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N80.2billion Alleged Fraud: Court Insists on Yahaya Bello’s Appearance for Arraignment

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Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Maitama, Abuja on Friday, May 10, insisted on the physical appearance of the former governor of Kogi State, Mr Yahaya Adoza Bello for arraignment before any of his applications can be entertained by the court.

The judge further held that, Bello, who is facing prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on an alleged N80.2billion fraud, is acting in disrespect and contempt of the court by resisting lawful arraignment and as such lacks any entitlement for his applications to be heard by the same court.

Justice Nwite made the ruling following applications of Bello’s lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN on April 23, 2024 for the revocation of the arrest warrant issued by the court on the former governor and the determination of the court’s jurisdiction in entertaining the trial as well as the preliminary objection for the enforcement of Bello’s fundamental human rights as ruled by Kogi State High Court, Lokoja.

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

Ruling on the matter on Friday, Justice Nwite held that any party that disrespects the court is 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.

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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 EFCC’s Executive Chairman, Mr Ola Olukoyede. “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 hence the Appeal Court is a superior court,” he said.

In response, lead prosecution counsel on Friday, 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 flood gates to anarchy.

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“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. “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.

He adjourned the matter till June 13, 2024 for Bello’s arraignment.

The EFCC is prosecuting Yahaya Bello alongside his nephew Ali Bello, Dauda Suleiman and Abdulsalam Hudu on 19-count charges 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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