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Friday, May 24, 2024

Ex-Governor Yahaya Bello Allegedly Diverted $720,000 State Funds To  Pay His Child’s Tuition.



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There is no going back on the prosecution of former Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), its chairman, Ola Olukoyede, said yesterday.

He also disclosed that the ex-governor would be probed for allegedly using $720,000 state funds to pay his child’s tuition.

Olukoyede,  who spoke with reporters in Abuja, said EFCC has not violated the rule of law in its attempt to arrest Bello, adding that the former governor is not untouchable.

But, Bello cried foul,  saying that he was being harassed by the anti-graft agency.

Urging the EFCC to halt the intimidation, he said the agency should follow the due process.

Bello also rejected the EFCC to suspend the execution of the arrest warrant issued against him on April 17 by a Federal High Court in Abuja, saying that he would come to court on his own.

‘EFCC never violated rule of law’

Olukoyede, speaking yesterday, said the commission has not violated any law to bring Bello to trial, adding that those who obstructed the attempt to arrest him last week will be tried in court, either now or in the near future.

He said immunity to obstruct the course of justice will not last forever.

He said while the EFCC invited Bello for investigation, he merely asked the commission’s operatives to come to his village.

Olukoyede said it was in Bello’s interest to appear for trial because he had been watch-listed in Nigeria and abroad.


He  said a sitting governor cannot move money to a Bureau De Change to pay $720,000  school  fees in advance without  being questioned.

Explaining that  EFCC did not violate any court order on Bello, Olukoyede said it was the Kogi State High Court which directed the commission to proceed to the Federal High Court where it secured the order to arrest him

He said: “I want to give you the correct position in respect of Yahaya Bello’s case. We have put out a publication. I hope most of you have seen it. There is no law that the EFCC has violated. How I wish our opinion leaders can just take time to understand what we are doing.

“Right here with me, I have a copy of the judgment of the Kogi State High Court. The man approached the High Court for the enforcement  of his fundamental human rights. In fact, rather than disobeying the law, we have obeyed it.

“And in concluding his judgment, Hon. Justice Isah Jamil Abdullahi, a man I respect so much and he was so smart. I would read to you the last two, three paragraphs of his judgment.

“He said: “I am under no illusion that under the laws of this country and having regard to the provisions of the EFCC Act, 2004, the Commission  cannot be restrained from carrying out criminal investigation in respect of any citizen of this country. However, the exercise of these powers is subject to the overriding provisions of the constitution and any subsisting order of court.”

“He went further to say that the applicant “having established (that is Yahaya Bello), infringement or threatened infringement of his rights by the respondent, is now entitled to benefit from the long standing principle (central to the cardinal principles of administration of justice)  that where injury is established, there must always be a remedy.

“The applicant no doubt is entitled to the grant of some protective reliefs. While I am inclined to grant the order sought by the applicant in this application, I can only grant them subject to what is permissible under our laws. It has been repeatedly made and it is clear in this judgment that the respondent cannot be restrained, that is EFCC, from exercising its statutory mandate to investigate and prosecute persons or authorities reasonably suspected to having committed financial crimes as obligated under its establishment Act. “Accordingly, I will make no such order. And if I may add, now looking at the order sought by the applicant I am inclined to grant them subject to some alterations which in my view would be the justice of this case in the following terms:

“An order is hereby granted upholding the fundamental rights of the applicant (that is Yahaya Bello) to liberty and freedom of movement and fair hearing by restraining the respondent, that is 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 persecuting the applicant on the basis of criminal charges now pending before the Federal High Court.

“Now, without prejudice to the powers of the said Federal High Court, to make order as it may deem just in the determination of the rights of the applicant and the respondent as it may be submitted to her and determination, an order is hereby granted directing the respondent (EFCC) to bring before the same Federal High Court or any such appropriate Court such criminal charge, allegation or complaint whereof the applicant is reasonably believed by the respondent to have committed any offence subject to its jurisdiction provided by the respondent

“It  was the Kogi State High Court that directed the EFCC to go and file a charge at the Federal High Court as against what is being peddled out there.”

