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Where is Yahaya Bello? (II)

Where is Yahaya Bello? (II)
May 23
08:39 2024

When I wrote the first part of this piece, it was as if I forecasted what would circulate the news the next day. In that article, I posited that Yahaya Bello, a man who served as Kogi state governor for eight years, cannot be said to be missing. This is after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) tried in futility to arrest him in Abuja, and subsequently declared him wanted over an allegation of over N80 billion fraud.

I admonished Bello to show up and face his fears as he cannot dodge his accusers forever. I concluded by calling on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to be professional in carrying out their duty as Bello remains innocent until proven guilty by a competent court.

The next day after my article was published, there was a court sitting on the matter where Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja dismissed an application by Bello’s counsel Abdulwahab Mohammed, asking for a stay of proceedings in the case on account of a pending matter at the appeal court.

Justice Nwite ruled that Bello must appear in court to take his plea before any of his applications can be heard, and reiterated that in a ruling where an applicant or defendant willfully disobeys the orders of a court of competent jurisdiction, that defendant is not entitled to be heard by the court. He added that even if his orders were issued in error, the humble thing for the former Kogi state governor to do is to make himself available in court.

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Following the ruling, Abdulwahab Mohammed then told the court that Bello would appear in court on the next adjourned date which is June 13 to clear his name after he got the assurance from the court that no harm would come to him. The lead counsel however clarified that Bello will appear in court and not in EFCC custody.

As seen in many related cases in the past, if Bello is granted bail on June 13, there would be conditions he must meet to perfect his bail, and before those conditions are met, he would be held in custody. Whose custody will he be held? Police or the same EFCC he has been avoiding?

Meanwhile, there have been talks here and there about the alleged root cause of Bello’s predicament. Jesutega Onokpasa, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), alleged that some bigwigs in the current administration are behind Bello’s trouble with the EFCC.

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According to him, the ongoing drama around the EFCC’s allegations against the former governor of Kogi state, and the continued attack on the former governor of Kaduna state, Nasir el-Rufai, were plans mapped out by these individuals to allegedly achieve their personal ambition. Onokpasa said their plan is to succeed President Bola Tinubu in the next election as they think the president may not go beyond one term.

In addition, they alleged that the EFCC is just a tool in the hands of some top government officials who are pursuing their selfish interests as the commission’s case against Bello is a smokescreen to take him out of the scene before 2027 to pave the way for the ambition of those plotting to take over from President Tinubu.

Those in the camp of the former governor believe that his ongoing trial is politically motivated by those who see him as a threat to their ambition come 2027 if President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not fit enough to run, and that Yahaya Bello might even be taken out if he becomes a threat to the ambition of these forces. Whether these allegations are true or baseless, it is up to the court of law to not only decipher but also provide safety to all parties involved.

There is also this argument that it is the Kogi state house of assembly that is vested with the power to conduct or direct the conduct of an inquiry or investigation into the way and manner money appropriated or to be appropriated by the house is disbursed or administered.

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So the argument is since the Kogi assembly has not directed the EFCC to conduct an inquiry or investigation, why is the commission doing it?

Accusations and counter-accusations have been thrown around, there have been twists and turns on the subject matter, and we are expecting more of it.

However, since Yahaya Bello has agreed to show up in court on June 13, we are gradually making headway regardless of how things pan out on that day. Although some people are wondering what direction Bello will be coming from, is it from the north, west, east or south? Will he be escorted to court by his family and political friends, or will he be lonely at the trial?

Whichever way it turns out, inside the courtroom, the EFCC must not be tempted to use force. We must not see the embarrassing drama we saw in July 2023 where the DSS and prison officials clashed in a bid to take custody of the suspended and embattled Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) chief Godwin Emefiele after Justice Nicholas Oweibo of the Federal High Court in Lagos admitted him to bail in the sum of the N20m.

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The judge had ordered that Emefiele be remanded at the correctional centre pending the fulfilment of the bail conditions. But shortly after the ruling, DSS operatives strategically positioned their Hilux Pick Up van used in bringing Emefiele to court, in a manner suggesting that they wanted to take him back to their detention centre. When the prison officials moved to take Emefiele into custody pending the fulfilment of his bail conditions, the secret police challenged them and it led to a fight.

The commission should be aware that it cannot operate in isolation of the law and so court orders must be respected. The EFCC has been around and doing a fantastic job in some cases and it is imperative that the commission be kept around, but it must also ensure sanity among public officials.

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Israel Ojoko, a journalist, and content strategist, can be reached via [email protected]

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