it was sad that the agency had so much thrown away professionalism but played to the gallery on a daily basis without any legal substance other than the threats and application of brute state force, irrespective of what the court says.

As in Lagos, in Abuja a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and human rights lawyers last week issued a warning to Ola Olukoyede, the chairman of the EFCC, regarding the handling of corruption allegations against Yahaya Bello.


During a press conference held in Abuja two Sundays ago, Kayode Mogbojuri, representing the coalition stressed the importance of the EFCC maintaining its integrity and not becoming a pawn in the hands of politicians seeking to settle scores.

In Lokoja, a civil society group had shown solidarity with the embattled governor.
Addressing journalists in Lokoja, last week, the Convener, Coalition of Civil Society for Democracy, Richard Otitoleke, said the groups were on the ground in defence of the rule of law and democratic governance.

NBA disowns protesting lawyers

Meanwhile, last week, the Nigerian Bar Association, disclaimed a protest by lawyers over what they called the illegal approach of the EFCC in handling its allegations against Bello.

The no fewer than 500 legal practitioners from across the country, last Monday, stormed the Supreme Court complex. The lawyers, under the umbrella of Judicial Watchdogs, faulted the siege on the ex-governor’s residence in a bid to arrest him, despite a valid court order to the contrary, which had not been vacated.

But the NBA, in a statement last Tuesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Habeeb Lawal, said the protesters were not lawyers.
“The Nigerian Bar Association is aware that some news outlets have reported this news.
“Please be informed that while the NBA respects the rights of citizens to assemble and protest, we insist that this particular group of persons is not lawyers.

“For completeness, their supposed leader or convener, Sylvanus K. Alewu, is not a name known to us,” the NBA said.

Also Femi Falana, a foremost human rights lawyer and activist supported EFCC’s siege on Bello’s residence, saying even in U.S the Federal Bureau of Investigation had adopted similar tactic, when it set fire on the house of an accused, which forced him to rush out and was subsequently arrested.

Professor Ademola Akintaro, a sociologist said “Bello is not above the law, he must account for his stewardship, his immunity is gone. He should respect the law.”

Foremost human rights lawyer and immediate past Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes, Mr. Kayode Oladele, also admonished Bello to toe the line of honour by submitting himself to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for proper investigations on the alleged N84 billion theft rather than embarking on acts of impunity.

The EFCC chairman has consistently insisted that the anti-graft agency’s move against Bello was constitutional, given the alleged fraud uncovered against him.

Olukoyede said, “A sitting governor, because he knew he was going, removed money directly from the government’s account (and sent) to Bureau de Change, and used it to pay his child’s school fee in advance.

Olukoyede insisted that the EFCC did not violate any law by trying to arrest the former governor at his residence.

“Rather, we have obeyed the law. I inherited the case and I didn’t create it. Why has he not submitted himself to the law?” he asked.
The EFCC chairman said anyone obstructing Bello’s arrest would have the law to contend with.

Olukoyede said, “I have arraigned two past governors who have been granted bail now – Willie Obiano and Abdulfatah Ahmed, former governors of Anambra and Kwara states respectively.

Meanwhile, the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, adjourned till May 10 to rule on Bello’s request to have the arrest warrant issued against him lifted. His lawyer, Mr. Adeola Adedipe (SAN), said Bello would have been in court on Tuesday for his rescheduled but for the arrest warrant.


He, therefore, urged Justice Emeka Nwite to set aside the arrest warrant, insisting that the EFCC obtained it in breach of the law.
But the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), opposed the application, saying Bello had no right to seek any prayer from a court before whom he had failed to appear.

Pinheiro said were Bello to come out of his hiding and show up, he would personally pray the court to lift the arrest warrant.
Pinheiro said, “As his prosecutor, I will personally apply that the arrest warrant be set aside if he comes to court the next adjourned date.

“If he (Adedipe) gives an undertaking that his client will be in court on the next date, I can assure him that the arrest warrant will not be executed.”

“The main issue should be ascertaining the whereabouts of the defendant. All these applications he is filing are nothing but dilatory tactics intended to delay his arraignment and frustrate the proceedings.
“Our position is that the defendant should be denied the right of being heard until he is physically present before this court,” Pinheiro maintained.

Pinheiro also argued that by the provisions of Section 396 of ACJA, 2015, the court could not effectively assume jurisdiction to decide any application or objection in the matter, until the defendant was arraigned.

After taking arguments from both parties, Justice Nwite adjourned the case till May 10 for ruling.

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