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Erstwhile Kogi Governor Yahaya Bello Seeks to Overturn EFCC’s Arrest Warrant

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ABUJA, Nigeria – Immediate Past Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello has made a legal move to contest an arrest warrant against him, in an ongoing battle with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

On Thursday, April 18, 2024, Bello’s attorney, Abdulwahab Mohammed, appealed to the Federal High Court in Abuja to dismiss the warrant, claiming the court lacked jurisdiction to issue it initially.

This legal contestation arises amid allegations that Bello has been evading the law, prompting the EFCC to seek judicial assistance to ensure his appearance in court. Bello faces a 19-count charge of money laundering, which he was supposed to answer on Wednesday.

However, in a dramatic series of events, Governor Usman Ododo helped him avoid capture by EFCC operatives, complicating the enforcement of the law.

Justice Emeka Nwite, who had issued the arrest warrant the previous day, heard arguments from both sides.

Mohammed argued that a prior ruling by the Kogi High Court on February 9, which prevented Bello’s arrest, was still in effect.

This ruling has been challenged by the EFCC and is pending a hearing at the Court of Appeal.

The defense counsel suggested that pursuing the arrest warrant could potentially set the Federal High Court on a collision course with the Appeal Court, emphasising the critical issue of jurisdiction that needed to be addressed first.

On the other hand, EFCC’s lawyer, Kehinde Pinhero, countered these claims during the court session. He argued that the warrant was crucial for ensuring Bello’s presence in court, especially since previous attempts to serve him had failed.

Pinhero pointed out that with Mohammed’s appearance in court on behalf of Bello, the ex-governor could be served directly in the courtroom, allowing the arraignment to proceed.

The hearing was still in session at the time of this report, with the legal community and observers keenly watching the developments.

Court Orders Halt EFCC Siege Against Immediate Past Kogi Governor Yahaya Bello

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has ceased surveilling Yahaya Bello, immediate past governor of Kogi State, following a court directive.

EFCC personnel, who had reportedly been stationed outside Bello’s residence at No 9 Benghazi Street, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja, to arrest him, withdrew on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, afternoon.

The removal of EFCC operatives came shortly after a visit from the current governor of Kogi, Usman Ododo, who arrived at the premises around 2:30 PM and left around 4:30 PM.

It remains unclear whether Governor Ododo’s visit influenced the decision or timing of the EFCC’s withdrawal.

The cessation of the EFCC’s action was precipitated by a court order issued by the High Court in Lokoja.

The court, presided over by Justice I.A Jamil, delivered a two-hour judgment, ruling that the EFCC cannot arrest, detain, or prosecute Bello, respecting his fundamental human rights.

This judgment enforces a definitive order following an earlier interim injunction, effectively restraining the EFCC from any form of prosecution or persecution of the former governor.

This case, suit no HCL/68/M/2020, was brought forward by Bello, seeking to enforce his fundamental rights against potential legal actions by the EFCC.

The judgment also addressed and dismissed the EFCC’s challenge regarding the court’s jurisdiction over the case, reinforcing the court’s authority to issue its ruling.

Counsel for the applicant, SA Abbas and MS Yusuf, hailed the judgment as a landmark victory.

Similarly, the defendant’s counsel, T.U Odima and Patrick O. Jibril, recognized the thoroughness of the judgment, aligning themselves with its conclusions.

This legal shield granted to Bello by the High Court introduces significant complexities to the ongoing efforts by the EFCC to address allegations of fraud linked to his tenure as governor of Kogi State.

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