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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Ododo planning to hand over Bello after alleged FG threat

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There are reports that the Kogi State Governor, Mr. Usman Ododo, who allegedly facilitated the escape of his immediate predecessor, Mr. Yahaya Bello, from his Abuja residence on Wednesday when operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) attempted to arrest him, may be working on how to bring him to Abuja to hand him over to the commission.

“This is coming after the FG threatened to sanction the governor for abuse of power, aiding and abetting of a criminal,” a source volunteered in a message.

The spokesman of the commission, Mr. Dele Oyewale, told Everyday.ng about two hours after the information filtered in that he is not officially aware of the development.

The EFCC had Thursday declared Bello wanted, while the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) made public information putting security services at the nation’s ports on alert, should Bello try to flee the country.

In addition, the Police Inspector-General, Egbetokun, ordered the withdrawal of policemen attached to the former governor.

Recall that the absence of the former governor on Thursday stalled his arraignment before Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court.

He was slated for arraignment  by the EFCC alongside Ali Bello, Dauda Suleiman and Abdulsalam Hudu on 19-count charges bordering on money laundering to the tune of N80, 246, 470,089.88k (Eight Billion, Two Hundred and Forty-six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand and Eighty-Nine Naira, Eighty-Eighty Kobo).

According to the anti-graft agency Bello, and two others: Ali Bello, Dauda Suliman, and Abdulsalam Hudu (Still at large), sometime, in February, 2016, in Abuja conspired to convert the total sum of N80, 246,470, 088.88 (Eighty Billion, Two Hundred and Forty Six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand and Eight Nine Naira,  Eighty Eight Kobo), belonging to the state government to personal use

Also, Bello was accused of aiding  E-Traders International Limited to conceal an aggregate sum of  N3,081,804,654.00 (Three Billion, Eighty One Million Eight Hundred and Four Thousand Six Hundred and Fifty Four Naira) in account number 1451458080 domiciled in Access Bank Plc.

On another count, Bello was said to have sometime in November 2021 in Abuja indirectly procured E-Traders International Limited to transfer  the aggregate sum of $570,330.00 (Five Hundred and Seventy Thousand , Three Hundred and Thirty Dollars) to account number 4266644272 domiciled in TD Bank, United States of America

The EFCC said the former governor  “reasonably ought to have known (the sums) form part of proceeds of unlawful activity to wit, criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering ( Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”

Bello’s botched arraignment  came on the heels of his warrant of arrest granted the EFCC by the court on Wednesday, April 17, 2024.

Prosecution counsel, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) regretted that a lawful attempt to serve the defendant the charges, along with a court order of arrest was botched “by a person of immunity, who came and whisked him away in his car,” noting that by virtue of Section 287 of the constitution all persons are obliged to obey a court order. Also, Section 12 of ACJA,  he said,  allowed law enforcement agencies to break down premises to bring unwilling defendants to justice.

Pinheiro assured that “The state will invoke all its powers within the law to ensure that the defendant is produced in court. The state will ensure that he is produced in court for the purpose of arraignment, and it is in his own interest so that he can take his plea”.

Following Bello’s absence, Pinheiro sought leave of the court to serve him the charges through his counsel,  Abdulwahab Muhammed (SAN). Muhammed, however, declined saying that he did not have the authority of his client to accept the charges. 

Muhammed further argued that his client cannot be arraigned in court until EFCC’s appeal against an order of the High Court, restraining the Commission from arresting, detaining and prosecuting him is determined and also until the determination of his client’s preliminary objection, challenging the jurisdiction of Justice Nwite’s court to entertain his trial.

Pinheiro, however, submitted that it was legal and constitutional to serve the defendant through his lawyer, especially as the defence counsel introduced himself in court unconditionally and without limitations as the representative of the defendant.

“Having introduced himself unconditionally as the representative of the defendant, my learned colleague knows that he cannot be a defence counsel for arraignment and not for bail. If he is served the charges on behalf of the defendant, if he likes he can now advise his client to stay permanently away from the court,” he said.

The judge adjourned the matter till Tuesday, April 23, 2024, for ruling as to whether the prosecution can serve the defendant through his lawyer for arraignment

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