Alleged N84bn fraud: Clash of court orders as EFCC’s bid to arrest ex-Kogi governor Bello fails

In a clash of court orders, the Kogi State High Court in Lokoja and  Federal High Court Abuja Wednesday  issued conflicting orders  for and against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on its power to arrest former Kogi state Governor Yahaya Bello.

From the Kogi State High Court came an order restraining the EFCC from infringing on Bello’s fundamental human rights.

But the Federal High Court issued a counter order by granting the anti-graft body the power to arrest the former governor.

The conflicting orders came as the EFCC operatives Wednesday swooped on the Abuja residence of the former governor.

The decision might not be unconnected with an alleged fraud of N84billion , as the commission remained mum.

…Kogi order

However, in a two-hour judgment delivered at the High Court 4 in suit no HCL/68/M/2020, the court, presided over by Hon. Justice I.A Jamil, restrained the EFCC from arresting, detaining and prosecuting the applicant except as authorised by the Court.

The judge held that infringing on the fundamental human rights of the former Kogi governor was null and void.

“This is a definite order following the earlier interim injunction given, ” he said.

“By this order, the EFCC is hereby restrained from arresting, detaining and prosecuting the applicant. This is a definite order following the earlier interim injunction given,” he said.

The judgment followed the suit brought before the court by the applicant who is the former governor, seeking to enforce his fundamental rights against the EFCC.

Also, the court restrained the respondents from continuing to persecute the applicant.

Earlier, the court had dismissed the issue of jurisdiction as challenged by the EFCC.

Bello’s counsel, S.A Abbas and MS Yusuf, described the judgment as a landmark and victory for the judiciary and rule of law.

On the issue of jurisdiction as raised by the EFCC, the judge ruled: “This honourable court has jurisdiction to entertain this application. Therefore, the substantive issues of fundamental human rights sought by the applicant succeeds.”

…Abuja court counters

And in a counter, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja issued a warrant of arrest on the former Kogi state governor.

The warrant followed an ex-parte motion filed by the EFCC April 17, 2024. 

Marked FHC/ABJ/CR/98/2024, the anti-graft agency prayed the court to serve Bello the charge and the proof evidence on the defendant through a substituted means. 

The EFCC also sought an order seeking the immediate arrest of Bello for arraignment. 

The EFCC’s reliefs partly read: “An order granting leave to the complainant/applicant to effect service of the charge together with the proof of evidence on the defendant by substituted means to wit; by pasting the charge at the last known address of the defendant within the jurisdiction of this honourable court being: 9, Benghazi Street, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja.

“An order directing and/or issuing an arrest warrant for the immediate arrest of the defendant for the purpose of bringing him before this honourable court for arraignment.”

Ruling on the motion Justice Emeka Nwite, ordered the immediate arrest of the former governor and also directed that the former governor be produced before him Thursday (today) for arraignment. 

Nwite said: “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.”

…Operatives storm ex-gov’s residence

Earlier, the EFCC operatives had Wednesday barricaded the Abuja home of the former governor, located at Benghazi Street in Wuse Zone 4, Federal Capital Territory.

And to effect his arrest, the operatives arrived at the ex-governor’s home at 9.30 a.m, mounting a barricade on the street passing in front of the house and causing some gridlock.

There were speculations that the EFCC were after Bello, shortly after leaving office early in the year.

The anti-graft body had filed a N10 billion corruption charges against one Ali Bello, the governor’s nephew and a co-defendant in a money laundering case at the Federal High Court in Abuja in 2022.

However, upon completing his tenure, the EFCC amended the charges, and increased the number of counts from 10 to 17 against the governor’s nephew and Dauda Suleiman, his co-defendant, in a trial dating back to 2022.

And in the amended charges, the EFCC accused the former governor of money laundering, breach of trust, and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N84 billion.

…EFCC mum, ex-gov kicks

While the EFCC was yet to comment on the ‘invasion’, the ex-governor, through his media office, has condemned the development and urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to call the agency to order.

The statement said the presence of the operatives was a negation of the court order restraining the agency from arresting or prosecuting the former governor.

 “The EFCC was duly served with that order on February 12, 2024, and on February 26, 2024, the EFCC filed an appeal (Appeal No.: CA/ ABJ/ CV/ 175/ 2024: Economic and Financial Crimes Commission v. Alhaji Yahaya Bello) against the said order to the Court of Appeal Abuja Division. The appeal was accompanied by a Motion for a Stay of Execution of the order of the High Court, which the Court of Appeal adjourned for hearing till April 22, 2024.

“Furthermore, judgment in the substantive case between Alhaji Yahaya Bello and the EFCC will be delivered at 12 noon today in Lokoja.

“Contrary to all of the above, the EFCC has now laid siege to the home of H.E Yahaya Bello, seeking to arrest him in contravention of the extant orders!

“It is a surprise that an agency led by a lawyer could flagrantly disobey a subsisting court order by taking actions contrary to the reliefs granted.

“We are aware of the total commitment of President Bola Tinubu’s current administration to the rule of law and can say categorically that the EFCC leadership might have offered the agency on a platter of gold to desperate politicians to convert it to their score-settling tool without minding the effect on its integrity and the image of Nigeria as regards the rule of law,” the statement said.

The statement further claimed the anti-graft agency was plotting to embarrass and harass him through spurious allegations, especially the latest one dating back to September 2015, long before he assumed office.

 … Ododo visits Bello

Meanwhile, the incumbent governor, Ahmed Usman Ododo, visited his embattled predecessor.

The governor arrived at Bello’s residence at about 2:30 pm Wednesday, alongside several security operatives and youth supporters condemning the ‘raid’ on the former governor’s home.

Although the governor was being speculated to have helped his embattled predecessor out of the ‘danger zone’, this claim could not be confirmed by Blueprint as at this time of this report. 

About Oyibo Salihu, Lokoja, Tope Sunday and Kehinde Osasona, Abuja

View all posts by Oyibo Salihu, Lokoja, Tope Sunday and Kehinde Osasona, Abuja →