Legal Nigeria

Alleged N80bn fraud: Legal argument begins over EFCC’s bid to arraign ex-Gov. Bello

By Wandoo Sombo

The legal tussle over the legality of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) bid to arraign former Kogi governor, Yahaya Bello over alleged N80.2billion fraud will begin on Monday at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) reports that the appellate court is expected to hear EFCC’s application seeking to set aside the interim injunction of a High Court in Kogi barring the EFCC from arresting the former governor.

Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja is expected to deliver a ruling on Tuesday over the EFCC’s request, asking the court to grant an order to effect substituted service of the charge on Bello.

Justice Isa Abdullahi of a Kogi High Court on Feb. 9, gave an interim order restraining the commission from taking any action against Bello, pending the determination of the substantive matter.

But the EFCC later approached the Court of Appeal on March 11, asking the appellate court to set aside the interim restraining order.

The EFCC informed the appellate court that the lower court lacked the jurisdiction to assist Bello to escape the deserved vengeance of the law.

The commission said that Bello could not use the lower court to escape invitation, investigation and possible prosecution.

However, hearing of the EFCC’s appeal over the interim order will also face fierce legal argument as the Kogi High Court on April 17 delivered its substantive judgment in the matter.

The court directed the commission to seek the leave of the Court of Appeal before taking further steps against Bello.

This development indicates that the EFCC will have to appeal against the fresh substantive judgment, get the appellate court’s pronouncement before it can proceed with any action against Bello.

Justice Abdullahi had in his latest verdict, held that: “Looking at the Orders sought by the applicant (Bello), I am inclined to grant them subject to some alterations which in my view will meet the justice of this case, in the following terms;

“An order is hereby granted enforcing the fundamental rights of the applicant to liberty and freedom of movement and fair hearing, by restraining the respondent (EFCC) by themselves, their agents, servants or privies from continuing to harass, threaten to arrest or detain or in any manner whatsoever arresting, detaining or prosecuting the Applicant on the basis of the criminal Charges now pending before the Federal High Court, Abuja.

“To wit; Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/550/2022 between FRN v. Ali Bello & Anor, without prejudice to the power of the said 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.

“An order is hereby granted directing the respondent to bring before the said Federal High Court, or any such appropriate court, such criminal Charge, allegation or complaint in respect whereof the applicant is reasonably believed by the respondent to have committed any offence subject of its jurisdiction, provided that the respondent shall not invite, arrest or detain the applicant.

“This is on account of a reasonable belief that the applicant has committed any financial crime, without first obtaining the leave of a superior Court of Record.”