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Yahaya Bello absent in court as EFCC considers military option to smoke him out

"Mr. Bello, who completed his tenure as Kogi State governor on 27 January, was absent in court on Thursday stalling the scheduled arraignment"

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prosecutor, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro, said on Thursday that the government might engage the military to fish out the former governor of Kogi State, Mr. Yahaya Bello, and haul him before the Federal High Court in Abuja over the N80 billion money laundering charges brought against him.

Bello, who completed his tenure as Kogi State governor on January 27, was absent in court on Thursday, stalling the scheduled arraignment.

His arraignment was to take place before Justice Emeka Nwite, a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

On Wednesday, the EFCC’s ex parte application led the judge to issue an arrest warrant for Mr. Bello.

On Wednesday, the anti-graft agency made futile attempts to effect his arrest at his residence in Abuja.

At Thursday’s proceedings, the EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro, said efforts by the EFCC to arrest and serve the pending charges on Bello were foiled by the current Governor of Kogi State, Usman Ododo, who was said to have allegedly sneaked Bello away in his official vehicle.

Pinheiro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), leading Mr. Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) for the prosecution, said a “bloodbath” was averted on account of the anti-graft agency’s professionalism in handling the standoff between EFCC operatives who were trying to arrest Mr. Bello and the police officers attached to the residence obstructing the former governor’s arrest.

While Mr. Ododo enjoys immunity from prosecution, the prosecuting lawyer clarified that Mr. Bello, his predecessor, has since lost his immunity and must appear before the court.

Referencing Section 12 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, Mr. Pinheiro said: “We will invite the military if need be to produce the defendant (Mr. Bello) in court. Immunity does not attach to a home; it attaches to a person. We will produce the defendant in court.”

But Mr. Bello’s lawyer, Abdulwahab Muhammed, said his client was not in breach of any court order.

Mr. Muhammed (SAN) cited a High Court order in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, restraining the EFCC from arresting and detaining his client.

Also, the defence lawyer argued that an appeal on the suit was pending at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

He contended that Mr. Nwite lacks the jurisdiction to hear and entertain the case on account of the pendency of the case at the appellate court.

Muhammed declined to accept copies of the charges on behalf of Mr Bello.

Details shortly…

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