Olukoyede explained  how the EFCC bent backwards to ask Bello to come for interaction with the commission’s operatives.

He said the ex-governor instead asked the EFCC’s team to come to his village to interrogate him.

Olukoyede said: “I called Yahaya Bello, as a serving governor, to come to my office to clear himself. I shouldn’t have done that. But he said because a certain senator has planted over 100 journalists in my office, he would not come.

“I told him that he would be allowed to use my private gate to give him a cover, but he said my men should come to his village to interrogate him.

“We have not violated any law while trying to arrest the former governor from his residence. Rather, we have obeyed the law. I inherited the case and I didn’t create it. Why has he not submitted himself to the law? I have arraigned two past governors who have been granted bail now — Willie Obiano and Abdulfatah Ahmed.

“We would have gone after him since January,  but we waited for the court order. As early as 7 am, my men were there. Over 50 of them. They mounted surveillance. We met over 30 armed policemen there. We would have exchanged fire and there would have been casualties, but we exercised restraint. My men were about to move in when the governor of Kogi drove in and they later changed the narrative.

“If I can do Obiano, Abdulfatah Ahmed and Chief Olu Agunloye, my kinsman, why not Yahaya Bello?

“If EFCC fails, all of us have failed. It should be our responsibility that we fulfill this mandate so that posterity will speak for all of us. Let us all be objective. Why can’t I drill Yahaya Bello if I could have arrested Obiano, among others, as long as we have evidence?”

Olukoyede urged Nigerians to support EFCC in its anti-corruption drive.

The EFCC chairman insisted that Bello should account for over $720,000 school fees he paid in advance.

He stressed: “A sitting governor, because he knew he was going,  he moved money directly  from the government’s account to a bureau de change  to pay his children’s school fees in advance,  $720,000, in anticipation that he was going to leave Government House.

“It is not everybody that can be influenced by money. I will definitely pursue this case. People are seeing a suspect as a saint that we are harassing. There is nothing personal there.

“The question is why is he not submitting himself to the law? Do they kill people there? Why is he not coming out? That’s my take on Yahaya Bello.”

Olukoyede clarified that his disclosures at the briefing were not prejudicial .

He added: “Some of the things I have given you here today are things that even you yourself would have even discovered if some of us have done some further work. There is nothing I said today that is not in our processes in court.

“If you had just taken the pain to go to court and applied for the CTC of our processes they will give you. The money that was used to pay school fees is there, they are all there. You also agree with me that my media people they do what we call informatics. For example if you look at Godwin Emefiele’s case, how much was stolen? We spelt it out. Some of us we don’t even read some of these things in detail.

“We are rushing to go and treat statements. We must read the details. Some of us are also swayed by the comments some people make about our work. You just pick it on social media whether correct or not correct.

Olukoyede insisted that everyone implicated in the obstruction of plan to arrest Bello will be prosecuted.

He added: “Everybody involved in the obstruction of the move to arrest Yahaya Bello will be prosecuted. You may have immunity today but you will not have it forever.

“It is only in this part of the world that a state agency will be stopped from carrying out its statutory duties.

“We will receive all the attacks but we will not give up. You have given us the mandate,  we will try to live up to expectations.

Edu, 14 others culpable

On the fate of the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs,  Dr. Betta Edu, Olukoyede said investigation was ongoing.

No fewer than 15 senior members of staff have  been linked to the culpability in the scandal in the ministry, he added.

Olukoyede said an investigation to clean a system can be up to one year or two years.

However, he  said there was no basis to personalise the ongoing probe of the ministry.

He said: “Now, on Betta Edu, we have released a very comprehensive statement following my interview with my in-house people. After that, there were some misconceptions out there. We did another official statement on Betta Edu. We told you what we have recovered.

