Alleged fraud: EFCC declares Yahaya Bello wanted

Yahaya Bello, a wanted man by EFCC
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By Isaac Aregbesola

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) on Thursday, declared a former governor of Kogi, Alhaji Yahaya Bello wanted in connection with alleged money laundering.

This is contained in a notice posted on the commission’s website.

“The public is hereby notified that Yahaya Adoza Bello (former Governor of Kogi State), whose photograph appears above is wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in connection with alleged case of Money Laundering to the tune of N80,246,470,089.88.

“Bello, a 48-year-old Ebira man, is a native of Okenne Local Government of Kogi State.

“His last known address is: 9, Benghazi Street, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja.”

The notice further asked any one with useful information about the former governor’s whereabouts to contact any of the commission’s offices across the country.

The anti-graft commission had made unsuccessful attempt to arrest Bello on Wednesday when its operatives laid siege to his residence in Abuja.

A High Court sitting in Lokoja had on Feb. 9, restrained the EFCC from arresting, detaining or prosecuting the former governor.

The EFCC was, however, granted a warrant of arrest by a Federal High Court in Abuja to apprehend him.

The commission was at the court on Thursday for arraignment of the former governor, who was however absent.

The court, however, adjourned until April 23 for ruling in an application by EFCC, seeking a substituted service of the charge on the former governor.

Justice Emeka Nwite fixed the date after counsel for the EFCC, Kemi Pinheiro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and the ex-governor’s lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed, also a SAN, presented their arguments for and against the oral application.

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When the matter was called for the arraignment of Bello on a 19-count money laundering charge, the former governor was not in court.

However, his team of lawyers, including Adeola Adedipe, SAN, was in court.

Mohammed, who announced appearance for Bello, challenged the validity of the charge on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter on the one hand and to have issued the arrest warrant against his client on the other hand.

He informed the court that a preliminary objection had already been filed before the court to the effect.

The lawyer, who urged the court to vacate the arrest warrant order, said a High Court of Kogi had on Feb. 9 restrained the anti-graft agency from arresting, detaining or prosecuting Bello.

He said the ruling was on a fundamental rights suit filed by the former governor and that the EFCC was a party in the matter.

He added that two of the senior advocates representing the anti-graft agency in the instant charge were also in the matter.

Mohammed said the order was challenged by the EFCC at the Court of Appeal and the matter was already fixed for hearing.

He stressed that the arrest warrant the commission surreptitiously got from the court was an attempt to bring the court on collision course with the Appeal Court.

Bello’s lawyer, who insisted that the issue of jurisdiction was a threshold which the court must address first, argued that the charge ought not to have been filed in view of the appeal.

Mohammed disagreed with Pinheiro’s submission that the court should direct that he should be served with the charge in the open court since he represented Bello.

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The senior lawyer said he was not authorised to receive the charge on his client’s behalf.

He argued that if the commission could not serve Bello personally with the charge, they should formally apply so that the defendant could respond accordingly.

Besides, he insisted that their objection to the whole charge and the arrest warrant on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction, had not been dealt it.

He urged the court to refuse EFCC’s application.

However, EFCC’s lawyer disagreed with Mohammed’s submission.

Pinheiro said the matter was fixed for Bello’s arraignment and Mohammed, having announced appearance for the ex-governor, could be served in the open court for the matter to proceed.

Justice Nwite adjourned the matter until April 23 for ruling on substituted service.

The judge had, on Wednesday ordered that EFCC should be issued a warrant for the arrest of Bello in spite of the subsisting judgment by a Kogi High Court restraining the commission from arresting, detaining, or prosecuting him.

The court had also ordered that the ex-governor be produced in court today. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

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Edited by Maharazu Ahmed

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