Judicial Blow for Yahaya Bello: Court Backs EFCC’s Revised Charges Against Ex-Gov. Bello & Nephew

by Ohepo Ohepo

The Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a motion filed by Ali Bello, a nephew of former Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello, and Abdulsalam Hudu, challenging the jurisdiction of the court over a second amended money-laundering charge brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The duo had requested the court either to reject the case or to transfer it to Kogi State, where the alleged offenses were purportedly committed.

According to THE WHISTLER, Ali Bello, who currently serves as the Chief of Staff to Kogi State Governor Usman Dodo, and Hudu faced accusations from the EFCC related to the misappropriation and laundering of funds. The charges specifically allege that between January and December 2021, in Abuja, they were involved in procuring Rabiu Usman Tafada to handle over N5.8 billion, suspected to be proceeds from criminal misappropriation of Kogi State’s treasury.

Despite pleading not guilty to the charges and the subsequent amendments, the case progressed with a Bureau de Change (BDC) operator, Rabiu Tafada, testifying that he had business dealings with Ali Bello. Tafada’s testimony, despite his lack of formal education, highlighted the meticulous record-keeping of daily transactions by his employees.

In response to the defendants’ plea to dismiss the charges or relocate the trial, their legal representation argued that the Federal High Court in Abuja lacked territorial jurisdiction and that the Kogi State Attorney-General should assume prosecution responsibilities, not the EFCC. However, the EFCC’s lead prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, countered that the alleged offenses took place within Abuja’s jurisdiction, making the court’s involvement appropriate. Oyedepo further argued that the nature of the allegations and the activities tied to the laundered funds, specifically property acquisitions and foreign exchange transactions in Abuja, justified the trial’s location outside of Kogi State.

Justice James Omotosho, ruling on the objections, affirmed that the Federal High Court was the correct venue for the trial, citing exceptions that allow for criminal offenses to be tried outside their originating state due to factors like insecurity. Omotosho emphasized that the allegations’ connection to Abuja warranted the trial’s continuation in the Federal Capital Territory.

Rejecting the defense’s argument against the EFCC’s authority in this matter, Justice Omotosho deemed the second amended charge filed by the prosecution as valid and competent, instructing the defendants to plead to the updated charges. The judge also mandated an accelerated hearing, scheduling the next sessions for March 14, 15, and 21, and warning that any delays from the involved parties would lead to the closure of the case.

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