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Court refuses to vacate arrest warrant against Yahaya Bello, fails to stop trial

Yahaya Bello, former governor of Kogi state Yahaya Bello, former governor of Kogi state

The federal high court in Abuja has rejected a request by  Yahaya Bello, former governor of Kogi to stop his trial in the N80 billion fraud case instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Bello, through his lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed, asked the court to stay further proceedings on the criminal charge. 

However, Emeka Nwite, presiding judge, refused to stay the proceedings.

“I am shocked to my bone marrow that despite the ruling, the senior lawyer made this application,” Nwite said.

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“Notwithstanding this flagrant abuse of court process, in view of section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, this court shall not stay proceedings in this charge.”

Addressing the senior lawyer, the judge said: “You, as a counsel ought to advise him correctly. Is he the only former governor that has been invited or charged by the EFCC?”

“How many people have been killed by the EFCC? This is a matter that has attracted the attention of the whole world.

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“If he reports himself and anything untoward happens to him, the EFCC will be held accountable. 

“The law is very clear that an accused is presumed innocent. This is merely a charge, an allegation that has not been proved.

“It is for you to advise him properly. Bring him here and prepare yourself. This is only an allegation that has not been proved.”

In his submission, Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel to the EFCC, said the commission, as a law-abiding organisation, would not take any illegal action against the defendant.

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He noted that the agency earlier undertook not to execute the arrest warrant should the defendant voluntarily submit himself for trial.

Turning to the defence lawyer, Oyedepo said: “The EFCC will not kill your client. We have never killed anyone before.”

“But my lord, Adoke collapsed in their custody,” Bello’s lawyer retorted light-heartedly.

Nwite subsequently adjourned the matter till June 13 for arraignment.

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The EFCC is seeking to arraign Bello on 19 counts bordering on alleged money laundering, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N80.2 billion.

Earlier, Mohammed told the court that the ex-governor’s whereabouts remain unknown.

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Addressing the court shortly after a ruling which insisted on the arrest of his client, Mohammed said Bello has deep concerns about his safety.

“My lord, this has to do with his right to life. If someone has a genuine concern about his life, it ought to be considered,” the counsel submitted. 

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“At this stage, we don’t know where the defendant is. Therefore, subject to the convenience of this court, we will be asking for a reasonable time. 

“My client does not have any problem answering to this charge. We ask for a reasonable time to enable us to access him. 

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“My lord, we will ask for four weeks.”

 

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