Arrest warrant: Court to rule on Yahaya Bello request in May

Justice Obiora Egwuatu has fixed the 10th of May, 2024 to rule in an application by former governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, where he sought vacation of an arrest warrant issued against him in an alleged N80.2bn money laundering charge.

At the proceedings on Tuesday, Bello, through his lawyer, argued that the arrest warrant has become unnecessary since his lead counsel, Abdulwahab Mohammed, has accepted the service of the criminal charges on his behalf.

The former Kogi state governor is facing charges bordering on N80.2 billion money laundering currently being heard at the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja.

The charge was brought against him by the Federal Government; however, Bello did not appear in court to take his plea.

His counsel, Adeola Adedipe, SAN, argued the application in which he prayed Justice Emeka Nwite to vacate the order earlier made for the arrest of his client.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had through his counsel, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), made the promise at today’s proceedings that it will set aside the arrest warrant if he shows up in court.

But responding through his lawyer, Bello had said through his lawyer that he would have loved to show up in court, but he is afraid of arrest.

Adedipe said his client would have loved to show up in court, but he is afraid “of the order of arrest hanging over his head.”

Adedipe said: “The court must satisfy itself that the defendant will not be prejudiced in fairness if the warrant of arrest continues to hang on his neck, having been made before service of the charge, contrary to Section 394 of the ACJA.”

But the EFCC counsel assured that it could be set aside.

“As his prosecution, I will personally apply that the arrest warrant be set aside if he comes to court on the next adjourned date.

“If he gives an undertaking that his client will be in court on the next date, I can assure him that the arrest warrant will not be executed.”

Adedipe urged the court to set aside the ex parte order of arrest it issued against Bello last week.

Adedipe, however, stated that, as of the time the order of arrest was issued against his client, the charge had not been served on him as required by law.

“As of the time the warrant was issued, the order for substituted service had not been made. That order was just made this morning.”

Pinheiro, on his part, urged the court to refuse the application unless the defendant made himself available for his trial.

He stated that the defendant cannot stay in hiding and file numerous applications for his arrest warrant to be vacated.

He held that Bello should not be heard on the application.

He said: “The main issue should be ascertaining the whereabouts of the defendant. All these applications he is filing are nothing but dilatory tactics intended to delay his arraignment and frustrate the proceedings.

“Our position is that the defendant should be denied the right of being heard until he is physically present before this court.”

Pinehero also held that, as stated in Section 396 of the ACJA, 2015, the court cannot effectively assume jurisdiction to decide any application or objection in the matter until the defendant is arraigned.

Justice Egwuatu has adjourned till the 10th of May for ruling on the application.