Submit yourself to EFCC now, AGF Fagbemi tells Yahaya Bello

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The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, has advised former governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, to turn himself in to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before it is too late.

Fagbemi said in a statement on Thursday that the EFCC has statutory powers “to invite any person of interest to interact with them in the course of their investigation into any matter regardless of status.”

Yahaya Bello, who faces N80 billion money laundering charges, refused to appear before the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday where he was expected to take his plea.

Earlier on Wednesday, EFCC operatives laid siege to Bello’s residence in Wuse Zone 4, Abuja, for several hours in a bid to arrest him.

The operatives were unable to carry out the court-ordered arrest as a result of the stiff resistance they faced from the police personnel guarding the house.

The incumbent Governor of Kogi State, Usman Ododo, later showed at the house during the police-EFCC stand-off.

He was believed to have later departed the residence in his official vehicle with Bello.

Bello failed to appear in court for his scheduled arraignment in court on Thursday, but his lawyers were present.

But in a statement later on Thursday, the AGF, Fagbemi, condemned the former governor’s conduct of refusing to submit himself for trial.

The minister described the standoff between the EFCC and police personnel as a matter of “grave concern.”

He said the EFCC has statutory powers “to invite any person of interest to interact with them in the course of their investigation into any matter regardless of status.”

“Therefore, the least that we can all do when invited, is not to put any obstruction in the way of EFCC but to honourably answer their invitation.

“A situation where public officials who are themselves subject of protection by law enforcement agents will set up a stratagem of obstruction to the civil and commendable efforts of the EFCC to perform its duty is to say the least, insufferably disquieting.

“I therefore encourage anyone who has been invited by the EFCC or any other agency to immediately toe the path of decency and civility by honouring such invitation instead of embarking on a temporising self-help and escapism that can only put our country in bad light before the rest of the world.”

However, the EFCC has declared Yahaya Bello wanted after Thursday’s proceedings.

The commission urged members of the public with credible information about Bello’s whereabouts to volunteer such to the agency.

At Thursday’s proceedings, EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, said efforts by the EFCC to arrest and serve the pending charges on Bello were thwarted by the current Governor of Kogi State, Usman Ododo, who was said to have sneaked Bello away in his official vehicle.

Pinheiro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), leading Jibrin Okutepa, also a SAN, for the prosecution, said a “bloodbath” was averted on account of the anti-graft agency’s professionalism in handling the stand-off between EFCC operatives who were trying to arrest Bello and the police officers attached to the residence obstructing the former governor’s arrest.

Furious about Bello’s failure to attend court on Thursday for arraignment, EFCC prosecutor, Kemi Pinheiro, said the government would not mind inviting the military to bring him to court.

Referencing section 12 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, Pinheiro said, “We will invite the military if need be to produce the defendant (Bello) in court. Immunity does not attach to a home; it attaches to a person. We will produce the defendant in court.”

But Bello’s lawyer, Abdulwahab Muhammed, said his client was not in breach of any court order.

Muhammed, a SAN, cited an order of a High Court in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, restraining the EFCC from arresting and detaining his client.

Also, the defence lawyer argued that an appeal on the suit was pending at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

EFCC’s move to bring Bello to trial follows years of investigating him and his family members.

The commission’s longtime investigations of the former governor had resulted in the N10 billion money laundering charges it instituted against his nephew, Ali Bello, and a co-defendant in 2022.

The prosecution named former Governor Bello in one of the newly introduced counts as an accomplice, but not as a defendant.

In the new case, the EFCC accused Bello, his nephew, Ali Bello; Dauda Suleiman and Abdulsalam Hudu (said to still be at large) of conspiring to convert the total sum of N80 billion (N80, 246,470, 088.88) in February 2016 for unlawful purpose.

Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, has ordered the withdrawal of all policemen attached to former Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello.

The directive, contained in a police wireless message, comes amidst the embattled former governor’s legal troubles and being placed on the Nigerian Immigration Service watchlist.

The order relayed through a police wireless message, emphasized strict compliance with the withdrawal of security personnel assigned to Bello.

The document read in part, “IG has ordered the withdrawal of all policemen attached to His Excellency and former Executive Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

“Acknowledge compliance and treat with utmost importance. Please, above, for your information and strict compliance.”

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