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Court declines Yahaya Bello’s plea to transfer ₦80bn fraud case to Kogi

The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, has declined the request to transfer the ₦80.2bn fraud trial of ex-Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, from Abuja to Kogi State.

In a judgment on Monday, the court directed that the request by Bello, for the transfer of the alleged money laundering case instituted against him, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to Kogi State, be presented in open court.

In a letter addressed to his lawyers, misters Abdul-Wahab Muhammed and Musa Yakubu, the chief judge drew the attention of the former governor’s counsels to a pending appeal in the case: Yahaya Adoza Bello VS FRN wherein the defendant had sought a consequential order remitting the case to the chief judge for reassignment.

The letter, signed by his special assistant, said as a result, it would be improper to take any step tantamount to pre-empting the outcome of the appeal.

“There is documentary evidence of a pending appeal in the case Yahaya Adoza Bello VS FRN filed on 17/05/2024 wherein the defendant as appellant has sought a consequential order remitting the case to the chief judge for reassignment. It is not proper to take any step that will be tantamount to pre-empting the outcome of the appeal.

“The main issue raised is jurisdictional in nature and will be more appropriately decided by the court. The matter should therefore be presented in open court,” the CJ stated.

The chief judge noted that the main offence alleged bordered on the conversion of Kogi state funds to purchase properties in Abuja, and that the filing of the charge could either be in Abuja or Lokoja.

He referred to two ongoing cases before the FHC in charge no FHC/ABJ/CR/550/22 FRN VS Ali Bello and another, and another charge, FRN VS Ali Bello and three others, where a similar request for transfer was made and the lower court refused the application.

Bello had in June while filing for the plea, argued that he preferred to be arraigned in Lokoja, being the place where the alleged money laundering offence was committed.

During the hearing, Bello represented by his counsel, Adeola Adedipe (SAN), informed Justice Emeka Nwite that the letter requesting for the transfer of the trial had already been delivered to the Chief Judge for his administrative decision.

Specifically, Adedipe said the request for Lokoja was because the Federal High Court has territorial jurisdiction to hear the matter in Lokoja.

The letter, addressed to Counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), was signed by the Special Assistant to the Chief Judge, Joshua Ibrahim Aji, Esq.

However, the transfer request was vehemently opposed by the EFCC lead counsel, Dr Kemi Pinheiro who described the request as an attempt to frustrate the trial.

The EFCC lawyer asked Justice Emeka Nwite to hold Adeola Adedipe (SAN) and Abdulwahab Mohammed (SAN), responsible for their inability to produce their client in court, despite the undertakings they made.

The EFCC lawyer also requested that the two senior advocates be cited for contempt of court.

The court then fixed July 17 for the arraignment of the former governor and ruled on the request of EFCC to cite the senior lawyers for contempt.

The EFCC is seeking to arraign Bello on 19 counts bordering on alleged money laundering, breach of trust, and misappropriation of funds to the tune of ₦80.2bn.

 

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