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N84b Fraud: FG tells Yahaya Bello to surrender himself to EFCC

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President Bola Tinubu’s administration, has called on the embattled former governor of Kogi State, Mr Yahaya Bello to follow the path of decency and surrender himself for investigation.

The call was made by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN on Thursday.

Mr Bello is being wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged corrupt practices while in office as the governor of Kogi State.

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had granted the anti-graft agency permission to arrest Yahaya Bello ahead of his arraignment on Thursday. The attempt to arrest the ex-governor led to the laying of siege at his Abuja residence earlier today.

Operatives of the commission barricaded the entrance to the residence of the former governor in Wuse zone 4 of the nation’s capital. But the embattled former governor was reportedly smuggled out from his home when his predecessor, governor Ahmed Ododo paid him a solidarity visit during the face-off on Wednesday.

But reacting to the situation, the AGF, in a statement he personally signed on Thursday, said the EFCC is empowered by law to invite any Nigerian for interrogation.

The AGF described the action of the incumbent governor of the State, Ahmed Ododo, who used his immunity to scuttle Bello’s arrest on Wednesday as ‘disquieting’, adding that embarking on a temporising self-help and escapism that can only put Nigeria in bad light before the rest of the world is not the way to go.

Part of the statement reads, “The bizarre drama confronting the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the course of its efforts to perform its statutory duty has come to my notice (Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice) as a matter of very grave concern.

“It is now beyond doubt that the EFCC is given power by the law 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. A flight
from the law does not resolve issues at stake but only exacerbates it.

“I state unequivocally that I stand for the rule of law and will promptly call EFCC and indeed any other agency to order when there is indication of any transgression of the fundamental rights of any Nigerian by any of the agencies but I also tenaciously hold the view that institutions of State should be allowed to function effectively and efficiently. Nigeria has a vibrant judicial system that is capable of protecting everyone who follows the rule of law in seeking protection.

“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”

Recall that the EFCC had charged Yahaya Bello with financial fraud to the tune of N84 billion.

The commission in an amended charge, accused Bello of diverting N80 billion of state funds in September 2015, four months before he assumed office.

But the state government faulted the charge describing it as “ridiculous” and “laughable”, argued that it is impossible, as the former governor was not yet in a position to access or misappropriate state funds at said time.

The state government in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, had on February 7, 2024, accused the EFCC of being “infested with persons whose intents disagree with the noble intention of ‘Mr. President’ to defeat corruption in Nigeria.”

EFCC, which joined Bello’s nephew Ali Bello, Dauda Sulaiman and Abdulsalam Hudu as co-accused, had said it is prosecuting them on an amended 17-count charge of money laundering, breach of trust and misappropriation of fund to tune of N84, 062,406,089.88.

The anti-graft agency had claimed in the amended charge that former governor Bello is still at large.

Count one of the charges reads, “That you, Ali Bello, Dauda Suleiman, Yahaya Adoza Bello (still at large) and Abdulsalam Hudu (still at large), sometime in September, 2015 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to convert the total sum of N80,246,470,089.88 (Eighty Billion, Two Hundred and Forty-six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand, Eighty-nine Naira, Eighty-eight Kobo), which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity to wit: criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(b) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended,” the EFCC said.

“While ex-Governor Yahaya Bello and Hudu are still at large, Ali Bello and Suleiman, first and second defendants respectively, who were present in court “pleaded not guilty” to all the charges when they were read to them.

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