• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Yahaya Bello: Stop the rascality in government and high places

N80.2bn fraud: Court declines Bello’s prayer to vacate arrest warrant

Rascality is not one of the behaviours associated with high offices, such as those of a Nigerian subnational governor. Rascality writ large has featured in the ongoing charade known as the EFCC versus former Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello. It paints a lurid picture of Nigeria.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission seeks Yahaya Bello’s attention as a suspect in the theft of N80b belonging to Kogi State. EFCC invited Bello, who refused to leave the protection of the Kogi State Government House months after his tenure. EFCC and Bello have been pussyfooting for more than eight months.

On Thursday, April 18, the EFCC thought it had the right opening with Yahaya Bello in Abuja. It surrounded his residence but could not enter to effect Bello’s arrest. In the standoff, Bello’s successor, Governor Ahmed Usman Ododo, came with a team and smuggled him out of the building under immunity. Ododo’s action made it a pantomime.

“This same EFCC wants us to believe it has lost its ability to corral offenders and charge them in court! They should tell the nation something else.”

It has been eight months and counting since Yahaya Bello left the governor’s office and lost his immunity. The EFCC wants Nigerians to believe it cannot arrest Bello unless he shows up voluntarily in their offices.

At Bello’s residence, sundry touts stood against the EFCC. When Governor Ododo joined them, he unleashed more touts. The EFCC stood by as Bello and Ododo combined their forces to ridicule law enforcement.

On April 18, 2024, the EFCC declared the former governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, wanted for alleged financial crimes amounting to 80.2 billion naira. In 2022, the EFCC charged Bello’s nephew, Ali Bello, with laundering 10 billion naira. Ali Bello is not in EFCC custody.

After the six-hour charade at Yahaya Bello’s Wuse Zone 4, Abuja residence, the EFCC sat until Bello’s cousin and current Kogi State governor came to spirit him away under his immunity.

This new song by the EFCC is strange and does not cohere with its history of dealing with gubernatorial non-compliance. In May 2022, the EFCC deployed its powers to compel a former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, to appear before the Federal High Court in Abuja over a 17-count money laundering charge. EfCC operatives mounted a seven-hour siege on Okorocha’s residence on May 24, 2022, following the former governor’s refusal to answer the EFCC’s invitation. The EFCC accused him of deliberately evading service of its charge.

This same EFCC wants us to believe it has lost its ability to corral offenders and charge them in court! They should tell the nation something else.

The Nigerian police added to the fun. They announced the withdrawal of police officers assigned to Bello after the incident. The EFCC alleged that police officers worked against their efforts to capture Yahaya Bello.

Yahaya Bello’s crime is heinous on the surface. In a scenario where the EFCC charges many governors with theft of state resources, the amount against Bello is one of the highest. We are tempted to term it large-scale heist and impunity, but we must wait for the EFCC to bring the matter to court and for the judges to pronounce it.

By Section 7(2) of the Establishment Act 2004, the EFCC is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of laws relating to economic and financial crimes, including:

The Money Laundering (Amendment) Act 2004 and 2011 as amended; The Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud-Related Offences Act, 2006; The Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 (ICPC Act, 2000); The Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices Banks Act, 1994; The Banks and other Financial Institutions Act 1991; and Miscellaneous Offences Act, 1985; Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and 2013, as amended; and any other law relating to economic and financial crimes, including the criminal code and the penal code.

In January 2024, the EFCC reopened cases against 13 former governors for money laundering. The amounts involved totaled N853.8bn. The sum involved in former governor Bello’s case compares only with the N81.6bn allegedly looted in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.

Persons on the EFCC’s radar include former Ekiti State governors Kayode Fayemi and Ayo Fayose; former Zamfara State governor Bello Matawalle, currently in President Bola Tinubu’s cabinet as a minister; two former Enugu State governors, Chimaroke Nnamani and Sullivan Chime; former Nasarawa State governor, Abdullahi Adamu; and former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso.

The EFCC is probing Defence Minister Matawalle for alleged N70b money laundering. EFCC is also prosecuting Dr. Peter Odili, former Rivers State governor; Senator Theodore Orji, former governor of Abia State; former Gombe State governor Danjuma Goje; Aliyu Wammako of Sokoto State; Timipre Sylva of Rivers State; and Sule Lamido of Jigawa State.

EFCC should get its acts together to arrest and prosecute former governor Yahaya Adoza Bello to remove the impression of playing to the gallery against Nigerian citizens.