Yahaya Bello to FG: ‘I’d Come To Court, but What About the Handcuffs?

by Ohepo Ohepo

Former Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has expressed his willingness to appear before the Federal High Court in Abuja to respond to a 19-count charge leveled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Despite his readiness, Bello was notably absent at his scheduled arraignment, citing fears of arrest due to an existing court order.

At the court session on Tuesday, Bello’s legal representative, Mr. Adeola Adedipe, SAN, articulated the former governor’s concerns. Adedipe stated that Bello’s absence was not out of disregard for the court but stemmed from an apprehension of being arrested under an outstanding order. This led to a request from Bello’s defense to vacate the exparte arrest order previously issued by the court.

Adedipe argued that the arrest warrant was prematurely issued, as his client had not been properly served with the charges at that time. The court only approved a substituted service of the charges through Bello’s attorney on the same day of the hearing.

Additionally, the defense contended a broader constitutional issue, challenging the legality of the EFCC itself. According to Bello’s legal team, the enactment of the EFCC Act by the National Assembly was invalid as it lacked ratification from the state assemblies as required by section 12 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. This argument posits that without such ratification, the EFCC operates without legal authority.

However, the EFCC’s counsel, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, strongly opposed the motion to lift the arrest warrant. Pinheiro insisted that Bello must physically present himself for arraignment before any such requests can be considered, describing Bello’s legal maneuvers as dilatory tactics aimed at frustrating the judicial process.

The EFCC reassured the court that it would not execute the arrest warrant if Bello’s legal team provides an undertaking guaranteeing his presence at the next court date. Pinheiro further highlighted that the Supreme Court has previously affirmed the legality of the EFCC, undermining the defense’s argument against the commission’s establishment.

The case revolves not just around procedural issues but substantial allegations of corruption, with Bello accused of laundering public funds for personal use, including purchasing properties in Lagos and Maitama, and transferring funds abroad. The court adjourned, awaiting Bello’s compliance to appear and proceed with the formal arraignment and trial.

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