Court Fixes Date For Ruling On EFCC’s Application

Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has fixed April 23, 2024, for ruling on an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) concerning an alleged N81 billion money laundering charge involving the immediate past governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Adoza Bello.

Naija News reports that the judge fixed the date to decide on the EFCC’s bid to effect service of the 19-count charge and proof of evidence on Bello’s lawyers and his possible arraignment before the court on the charge.

Yahaya Bello, who completed his tenure as Kogi State governor on 27 January, was scheduled for arraignment on the charge on Thursday, but his absence stalled the scheduled arraignment.

The judge had, on Wednesday, issued a warrant of arrest against Bello based on an ex parte application filed by the EFCC’s lead counsel, Dr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), for the anti-graft agency.

The Commission made futile efforts to effect his arrest at his residence in Abuja on Wednesday.

At Thursday’s proceedings, Dr. Pinheiro informed the court that Bello was being shielded and protected by a person of immunity from facing trial for alleged money laundering.

Pinheiro leads an EFCC team comprising Jibrin Okutepa (SAN), Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), and seven other lawyers.

The senior counsel informed the court: “What happened yesterday was that a person with immunity came to whisk him away to abort the arrest.

But Bello’s lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed, told the court that his client was absent from court because he had obtained an interim order from the High Court of Kogi State, restraining the EFCC from arresting and prosecuting the former governor.

Pinheiro, however, refuted the explanation and informed the court that the said Kogi State High Court had delivered judgment in the matter yesterday; thus, the former governor could be arrested and prosecuted upon obtaining leave of court to do so.

He said it was premised on the judgment that the EFCC made the application for Bello’s arrest, granted yesterday.

He noted that the seeming protection of the former governor by a person of immunity would not prevent the EFCC from producing Bello in court, as immunity is attached to a person and not a home.

The senior lawyer said a “bloodbath” was averted on account of the anti-graft agency’s professionalism in handling the stand-off between EFCC operatives who were trying to arrest Bello and the police officers attached to the residence obstructing the former governor’s arrest.

He added that: “We know that he is being kept in his successor’s house. Immunity is not attached to a home but to a person.

“We can invite the military to invade the building where he is being kept to execute the order of this court. What is edifying for him is to come to court and not to continue to play games.

“We want to come next week so that we can produce him. We know what to do. He cannot stand in the way of the Constitution.”

But Bello’s lawyer, Muhammed, said his client was not in breach of any court order, arguing, among others, that an appeal on the suit was pending at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

The lawyer also declined to accept copies of the charges on behalf of Bello.

Following the arguments, Justice Nwite fixed April 23 for ruling on the EFCC’s application.

&copy 2024 Naija News, a division of Polance Media Inc.

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