Ex-Gov Bello absent in court as EFCC mulls military option for arrest

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday, told the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja that it would leave no stone unturned in its effort to arrest and prosecute the former Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello over his alleged complicity in money laundering.

The anti-graft agency said it would execute the arrest warrant that was issued against the erstwhile governor, even if it would entail the involvement of the military.

Addressing the court through its team of lawyers led by Mr. Kemi Pinhero, SAN, the EFCC decried that the ex-governor failed to make himself available for his scheduled arraignment.

It told the court that spirited efforts by its operatives to arrest the defendant on Wednesday with the aim of producing him to enter his plea to the charge against him, “was frustrated by a person with immunity.”

“My lord, what happened yesterday was that a person with immunity came to whisk the defendant away. But what they forgot was that immunity does not attach to a building, but an individual.

“However, we know what to do. If it will take inviting the military to bring him here, we will do that because section 287 of the Constitution cannot be ridiculed.

“If he wants to play games, we will show him that the constitution is above every individual and you cannot fight the constitution.

“A former president of the United States was charged to court and he has been appearing for his trial. He did not file all sorts of things to frustrate the case.

“If the defendant believes that he is innocent, he should come and defend it here instead of filing frivolous applications to delay his trial,” EFCC’s lawyer added.

Meanwhile, though ex-governor Bello was absent, however, he briefed his lawyers led by Mr. Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN, to approach the court to vacate a warrant of arrest he said was dubiously obtained against him.

Trial Justice Emeka Nwite had after the case was called up, queried the lawyer about the whereabouts of his client.

Responding, Mohammed, SAN, told the court that the ex-governor had February 9, secured an order from a High Court in Kogi State, which he said restrained the EFCC from inviting, arresting or prosecuting him over the subject matter of the instant charge against him.

He told the court that though an appeal the EFCC lodged against the ruling was still pending, it went ahead to file a charge against the defendant, “in defiance of that subsisting court order.”

Mohammed told the court that his client has already filed a preliminary objection to challenge the legal propriety of his planned arraignment and trial.

“What they are trying to do is to bring this court in collision with the Court of Appeal by rushing to this court to obtain an ex-parte warrant of arrest for someone that is already a defendant.

“Our position is that this court has no jurisdiction to do any other thing than to take our motion challenging its jurisdiction to entertain this charge.

“What happened at Zone 4 Abuja yesterday, where they laid seige to the house of the former governor while he was in Lokoja waiting for judgement in his fundamental right enforcement suit, was unfortunate.

“A bloodbath was avoided. You don’t issue a warrant against a defendant who is already before the court and who has also briefed lawyers to defend him.

“They wanted the Court of Appeal to vacate the restraining order but the Appeal Court refused.

“Let them deny that they did not speak against the restraining order, then, we will cite them for professional misconduct.

“That a court gave an order in the morning and another court of the same coordinate jurisdiction issues a contrary order in the evening, is an invitation to anarchy.

“Our contention is that the defendant is not a fugitive and your lordship needs to be circumspect.

“We don’t need the arraignment to take place when we aee saying that the court cannot even snif the charge. Your lordship has to determine the issue of jurisdiction first because it is a threshold issue.

“They came behind doors to get an ex-parte warrant of arrest, when we had already joined issues with them before another court.

“When the defendant was a governor, he only travelled out of the country twice and he was recently in Lagos. This is not a man that you can chase away.

“Moreover, we are yet to be served with any process by the prosecution,” Bello’s lawyer added.

Meanwhile, he rejected attempt by the EFCC to serve him with a copy of the charge in the courtroom, insisting that he was bereft of the authority to accept the process.

Mohammed, SAN, argued that the prosecution has not made any effort to effect personal service of the charge on the defendant.

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