Alleged ₦84bn Theft: No Court Can Prevent EFCC From Prosecuting Yahaya Bello — Falana

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria says based on the Nigerian Constitution, no court can confer a life immunity on a former governor in Nigeria

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Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has faulted a court ruling asking the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from arresting and prosecuting any individual.

Mr Falana was reacting to a ruling by a state high court in Kogi State, asking the EFCC not to arrest the former governor of Kogi State, Mr Yahaya Bello.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Senior Advocate said, “By virtue of section 35(1) (c) of the Constitution, the police, anti-graft agencies, and other prosecutorial bodies cannot be prevented by a court of law from arresting a criminal suspect once there is reasonable suspicion that he or she has committed a criminal offence.

“The allegation made by Ex-Governor Yahaya Bello that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has disobeyed a court order by attempting to arrest him to answer the charge of N84 billion theft is legally untenable. As a former governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello has lost his immunity from arrest and prosecution. No court can confer a life immunity on a former governor in Nigeria.

“The Supreme Court had pointed out that the order of a High Court to the effect that a criminal suspect should not be arrested cannot bar a court of coordinate jurisdiction from trying him. In the case of Orji Kalu v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2016) 39 WRN 53, the Appellant challenged the EFCC for charging him before the Federal High Court in spite of the order of the High Court of Abia State restraining the anti-graft agency from violating his fundamental right to personal liberty.

“In dismissing the appeal, the Supreme Court said that the “gagging order” should not be allowed to stand and that “The suit of the Appellant at Abia State High Court and the general and ambiguous order made therein were clearly intended to ‘muzzle’ or prevent the 1st Respondent from discharging its statutory function.”

“Similarly, in Uwazuruike v AGF (2013) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1361) 105, (2013) LPELR-20392 (SC) the Supreme Court ruled that “The Orders of an Owerri Federal High Court made on the 18th of January 2005 restraining the named respondents from arresting Ralph Uwazuruike relates to the proceeding before the Owerri Federal High Court which were ongoing at the time the Orders were made ex-prate. The orders are in no way related, nor do they affect or stop a subsequent arraignment of Ralph Uwazuruike for treason etc”.

“In view of the foregoing, the police officers who prevented the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from arresting the suspect have committed a grave criminal offence. The Inspector-General of Police, Dr. Kayode Egbetokun should withdraw the said police officers from the private residence of Mr. Bello without any delay and have them charged for obstruction of justice.”

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