Despite Conflicting Orders, Appeal Court to Hear Case in EFCC’s Bid to Arrest Bello Today

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Court of Appeal, Abuja, will today commence hearing in the appeal by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking to arrest the immediate past governor of Kogi State, Mr. Yahaya Bello.
The hearing is coming against the backdrop of two conflicting orders in the anti-graft agency’s bid to get the former governor to stand trial in the alleged money laundering case to the tune of N80.2 billion.

Last week, Justice Isa Abdullahi of the Kogi State High Court had in a judgement restrained EFCC from harassing, detaining or prosecuting Bello, while Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in a ruling delivered same day, ordered the anti-graft agency to arrest and produce Bello for arraignment in court last Thursday.

Ruling in the motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/98/2024, Nwite held, “It is hereby ordered as follows: ‘That an order of this honourable court is hereby made directing and/or issuing a warrant for the immediate arrest of the defendant to bring him before this honourable court for arraignment. That case is adjourned to the 18th day of April 2024 for arraignment.”
The commission had mentioned Bello as the one “at large” in an ongoing trial of the current Chief of Staff to Governor Usman Ododo of Kogi State and one other.
However, due to the inability of the commission to effect the arrest order, the court, last Thursday, adjourned till April 23 for ruling on substituted service of the charge.

At Thursday’s proceedings, EFCC’s counsel, Mr Kemi Piniero, SAN, who narrated the ordeal of his client at arresting the defendant, due to the intervention of a person that had immunity, hinted of the possibility of engaging the military in effecting the court order.
He urged the court to compel Bello’s lawyer to accept service of the processes, since it had been impossible to serve the charge sheet personally on the defendant.

But Bello’s lawyer, AbdulWahab Mohammed, objected to the arraignment of his client before the Federal High Court, Abuja, on grounds of jurisdiction.
While arguing that his Notice of Preliminary Objection must be taken before any other motion, Mohammed faulted the warrant of arrest issued against his client, and maintained that he was not a fugitive.
But Nwite, who said he was yet to read the Kogi State High Court judgement, held that all parties, including the former governor, had to be formally before the court.

What the appeal court would, however, commence hearing in, was the motion seeking to set aside an interim order of Abdullahi delivered on February 9, which restrained the anti-graft agency from harassing, arresting, detaining or taking any step against Bello.
Their lead counsel, Chief Jibrin Okutepa, SAN, argued that EFCC was empowered to investigate and prosecute economic crimes as set out under sections 6 and 7 of the EFCC’s Act.

EFCC, in the appeal, aside from insisting that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to restrain it from arresting Bello, claimed that the judge by the order intended to “castrate” it and by so doing “now constitute a clog in the progress of the appellant/applicant’s performance of its statutory functions and duties under the EFCC Act 2004, as amended.

The anti-graft agency argued that by its establishing act, its powers “include the powers of the police and they are wide and cuts across several legislations promulgated to fight financial crimes”.

Meanwhile, it is not certain if Nwite will tomorrow halt proceedings in his court, following the commencement of hearing at the appellate court.

Related Articles