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Courtroom Drama as Yahaya Bello’s Lawyer Seeks to Withdraw from Case; EFCC Objects

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ABUJA, Nigeria – The Federal High Court in Abuja witnessed high drama on Thursday, June 17, 2024, as Adeola Adedipe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), applied to withdraw his legal representation for the former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, prosecuting Bello on a 19-count charge, including money laundering and misappropriation of public funds amounting to N80.2 billion, strongly objected to Adedipe’s withdrawal.

Bello, who was absent from the court despite multiple commitments by his defense team to ensure his presence, faced calls for his lawyers to be docked.

The EFCC, represented by lead counsel Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, argued that Adedipe and his team had violated professional conduct by failing to produce their client, insisting that they should face disciplinary action.

“My lord, our application is that since one of the lawyers is present in court, he should be moved to the dock and dealt with summarily, that is what the law says,” Pinheiro stated

“We urge the court to exercise disciplinary jurisdiction over the lawyers so as to preserve the integrity of the judiciary.”

The EFCC’s position was rooted in Order 31(3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for legal practitioners, which stipulates that a lawyer who fails to comply with an undertaking made before a court is automatically guilty of misconduct.

Pinhero emphasised the need to uphold judicial integrity, citing the docking of high-profile individuals, including former U.S. presidents, as precedent.

Adedipe, however, refuted the claims, asserting that he was not the lead counsel and had not made any undertaking regarding Bello’s presence in court.

“My lord, the narration by the prosecution counsel is very untrue and it is accentuated by malice. I am not the lead counsel in this matter. What the learned prosecution counsel has tried to do was to pitch my person against this court,” Adedipe argued.

Adedipe accused the EFCC of failing to execute the arrest warrant for Bello and disclosed that his team had informed the court of their unawareness of Bello’s whereabouts.

He invoked section 349(8) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, to justify his withdrawal from the case, given the circumstances.

The EFCC maintained that Adedipe’s attempt to withdraw was a mere afterthought and urged the court to dismiss it, pushing for immediate disciplinary action. “My lord, he should be used to set an example that this is not a lottery game. His request to withdraw is only an afterthought and it should not be countenanced by this court. I urge your lordship to invite him to the dock immediately,” Pinheiro argued.

As the court session concluded, Justice Emeka Nwite reserved his ruling on the matter, leaving the legal community and the public in anticipation of the court’s decision regarding the fate of Bello’s legal representation and the broader implications for legal practice and accountability in Nigeria.

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