• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

EFCC charge: Yahaya Bello absent in court again, says he is afraid of arrest

Bello sacks Kogi Health commissioner

Yahaya Bello, the former governor of Kogi State, expressed his willingness to present himself at the Federal High Court in Abuja to respond to 19 charges from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Bello did not attend his arraignment on Tuesday but had lawyers speak for him in court. His lawyer, Adeola Adedipe, SAN, stated that Bello would have attended if not for fear of arrest due to an existing court order.

“The defendant wants to come to court but he is afraid that there is an order of arrest hanging on his head,” he said.

Adedipe requested the court to cancel the arrest order, arguing that the charge was not served to Bello as legally required. He pointed out that the court approved a substituted service of the charge only during the current session.

The lawyer also claimed that the EFCC’s establishment was unconstitutional, as the federal government did not seek approval from the 36 state assemblies as mandated by the constitution.

“This is a very serious matter that borders on the constitution and the tenets of federalism. It has to be resolved because as it stands, the EFCC is an illegal organization,” Bello’s lawyer added.

In contrast, EFCC’s lawyer, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, asked the court to reject Bello’s request, stating that the arrest warrant should remain until Bello appears for trial.

Pinheiro accused Bello of using delay tactics to avoid arraignment and argued that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear any applications until Bello is arraigned.

“The main issue should be ascertaining the whereabouts of the defendant. All these applications he is filing are nothing but dilatory tactics intended to delay his arraignment and frustrate the proceedings.

“The defendant cannot stay in hiding and be filing numerous applications. He cannot ask for the arrest order to be vacated until and when the defendant is present in court for his arraignment. He cannot be heard on that applied application,” the EFCC’s lawyer said.

He offered not to execute the arrest warrant if Bello’s lawyer guarantees his appearance at the next hearing. He also mentioned that the Supreme Court had resolved the question of the EFCC’s legality.

The EFCC emphasised that the charges are against an individual accused of laundering funds to purchase properties and transferring funds overseas.

“The charge before this court is not against a state or House of Assembly, but against an individual who is said to have laundered public funds.

“It is against an individual who is said to have taken public funds to buy houses in Lagos, Maitama and also transferred funds to his accounts abroad,” EFCC added.