“But some of us have decided to zero this thing on Betta Edu. I don’t know why you have singled out Betta Edu.

“As I am talking to you, we have established some culpability on the part of over 15 senior staff of that place not only Betta Edu. Let us single out this regime in EFCC, we are working for Nigerians. It is not about any individual. If we are going after individuals we will not get anywhere.

Let us (as Nigerians, as media men, as civil society leaders) see what we are doing in that ministry as not about Betta Edu neither is it about Halima.

“I have told you before, it is about the system. A system that will allow someone to access the agency’s account and move out N14billion under one hour without assigning it to or directing it to any specific project. You call that a system?

“I told some people, I said look  at the people that were suspended. If we had replaced them by now, even if you had brought saint to that Ministry, in 24 hours that saint would be contaminated.

‘So, it is not about Betta Edu please neither is it about Halima. Don’t let us personalize this thing, don’t let us single out an individual, it is about the system. It is the system I am investigating so whosoever will now be found culpable along the line those are the names you will hear.”

He added: ‘So, let’s have that mindset, let’s understand the way these things work. If I am running after Betta Edu or running after Halima and hundreds of people are stealing money, will that help the system?  Do you think what we are investigating started under Betta Edu?

“Do you think it started during Halima or do you think it started during Sadiya? Before that Ministry was established every single Kobo that was allocated to that ministry is what we are investigating. So we are talking of trillions. So if we are talking about Betta Edu, please we won’t get anywhere.”

Bello rejects offer to suspend arrest warrant

Bello rejected an offer by the commission to suspend the execution of the arrest warrant issued against him on April 17 by a Federal High Court in Abuja.

Bello’s lawyer, Adeola Adedipe (SAN) told a Federal High Court in Abuja that the offer made by EFCC’s Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) was unacceptable to his client because it is unknown to law.

Pinheiro had told the court that he was willing to give an undertaking that the arrest order would not be executed if Bello’s  could equally give an undertaking that their client would attend court on the next adjourned date for arraignment on the money laundering charge.

The EFCC lawyer added he would also apply that the arrest order should be set aside, if Bello could attend court on the next date.

Adedipe said: “We cannot accept the offer. The offer is not known to law.”

In a ruling, Justice Emeka Nwite granted the EFCC’s application for the service of the charge on Bello through substituted means, by handing it, along with the proof of evidence, to the ex-Governor’s lawyer.

The judge overruled Bello’s lawyer’s objection to substituted service.

He held that the lawyer could not decline to accept the documents on behalf of his client, having appeared in the case unconditionally and having also filed some applications for the defendant.

Shortly after the ruling, the charge and accompanying documents were handed to Bello’s lead lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed (SAN), who accepted them in open court and signed for them.

Following the service of the charge on the defendant’s lawyer, Adedipe applied orally that the warrant of arrest issued against his client should be vacated.

Adedipe, who cited Section 394 Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), argued that the arrest order was inchoate because necessary conductions were not met before the court was misled by the EFCC to issue the order.

When reminded that the defendant had earlier filed an application to that effect, Adedipe opted to argue the application, a move Pinheiro objected to.

Pinheiro, who cited Section 396(2) of the ACJA, argued that the court could not hear any of the applications filed by the defendant without him being arraigned first.

The EFCC lawyer identified that three pending applications filed by the defendant to include the one filed on April 12 in which he is challenging the jurisdiction of the court; the second, dated April 19 seeking to set aside warrant of arrest, and a third one, dated April 22.

“All these applications could only be argued and determined after the plea of the defendant in view of the provision of Section 396(2) of the ACJA.

“Criminal jurisdiction is activated only after the arraignment of the defendant. It is only after this, that the defendant can be allowed to raise any application or objection before this court.

“Section 396(2) of the ACJA does not distinguish between any forms of objection. It applies to all forms of objection in criminal cases. It covers both objection to jurisdiction of the court or the competence of the charge,” Pinheiro said.

He urged the court not to entertain any of the applications in the absence of the defendant in court.

