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Yahaya Bello: A’court dismisses contempt charge against EFCC chairman

The court of appeal in Abuja has dismissed the contempt charge instituted by Yahaya Bello, former Kogi governor, against Ola Olukoyede, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In a lead judgment delivered on Thursday, O.K. Oyewole, the presiding judge, also dismissed the restraining order against the anti-graft agency.

BACKGROUND

On February 8, Bello instituted a fundamental rights enforcement suit, asking the court to declare that “the incessant harassment, threats of arrest and detention, negative press releases, and malicious prosecution” of the EFCC — “without any formal invitation — is politically motivated and interference with his right to liberty, freedom of movement, and a fair hearing”.

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The former governor also sought an order “restraining the respondent by themselves, their agents, servants or privies from continuing to harass, threaten to arrest, or detain him”.

On February 9, the Kogi high court granted an interim injunction restraining the EFCC from “continuing to harass, threaten to arrest, detain, and prosecute Bello, his former appointees, and his staff or family members, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive originating motion for the enforcement of his fundamental rights”.

On March 12, the EFCC filed an appeal against the interim injunction because the court could not stop the commission from carrying out its statutory responsibility.

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The Kogi high court delivered judgment on the substantive motion on notice on April 17, wherein the presiding judge granted an order restraining the EFCC “from continuing to harass, threaten to arrest, or detain Bello”.

However, the judge directed the commission to file a charge against Bello before an appropriate court if it had reasons to do so.

On May 3, the appellate court ordered the stay of proceedings in the contempt charge instituted by Bello.

The anti-graft agency had filed a 19-count charge bordering on alleged money laundering against Bello.

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The continued absence of the former governor has stalled his arraignment.

THE RULING

The appellate court ruled that a court of law cannot “preclude” the investigation of the anti-graft agency or any law enforcement agencies.

“This is a fundamental jurisdictional point that cannot be shoved aside as it borders on the doctrine of separation of powers,” the court ruled.

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“The argument of the respondent that no ground covers this point cannot stand in view of the instant circumstance.”

The court granted the commission the authority to continue its prosecution of Bello.

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The court awarded a fine of N1,000,000 against the former governor.

 

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