Yahaya Bello vs EFCC: Putting cart before the horse

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and former Governor Yahaya Bello’s tango has generated so much fuss as to whether the antigraft agency has done its due diligence. KEHINDE OSASONA reports.


Apart from being placed on the watch list by the Nigeria Immigration Service, all police officers attached to the former governor of Kogi state, Alh Yahaya Bello were withdrawn by the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun.

Bello was dragged to the court by the Ola Olukoyede-led Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), alleging that he withdrew cash from Kogi state government’s account, exchanged it through Bureau De Change operators and used the funds in dollars to pay his children’s school fees in advance before leaving office.

Bello’s media office has since denied the claims stating, “His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello did not pay the sum of USD720,000 as alleged by the EFCC chairman or USD840,000 as is being bandied about on the internet.

The matter is however before a court, therefore devoid of further argument.

However, when asked if the EFCC was lying about allegations against the former governor via his Instagram Live Show, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Dele Momodu said, “I have no idea; I don’t work for EFCC but from all the things that I have read, a lot of them, they misfired. That is the truth. They misfired. They didn’t do their due diligence.

“When you said a man took out the money and paid for his children’s school fees, just as he was about to leave power, you go and check the documents and you see that these things started happening from 2021, 2022 (laughs); I am not illiterate.

“How do you expect me to believe everything they said when they were in too much of a hurry to prosecute him that they did not take their time to check the file? Once you allow a lacuna in the law, everything will fall flat.

As a way forward, Momodu advised the EFCC chairman to discharge his duties meticulously, professionally and as efficiently as possible.

Also commenting on the development, a legal activist and constitutional lawyer, Wilfred Molokun advised the anti-graft agency to refrain from incessant media trials of the embattled former governor, noting that decorum and decency should be the order of the day.

“EFCC should allow the trial court judge of the Federal High Court to make a ruling on Bello’s application seeking to vacate the warrant of arrest, essentially as the court has now been adequately addressed by both parties on the issues,” Molokun explained further.

Matter arising

Most recently, the failed attempt by the agency to arrest and put Bello on trial  may have caused an embarrassment to the agency and the government.

Apart from criticism that has trailed the allegations against Bello and the handling of the whole scenario, it is evident that not less than five pro-Yahaya Bello demonstrators stormed various government institutions to register their displeasure over the whole affair.

The matter got to the head last week when Kogi Youth Coalition, a pro-Bello on solidarity protest led by Otitoleke Richard clashed with the pro-EFCC protesters around the EFCC vicinity.

It was learnt that not only did they scramble for safety, some of Bello protesters were reportedly manhandled.

In another protest that took place a few days ago, a coalition of youth also stormed the National Assembly in the same line of protest.

One of the youths decried what he called the systemic violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the former governor’s children who according to him, have nothing whatsoever to do with what the commission is investigating their parents for.

The president, of Kogi Independent Youths Association, Comrade Mohammed Abdulrazak was quoted to have said, “Let it be on record that we do not support corruption in any manner. What we are against is not following due processes to carry out law enforcement duties, especially when you begin to drag innocent children into the fray. This can damage them psychologically for life.”

Much ado about media trial

According to reports, before Bello’s Abuja house was raided on April 17, 2024, Bello had approached a Kogi State High Court seeking an interim restraining order against the EFCC pending the determination of a substantive suit before the court.

Justice Isa Abdullahi (presiding), who was satisfied with the grounds upon which the relief was sought, on February 9, 2024, gave an interim restraining order against the EFCC from taking any action against Bello, pending the determination of the substantive matter.

The commission, dissatisfied, approached the Court of Appeal Abuja on March 11 2024, requesting the appellate court to set aside the interim restraining order. It argued that the lower court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to assist Bello escape his deserved justice.

It also argued that Bello could not stop the commission from carrying out its statutory duties, nor use the lower court to escape its invitation, investigation and possible prosecution as the court’s order directed.

The commission had its way eventually and Bello was arraigned in absentia before Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

In the suit filed by the EFCC, Bello is facing a 19-count charge bordering on money laundering, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N80.2 billion.

At the last hearing, Justice Emeka Nwite had adjourned for arraignment and ruling after Bello failed to show up in court for his arraignment.

As SAN rues media trial…

Commenting on the development, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome questioned the manner of approach the commission employed to arrest Bello and the media trial that followed.

According to the learned silk, the media trial which has become the order of the day in Nigeria is improper, saying it was capable of tarnishing the image of an accused person before, during or after a trial.

Not only that, he argued that, “It is used to dampen the resilient spirit of an accused person. The commission used this craft greatly, especially during the tenure of Ibrahim Magu and it greatly chipped away some nobility in its patriotic war against corruption. 

“I condemn any brute and sensational arrest of a suspect such as Bello. It does not matter the station of life of such a suspect, whether high or low.

“Hooded DSS operatives once did it to some Justices of the Supreme Court and other judges on October 8 2016 when they viciously and savagely broke into their homes in the wee hours of the morning. I had condemned it in very strong words.

“For now, Yahaya Bello wears the toga of victimhood and not of aggression. He should be allowed to have his fair day in court without the present needless brouhaha.

“The public applauds the media trial. The downtrodden guffaws when the rich also cry. With this, there are more media convictions than actual convictions in the courtroom. Unfortunately, Yahaya Bello has become the latest victim of a media trial.

“If he is eventually acquitted, people will attribute his non-conviction to a complicit judiciary (the whipping orphan). 

“All my life, that is what I have done. I take it very seriously when we talk about the issue of rule of law. I do not believe in media trials.

“For example, a case is being investigated in EFCC, the suspect is being interrogated, and tomorrow it is in a particular newspaper as to the statement made by that suspect.

“That suspect may never be tried. Even if he is arraigned and tried, he may never be found guilty but you have destroyed his image, his reputation. We should run away from that, it is not good. There is a need in this anti-corruption war to make an example; just one example with one person in government. I am aware of many, many petitions against people in this government.”