Adedipe argued otherwise and urged the court to deploy it’s inherent powers to hear the applications filed by the defendant.

Adedipe noted that the court deployed it’s inherent powers in the proceedings conducted on April 17 during which the arrest warrant was issued and on April 18 when the prosecution applied for substituted service of the charge on the defendant.

The defence lawyer argued that it would be unfair and unjust to his client for him to be expected to come to court when an arrest warrant was hanging on his head.

He urged the court to discountenance the prosecution’s objection to the hearing of the defendant’s pending applications before his arraignment.

Also arguing for the defendant, Mohammed said the type of objection raised by the defendant in his notice of objection, is that which questioned the jurisdiction of the court to hear the charge.

Mohammed said the objection was challenging the competence of the EFCC to file the charge.

He said: “We are saying that the EFCC is illegal,” Mohammed said, arguing that it is the defendant’s contention that the EFCC is not a legal body because the law creating it was not ratified by all the State Houses of Assembly as required.

He argued that since the EFCC was created pursuant to the United Nations Convention on Corruption, the EFCC Act ought to be ratified by states’ Houses of Assembly.

Mohammed argued that the since Nigeria is a federation, the Federal Government cannot sit in Abuja and be policing the affairs of the states.

Pinheiro however faulted Mohammed’s argument, insisting that the issue about the legality of the EFCC has been resolved years ago

He added that the case against Bello is not against Kogi State or the state’s House of Assembly, but against an individual, who is alleged to have laundered money about N84billion public funds to buy property in Abuja and other cities, and directly transfered money to his account abroad.

Justice Nwite has adjourned till May 10 for ruling.

Bello to EFCC: Follow due process

Bello, who complained that EFCC was intimidating him, said the commission should respect the rule of law.

He said in a statement by  his media aide, Ohiare Michael, that he is not afraid of the anti-graft agency.

Bello said contrary to EFCC’s claims, official records and court documents relating to  hounding him established a clear timeline of events.

Bello also challenged the EFCC to produce a copy of this invitation, including the delivery date and the recipient’s name and endorsement.

He said the commission failed to present the warrant at his Abuja residence, adding that the warrant would have been obtained in defiance of a court order.

He said: “Our attention has been drawn to a publication/press statement with the above title, issued by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday, 22nd April, 2024, and signed by Wilson Uwujaren, its Acting Director of Public Affairs.

“In the said statement, which the commission carefully circulated widely as usual, Mr. Uwujaren, who we have to believe is not a lawyer, continues the EFCC’s ongoing unconscionable lies against the former Governor of Kogi State, His Excellency, Yahaya Bello, CON, by labelling him as a fugitive from justice in order to disingenuously justify their established and willful patter of defying lawful court orders.”

Ohiare, who EFCC had not invited the ex-governor formally, added:”“The EFCC claims to have invited Alhaji Yahaya Bello immediately after his tenure ended on January 27th, 2024.

“We challenge the EFCC to produce a copy of this invitation, including the delivery date and the recipient’s name/endorsement. We are confident they cannot provide this simple evidence,” he said.

On the alleged preemptive charge, the media aide said prior to any alleged invitation, the EFCC  amended Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/550/22 on Feb. 5, 2023, to accuse Bello of conspiring to convert over N80 billion of Kogi’s funds in September 2015.

According to him, the amendment listed Yahaya Bello as “still at large,” demonstrating a clear intention to arrest him.

On alleged impossible accusations, he said “the alleged timelines provided by the EFCC for its phantasmagorical allegations of crime against Yahaya Bello predates his Inauguration as Governor of Kogi State on January 27th, 2016.”

Besides, he said the second charge even attempted to correct the initial blunder and said the crime was committed in February 2016, less than a month after Bello became governor.

But Ohiare said the total Kogi budget in 2016 was significantly less than the sum alleged in the charges.

