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Ex-Kogi Gov’s Trial: EFCC Set To Move Aside Interim Order At Appeal Court



Ex-Kogi Gov’s Trial: EFCC Set To Move Aside Interim Order At Appeal Court

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has approached the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal to set aside the interim injunction that barred it from arresting the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, for trial.

The former governor, who is facing a 19-count charge bordering on his alleged complicity in money laundering, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds to the tune of about N80.2billion, had relied on the order he secured from a High Court in Kogi State to spurn invitations from the anti-graft agency.

His failure to appear before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja last Thursday for his planned arraignment, led trial Justice Emeka Nwite to adjourn the case till Tuesday.

Even though Bello was absent to take his plea, however, his team of lawyers, led by Mr. Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN, notified the court of the pendency of the matter before the appellate court.

Mohammed, SAN, contended that it was wrong for the EFCC to apply for an arrest warrant against the erstwhile governor, when the appellate court was already seized of the facts of the case.

He told the court that the ex-governor had on February 9, secured an order from a High Court in Kogi State, which he said restrained the EFCC from inviting, arresting or prosecuting him over the subject matter of the charge against him.

However, EFCC’s legal team headed by Mr. Kemi Pinhero, SAN, urged the court to proceed with the trial, even as it accused the ex-governor of deliberately attempting to frustrate the case against him.

In the notice of appeal it lodged on March 11 to set aside the interim restraining order, the anti-graft agency maintained that the court in Kogi State lacked the jurisdiction to assist Bello to escape trial.

According to EFCC, “Whatever orders made when the court lacks jurisdiction is a null and void orders.

“We, therefore, most respectfully urge this court to allow this appeal and to set aside the interim orders made by the trial Court on 9th February 2024 in the interest of justice.”

Besides, EFCC’s lawyer, Pinhero, SAN, argued that the interim restraining order had elapsed since Justice Isa Abdullahi of the Kogi State High Court had also delivered judgement in the substantive fundamental right enforcement suit the ex-governor filed to prevent his arrest and prosecution.

In the said judgement, a copy of which was sighted by Vanguard, Justice Abdullahi directed the EFCC to seek the leave of court before taking further step against the defendant.

Pinhero, SAN, argued that the prosecution acted in order and in line with the judgement, when it approached the court in Abuja for date to arraign the defendant as well as a warrant of arrest to secure his attendance.

Specifically, Justice Abdullahi, in his judgement, held: “Looking at the orders sought by the Applicant (Yahaya Bello), I am inclined to grant them subject to some alterations which in my view will meet the justice of this case, in the following terms;

“An order is hereby granted enforcing the Fundamental Rights of the applicant to liberty and freedom of movement and fair hearing, by restraining the Respondent (EFCC) by themselves;

“…their agents, servants or privies from continuing to harass, threaten to arrest or detain or in any manner whatsoever arresting, detaining or prosecuting the Applicant on the basis of the criminal Charges now pending before the Federal High Court, Abuja to wit; Charge No FHC/ABJ/CR/550/2022 between FRN v. Ali Bello & Anor;

“…without prejudice to the power of the said Federal High Court, to make any Order as it may deem just in the determination of the rights of the Applicant and the Respondent as may be submitted to her for consideration and determination.

“An Order is hereby granted directing the Respondent to bring before the said Federal High Court, or any such appropriate Court, such criminal Charge, allegation or Complaint in respect whereof the Applicant is reasonably believed by the Respondent to have committed any offence subject of its jurisdiction, provided that the Respondent shall not invite;

“…arrest or detain the Applicant on account of a reasonable belief that the Applicant has committed any financial crime, without first obtaining the leave of a superior Court of Record, especially haven regard to the antecedents of the Respondent in the manner it has managed its engagements with the Applicant.”

The EFCC had since declared the former governor wanted over his refusal to make himself available for trial.

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