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N80 BILLION FRAUD: Court insists Yahaya Bello must appear in court despite arrest warrant issue

N80 BILLION FRAUD: Court insists Yahaya Bello must appear in court despite arrest warrant issue

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Friday granted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC’s) application for the former governor of Kogi, Yahaya Bello, to appear in court for his trial.

Justice Emeka Nwite ruled that the former governor should have appeared before the court before making any application.

He insisted that even if the arrest warrant had been illegally obtained, the defendant (Mr Bello) should have still appeared in court.

On April 23, the judge fixed May 10 for the ruling on the former governor’s application to set aside the arrest warrant against him.

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The EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, moved the ex-parte application for the arrest warrant on April 17.

But Mr Bello’s counsel, Adeola Adedipe, SAN, prayed the court to set aside the arrest warrant against their client on April 23.

He argued that the arrest warrant had become unnecessary since their lead counsel, Abdulwahab Mohammed (SAN), had accepted the service of the charge on behalf of the ex-governor.

Mr Adedipe argued that the arrest warrant order, having been made before the charge, ought to be set aside suo motu (on its own accord, without any request by the parties involved).

The senior lawyer argued that, contrary to the submission of Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, the lawyer who appeared for the EFCC, the ex-governor must be in court before any application could be considered a criminal case.

He argued that justice should be a three-way street: justice for the prosecution, the defendant, and the public. He added that for Mr Bello to appear in court, he must have the notion that he would get justice.

He, therefore, asked the judge to vacate the arrest warrant against the former governor.

But Ms Pinheiro vehemently opposed the application.

The senior lawyer argued that the former governor must be arraigned for the arrest warrant to be vacated and take his plea in compliance with section 396 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.

Delivering the ruling on Friday, the judge agreed with the EFCC’s argument, stating that the court order subsisted until it was set aside, even if there was an irregularity.

The judge said Mr Bello’s staying away amounted to disregard for the sanctity of the court.

“Therefore, the application by the counsel for the defendant cannot be moved unless the defendant is present in court.

The judge declared, “Bello should come to court on his own, not through the EFCC, for arraignment on the next adjournment date.”

Meanwhile, shortly after the ruling, Mr Mohammed, who appeared for the former governor, informed the court of a motion on notice filed on May 9.

He said the motion prayed the court to stay further hearings of the alleged money laundering suit filed against Mr Bello until the Court of Appeal decides a pending case relating to the same matter.

The senior lawyer said the anti-graft agency had, by motion ex-parte, gotten an order of the Appeal Court stopping the contempt proceedings filed by the ex-governor against the agency at the High Court sitting in Lokoja.

He said the appellate court had already fixed May 20 to hear the case.

He said it would be important that the Federal High Court, Abuja, await the outcome before going further with the trial.

However, the EFCC’s lawyer, Mr Oyedepo, disagreed with Mr Mohammed’s submission.

In a short ruling, Mr Nwite refused Mr Mohammed’s application, saying the matter had generated controversy worldwide and was unnecessary.

Reacting, Mr Mohammed responded that the former governor was not afraid to come to court but was only afraid of his life.

Mr Nwite, however, said Mr Bello should not be misguided but should be advised to come and answer the alleged charge.

The judge consequently adjourned the matter until June 13 for arraignment.

Faruk Khalil
Faruk Khalilhttps://nigeriansketch.com/
Khalil Faruk (Deputy Editor-in-Chief), has a Bachelors and Master's degree in Political Science and has worked as a reporter, features editor and Deputy Editor-in-Chief respectively in a leading Nigerian daily. He has undergone trainings in journalism, photo journalism and online journalism within and outside Nigeria.

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