Ohiare said the commission falsely implied that the EFCC sought a warrant of arrest only after the Kogi High Court’s ruling on April 17.

He said: “This ruling was at about 2pm. Records will show that the motion was filed at 8:24 am on April 17th, prior to the ruling.

“And Nigerians would testify to the fact that, at that time, EFCC agents had already laid siege on his residence, attempting his arrest. These are clear occurrences that cannot be denied.

“The EFCC failed to present the warrant at Yahaya Bello’s residence. The warrant itself is invalid, being obtained in defiance of a court order and based on misleading statements, as Alhaji Yahaya Bello is a defendant and not a fleeing suspect or a suspect, having been charged.

“The judgment of the High Court of Justice, Kogi State, on April 17th, 2024, highlights the EFCC’s abuse of its statutory duties.

” We urge the public to denounce these unlawful transgressions until the EFCC undertakes a comprehensive reform of its practices

“In conclusion, it is clear that the EFCC is engaged in a campaign of intimidation and harassment.

“Alhaji Yahaya Bello is not afraid of the EFCC. His demand is that the rule of law be respected.”

Group: Follow due process

The Anti- Corruption and Research-based Data Initiative (ARDI)  called on the EFCC to follow due  in the prosecution of the former governor

Addressing reporters in Abuja, Ozigbo said based on the group’s  independent investigation, the anti-graft agency has not extended to Bello the customary investigation to visit her offices for the purposes of assisting her in any investigation.

He said: “The attempt by officers of the EFCC to arrest Alhaji Yahaya Bello is in flagrant disregard of a subsisting court order that comprehensively bars her from doing so, based on a determination that their actions in the entire circumstances of the case amounts to actual and threatened breach of sundry of his fundamental human rights

“The EFCC is currently at the Appeal Court to challenge that subsisting order of the High Court of Kogi State and the Appellate Court has insisted that parties should maintain the status quo pending determination of the appeal. We are convinced that the EFCC has breached both the principles of sanctity of court orders and pendency of suits by her subsequent actions.

“This informs our conclusion that the EFCC’s raid on Yahaya Bello’s Residence at No 9 Benghazi Street, Zone 4, Wuse, Abuja on Wednesday, April 17, 2024 is in disobedience of subsisting orders of courts and practice procedure, making it both regrettable and an aberration under the Rule of Law.”

Kogi Assembly chides commission

Kogi State House of Assembly has asked EFCC  to vacate the ‘wanted’ tag that it has placed on the name and picture of the former governor.

The resolutions was made during the plenary, following a matter of urgent public importance raised by the member representing Ajaokuta State Constituency, Jibrin Abu.

According to the House of Assembly,  “the Commission should not allow itself to become a tool of political vendetta, blackmail, or intimidation against any individual through personal grudges, persecution, and campaign of calumny to tarnish the image of personalities from Kogi State, especially Alhaji Yahaya Bello, or any perceived political enemy of the characters hiding behind their executive powers to unleash allegations through media for public consumption and sympathy.

“The House condemns in its entirety a statement by legal practitioner suggesting a request that the military be involved in the case that does not constitute a threat to internal security or treasonable felony.”

The Speaker, Aliyu Umar Yusuf, admonished the anti-graft agency not to act contrary to the law of law.

He said: “This House is not against the EFCC doing their job, but they should do it within the ambit of the law and not in a gestapo way.

“The country belongs to all of us, so we must respect the law and work with it.  The EFCC engaging in media trial and working in a gestapo way is unacceptable. If Yahaya Bello has a case to answer, it should be done within the rule of law,” he stated.

Middle-Belt group: Call EFCC to order

The Middle-Belt Vanguard For Good Governance, urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to call the EFCC to order to prevent any deviation from the law.

The group said the tenet of democratic rule should be protected.

The group, in a statement by its Convener,  Dr. Istifanus Bwatpe, condemned the manner in which the EFCC besieged Bello’s home.

It said that style of operation was inimical to the democracy in the country.

Source: The Nation