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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

EFCC vs Yahaya Bello: Can the Former Kogi Governor Get A Fair Trial? [MUST READ]

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It was really sad recently, listening to the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Olu Olukayode, almost swearing to his own hurt in the alleged laundering of N80.2 billion belonging to the Kogi State Government by the immediate past Governor, Yahaya Bello.

It is very likely that Bello may never get the justice he deserves as an accused, unless Olukayode toes the path of decency and legitimacy.

Addressing editors at the EFCC Headquarters, Jabi, Abuja, the anti-graft agency chairman said no matter what anyone does or the amount of attack against the anti-graft agency, he and his men will not relent in bringing Bello to book.

Hear him out: “If I do not personally oversee the completion of the investigation regarding Yahaya Bello, I will tender my resignation as the EFCC chair.”

But there were other worrisome things he said at that briefing that have given him out as a morbid undertaker.

Olukoyede said he invited Bello to his office for a more “respectful and dignified” interrogation.

“I called Yahaya Bello, as a serving governor, to come to my office to clear himself. I shouldn’t have done that.”

How could a mere telephone conversation between the chairman of an agency like EFCC and a suspect be taken as a legitimate invitation?

Small wonder then that Bello said he was never invited.

Bello said contrary to claims, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had never invited him for questioning.

Speaking through his media officer, Ohiare Michael, the former governor said EFCC declared him wanted without inviting him for questioning.

He challenged EFCC to provide evidence of the invitation sent to him after he left office.

A statement by Michael reads partly: “Let it be known to all that Alhaji Yahaya Bello is not afraid of the EFCC, he is not a fugitive running from the law. All he demands is that the rule of law be respected.

“The EFCC stated that they invited Alhaji Yahaya Bello immediately after his tenure ended on the 27th of January 2024. We challenge the EFCC to publish a copy of the invitation delivered to Yahaya Bello.

“They should also tell Nigerians the date the alleged invitation was delivered and who it was delivered to. We are certain that the EFCC will not be able to produce any of the foregoing as to date, they have yet to invite Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

“Indeed, just about the end of his administration, several online news sites published that the EFCC would arrest the Governor as soon as he handed over power to his successor as they intended to charge him for alleged crimes committed as Governor of Kogi State.”

Weirdly, Olukayode said at the briefing that he had arraigned two past governors before Bello, implying that his case, whether right or wrong, should not be different.

Then he added with a stench of pride and prejudice: “We would have gone after Bello since January but we waited for the court order.

“As early as 7 am, my gallant 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.

“My men were about to move in when the governor of Kogi drove in and they later changed the narrative.”

Pray, which laws of our land bestows powers on EFCC to order a shoot-out between and among security agencies? Well, to the glory of God that Ododo arrived at the scene on time to save what would have been the most fatal arrest of an accused in the history of Nigeria.

It sounds like there’s disappointment in the perceived lack of learning from past mistakes by the EFCC. Learning from predecessors’ missteps can indeed be crucial in leadership roles, especially in fields like anti-corruption where public trust is paramount.

While acknowledging the agency’s duty, the intrusion into Yahaya Bello’s home in Abuja raises concerns on multiple levels. Such actions must not be left unaddressed. Bello, fearing for his safety and rights, sought legal protection from the Kogi State High Court, which granted an interim restraining order on February 9, 2024. However, the EFCC contested this order on March 11, 2024, appealing to the Court of Appeal for its reversal.

The EFCC dropped its appeal at the Court of Appeal and opted for a different approach, seeking an arrest warrant against Bello at a Federal High Court in Abuja. Bello’s legal representatives promptly challenged the warrant before Justice Emeka Nwite at the Federal High Court.

The approach of EFCC in this matter is devoid of professionalism.It’s crucial to remind the EFCC that professionalism and tact are indispensable traits for law enforcement officers. These qualities not only foster public trust and cooperation but also play a vital role in effective crime prevention, ensuring legal compliance, enhancing officer safety, and upholding human rights.

In all ramifications, the handling of the Bello case lacks adherence to due process. For the EFCC to maintain its reputation as an impartial and principled agency combating corruption and financial crimes, it must consistently adhere to due process. Due process is essential in legal matters to ensure fairness, protect individual rights, uphold legal integrity, provide checks and balances, instill confidence in judicial decisions, and prevent miscarriages of justice, as evident in the Bello case. The EFCC must prioritize upholding individual rights, preserving the integrity of legal proceedings, and fostering public trust in the administration of justice.

Furthermore, the media trial endured by Bello is another troubling aspect of his case. This unjust and unfair treatment exposes him to prejudice and public ridicule. By subjecting Bello to a media trial, the EFCC has undermined his rights and jeopardized the fairness of the legal process.

When legal cases are sensationalized or prematurely publicized in the media, individuals involved may endure unwarranted scrutiny, character assassination, and social condemnation before their guilt or innocence is established through proper legal procedures. Unfortunately, this is precisely the ordeal that the EFCC has subjected Bello to. However, such actions have the potential to boomerang, as evidenced by the dwindling public trust in the activities of the anti-graft agency.

We sound a note of warning here even as veteran journalist Dele Momodu had reiterated.

Bello is not the sole governor who sought recourse in court, and if the court ruled in his favour, then we must accept it. While our judiciary may not be flawless, adherence to the law is paramount. Disobeying the rule of law would lead us down a path of lawlessness. I never accused them of falsehood; their own statements reveal their lack of due diligence.

Nothing should be done by EFCC to obstruct the obtaining of justice by Yahaya Bello through legal means. The agency must adhere to due process, stop the ongoing media trial, and be more professional in its conduct.

Ayo Ayodele is a political commentator and a public relations consultant. 

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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