N80bn money laundering: FG places Yahaya Bello on watchlist, immigration alerts DSS


The Federal Government on Thursday put the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello,  on its watchlist to prevent him from escaping from the country.

The Nigerian Immigration Service, in a circular dated April 18, 2024 and signed by Assistant Comptroller of Immigration DS Umar, for the Comptroller-General, Kemi Nandap, alerted the police and the Department of State Services to effect the former governor’s arrest.

This came hours after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission declared Bello wanted in connection to an alleged case of money laundering to the tune of N80.2bn.The EFCC declared Bello wanted on its official Facebook page after failed attempts to arrest him on Wednesday in Abuja.

Also, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and Abdulwahab Mohammed (SAN), Bello, on Thursday, disagreed over the foiled attempt by the EFCC  to arrest the former governor.

But the NIS, in its circular, copies of which were sent to the DSS and the police,   detailed the name, nationality and passport number of the former Governor (B50083321).

The circular sighted by The PUNCH,  was signed by Assistant Comptroller of Immigration DS Umar, for the Comptroller-General, Kemi Nandap.

Nanadap stated,  “I am directed to inform you that the above-named person has been placed on the watch list.

“Suffice to mention that the subject is being prosecuted before the Federal High Court Abuja for Conspiracy, Breach of Trust and Money Laundering vide letter Ref; CR; 3000/EFCC/LS/EGCS.1/ TE/Vide/1/279 dated April 18, 2024.

“If seen at any entry or exit point, he should be arrested and referred to the Director of Investigation or contact 08036226329/07039617304 for further action.”

Bello declared wanted

On its part, the EFCC in its Facebook post, stated, “The public is hereby notified that Yahaya Adoza Bello (former Governor of Kogi State), whose photograph appears above, is wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in connection with an alleged case of Money Laundering to the tune of N80,246,470,089.88

“Bello, a 48-year-old Ebira man, is a native of the Okenne Local Government of Kogi State. His last known address is: 9, Benghazi Street, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja.”

The notice asked anybody with useful information about the former governor’s whereabouts to contact any of the commission’s offices across the country.

The latest development followed Bello’s absence from the Federal High Court in Abuja, where he was scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday.

Bello’s altercation with the EFCC began on Wednesday when the operatives of the anti-graft commission laid siege to his Benghazi street, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja residence in a bid to arrest him ahead of his planned arraignment for money laundering on Thursday.

The EFCC operatives barricaded the street, preventing vehicular traffic in the area.

But the ex-governor refused to grant the operatives access to his residence or give himself up, leading to a stand-off which lasted for several hours.

Amidst the tense situation, the governor of Kogi State, Usman Ododo, drove to his predecessor’s compound with heavy security operatives.

About two hours later, he drove away with Bello in his car, thus helping him to evade arrest.

About 10 minutes after the governor and Bello left, the EFCC operatives retreated and went back to their office empty-handed.

Miffed by the development, the EFCC in a statement warned that it would no longer condone the obstruction of its operatives in the course of their duties.

In a Wednesday statement signed by the spokesperson for the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, the commission said, “The EFCC wishes to warn members of the public that it is a criminal offence to obstruct officers of the commission from carrying out their lawful duties.”

While quoting the provisions of the law, Oyewale noted that culprits were liable to a jail term of not less than five years.

In his reaction to Bello’s refusal to surrender to the EFCC, the AGF condemned in strong terms the trend where citizens ganged up to obstruct officials of the EFCC while on lawful duty.

The AGF in a statement described the situation as bizarre, saying it would not be tolerated.

Fagbemi said, “The bizarre drama confronting the EFCC in the course of its efforts to perform its statutory duty has come to my notice 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 the EFCC but to honourably answer their invitation.

“A situation where public officials who are themselves subject to 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.”

The AGF maintained that he would not hesitate to rein in any law enforcement agency violating the citizens’ fundamental human rights.

Warning Bello against his flight from the law, Fagbemi noted, “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 caution the EFCC and indeed any other agency when there is an 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.”

But defending his client’s action, