Bello Drama: In A Backdated Order, Kogi Court Summons EFCC Chairman Over Alleged Contempt

Yahaya Bello Drama: In A Backdated Order, Kogi Court Summons EFCC Chairman Over Alleged Contempt

The intrigues and drama surrounding the desperate moves by the immediate past governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello to evade arrest and prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over N82B corruption charge took another ugly turn on Friday as a Kogi State High Court sitting in Lokoja ordered the chairman of the anti-graft commission, Ola Olukoyede, to appear in court on May 13, 2024. In a backdated order, the court wants him to show cause why an order of committal should not be made against him for allegedly disobeying court order.

The summon by the court which constitutes yet another setback in the efforts of the EFCC to arrest and prosecute the embattled former governor was made amid allegations of undue influence by Mr Bello and his godson successor, Governor Usman Ododo.

A concerned Kogi indigene queried why the court order was dated Thursday 25th April and only released to the public 24 hours later in the evening of Friday 26th April. “This raises suspicion that it might have been written under duress and then further delayed for certain conditions to be met before its release”.  

The source told IMAGE NEWS that Messrs Bello and Ododo drove in two gulf cars to a secret location where they met with the judge before the release of the controversial court order. He further alleged that huge sums of money exchanged hands during the secret meeting while the Judge was threatened with sack if he failed to “play ball”.

The EFCC boss is facing a contempt charge for carrying out “some acts” upon which the EFCC had been restrained by the Court on February 9, 2024, pending the determination of the substantive Originating Motion.

Justice I. A. Jamil, delivering a ruling in Suit No: HCL/68M/2024 and Motion No: HCL/190M/2024, ordered that “the said act was carried out by the Respondent (EFCC) in violation of the order, which was valid and subsisting when they carried out the act. That same act of the Respondent amounts to Contempt.”

Recall that EFCC operatives had laid siege to the Abuja residence of the immediate-past Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, as early as 8am on April 17, 2024, with a bid to arrest him a court order restraining them from taking such action, pending the determination of the Originating Motion.

Justice Jamil’s order was based on a motion ex-parte filed by Yahaya Bello through his lawyer, M.S. Yusuf, Esq, where he prayed the court
for an order to issue and serve the Respondent (EFCC Chairman) with Form 49 Notice to show cause why Order of committal should not be made on Olukoyede.

Having listened to the arguments of the Applicant’s counsel, the submission and exhibits attached in the Written Address, Justice Jamil granted Yahaya Bello’s prayers and ordered Olukoyede to be summoned to appear before the court to answer the contempt charge.

The EFCC has denied disobeying a court order in its bid to arrest and arraign former governor over the N80 billion money laundering charges pending against him.

Acting Director of EFCC’s Public Affairs, Wilson Uwujaren, responding to allegations of violating a court order concerning Mr Bello, explained in a statement on Monday that the order of the Kogi State High Court in Lokoja obtained by the former governor to shield him from arrest has no relevance to the criminal charges against him.

“Bello sought refuge in a fundamental rights enforcement action through an order granted by Justice Isa Jamil Abdulallahi of the Kogi State High Court, the order did not vitiate or nullify an order made by the Federal High Court for the arrest of the former governor for the purpose of his arraignment.

“The enrolled Order of the Kogi State High Court only granted an order to enforce Bello’s right to personal liberty and freedom of movement, it didn’t preclude the 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,” Mr Uwujaren said.

Mr Bello, 48, who left office as governor on 27 January, faces 19 counts of money laundering at the Federal High Court in Abuja.

 In the charges, EFCC accused Mr Bello, his nephew, Ali Bello; Dauda Suleiman and Abdulsalam Hudu (said to still be at large) of conspiring to convert N80 billion (N80, 246,470, 088.88) in February 2016.

EFCC, on 17 April, obtained a court warrant from the Federal High Court in Abuja for Mr Bello’s arrest.

That same day, the commission made futile efforts to execute the arrest warrant at his residence in Abuja. EFCC operatives who arrived at Mr Bello’s residence in Wuse Zone 4, Abuja in their number to carry out his arrest were obstructed by police personnel attached to the house.

The situation lasted about seven hours. It ended only after it was suspected that Mr Bello had sneaked away in the official vehicle of the incumbent Kogi Governor Mr Ododo, who suddenly emerged on the scene mid-way into the stand-off. Mr Ododo was allowed to drive through the barricade mounted by the EFCC operatives into the house. Mr Bello was believed to be inside Mr Ododo’s car with tinted windows that later drove out of the house.

Mr Bello refused to show up for his scheduled arraignment before the trial judge, Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja on 18 April, the day after EFCC’s failed efforts to arrest him.

His legal team argued during the stalled proceedings that the court lacked the jurisdiction to conduct the trial on the grounds of a subsisting court order restraining EFCC from arresting and detaining the former governor.

Hours after the proceedings, EFCC declared Mr Bello wanted, calling on members of the public with useful information about him to contact its offices.

That day, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, called on Mr Bello to surrender himself to the EFCC.

EFCC Did No Wrong

EFCC maintained in its statement on Monday that the order obtained by Mr Bello had no bearing on the criminal case filed against the defendant, so it did no wrong trying to arrest him.

“The case before the Federal High Court is a criminal charge which is different from the fundamental rights enforcement action that is the subject of an appeal. EFCC is a creation of law and will not fight corruption outside the law,” Mr Uwujaren said. “What has happened in the instant case is the Commission dutifully following the dictates of the law to attempt to bring to justice a former political office holder who is working assiduously to evade justice. The order of the Federal High Court gives the Commission power to arrest Yahaya Bello.”

Mr Uwujaren also said despite challenges that the commission “daily faces in the execution of its mandate, and the irritation by those paid to distract it, EFCC will not relent in its quest to wrestle corruption to the ground.”

He added, “This moment offers the opportunity to genuine patriots to lend their voices in support of the efforts of the Commission.

“While we are not averse to criticisms, such must be constructive. As things stand, Bello is a fugitive of the law. That is not a badge of honour. It is in his interest, and that of justice, that he turns himself in and answers to the charges preferred against him.

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