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Amid peace moves, Yahaya Bello tells EFCC to stop harassment & respect rule of law

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While negotiating and trying to find a common ground for soft landing in secret and flexing muscles in the open, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the former governor of Kogi, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, still continue to trade words.

As the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ola Olukoyede, was telling a few media men of the frustration of bringing Bello to answer questions and face trial, the former governor has called on the anti-graft agency to stop harassing him and respect the rule of law.

This is coming amid intense moves by Bello, through the courts and political allies, to turn himself in in a manner devoid of an embarrassing arrest.

“The commission appears adamant after been humiliated through the use of other federal agencies to foil an arrest last week. It smacks of inter-agency rivalry, but negotiations are on to bring this to an end, without making EFCC lose face,” a source in the know volunteered.

Bello has been allegedly  spotted with top security and presidency chiefs, seeking a way out of his predicament, even as EFCC chief has threatened to resign if the former governor is not prosecuted.

In a statement in Abuja by his media office signed by an officer, Michael Ohiare, in reaction to EFCC’s rebuttal on alleged disobedience to court order in the case filed against him, the embattled former chief executive officer of the impoverished state said that contrary to the commission’s claims, “official records and court documents relating to their hounding of Alhaji Yahaya Bello establish a clear timeline of events.”

He added that these documents were endorsed with dates and times of filing and payments, “which are endorsed on court processes – all of which testify to the true sequence of events.”

He said: “Our attention has been drawn to a publication/press statement with the above title, issued by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday, 22nd April, 2024, and signed by Wilson Uwujaren, its Acting Director of Public Affairs.

“In the said statement, which the commission carefully circulated widely as usual, Mr. Uwujaren, who we have to believe is not a lawyer, continues the EFCC’s ongoing unconscionable lies against the former Governor of Kogi State, His Excellency, Yahaya Bello, CON, by labelling him as a fugitive from justice in order to disingenuously justify their established and willful patter of defying lawful court orders.”

Giving details of how the statement of the anti-corruption commission was allegedly untrue, Ohiare said in the first instance, EFCC had never invited the ex-governor formally.

“The EFCC claims to have invited Alhaji Yahaya Bello immediately after his tenure ended on January 27th, 2024.

“We challenge the EFCC to produce a copy of this invitation, including the delivery date and the recipient’s name/endorsement. We are confident they cannot provide this simple evidence,” he said.

On alleged preemptive charge:, he said prior to any alleged invitation, the EFCC amended Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/550/22 on Feb. 5, 2023, to accuse Bello of conspiring to convert over N80 billion of Kogi’s funds in September 2015.

According to him, this amendment listed Yahaya Bello as “still at large,” demonstrating a clear intention to arrest him.

On alleged impossible accusations, he said “the alleged timelines provided by the EFCC for its phantasmagorical allegations of crime against Yahaya Bello predates his Inauguration as Governor of Kogi State on January 27th, 2016.”

Besides, he said the second charge even attempted to correct the initial blunder and said the crime was committed in February 2016, less than a month after Bello became governor.

But Ohiare said the total Kogi budget in 2016 was significantly less than the sum alleged in the charges.

He said to protect his reputation and fundamental rights, the former governor filed fundamental rights enforcement action in Suit No. HCL/68M/2024 with the High Court of Justice, Kogi on Feb. 8.

He said court records, even from the EFCC, all substantiated this.

“The High Court granted an order restraining the EFCC from inviting, arresting, or prosecuting Alhaji Yahaya Bello pending the determination of the Originating Motion.

“This order was served on the EFCC on February 12th, 2024.

“Despite the order, the EFCC, represented by Senior Advocates Rotimi Oyedepo and J.S Okutepa, filed Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/98/2024 against Yahaya Bello on March 6th, 2024, in violation of the order.

“The EFCC’s ex-parte warrant is another false narrative,” he alleged.

Ohiare said the commission falsely implied that the EFCC sought a warrant of arrest only after the Kogi High Court’s ruling on April 17.

“This ruling was at about 2pm. Records will show that the motion was filed at 8:24 am on April 17th, prior to the ruling.

“And Nigerians would testify to the fact that, at that time, EFCC agents had already laid siege on his residence, attempting his arrest. These are clear occurrences that cannot be denied.

“The EFCC failed to present the warrant at Yahaya Bello’s residence.

“The warrant itself is invalid, being obtained in defiance of a court order and based on misleading statements, as Alhaji Yahaya Bello is a defendant and not a fleeing suspect or a suspect, having been charged.

“The judgment of the High Court of Justice, Kogi State, on April 17th, 2024, highlights the EFCC’s abuse of its statutory duties.

” We urge the public to denounce these unlawful transgressions until the EFCC undertakes a comprehensive reform of its practices

“In conclusion, it is clear that the EFCC is engaged in a campaign of intimidation and harassment.

“Alhaji Yahaya Bello is not afraid of the EFCC. His demand is that the rule of law be respected,” he said.

Recall that in a statement on Monday, titled, “EFCC  Denies Disobeying Court Order on Yahaya Bello”, the commission noted that against the backdrop of arguments and counter-arguments on whether the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has disobeyed a court order concerning the botched arrest of former governor of Kogi State,  Mr.  Yahaya Adoza Bello, the Commission has denied disobeying any court order in this regard. 

EFCC’s Acting Director,  Public Affairs,  Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, pointed out that though Bello sought refuge in a fundamental rights enforcement action through an order granted by  Justice Isa Jamil Abdulallahi of the Kogi State High Court,  the order did not vitiate or nullify an order made by the Federal High Court for  the arrest of the former governor for the purpose of his arraignment.

 “The enrolled Order of the Kogi State High Court only granted an order to enforce Bello’s right to personal liberty and freedom of movement, it didn’t preclude the Federal High Court ‘to make any Order as it may deem just in the determination of the rights of the Applicant and the Respondent as may be submitted to her for consideration and determination”,  he said.

He further stressed that,  “The Order made by the Federal  High Court for the arrest of Mr. Yahaya Bello for the purpose of his arraignment is not in conflict with the Order of the Kogi State High Court. The case before the Federal High Court is a criminal charge which is different from the fundamental rights enforcement action that is the subject of an appeal”.

Uwujaren pointed out that the EFCC had a shining track record in the prosecution of politically exposed persons  and would continue to exercise its mandate in the overall interest of the nation.  He admonished Bello to turn himself in and answer to the charges preferred against him by the Commission.

He called on all patriotic Nigerians to lend their voices in support of the Commission stressing that ” the EFCC will not relent in its quest to wrestle corruption to the ground”.

● Additional report by NAN

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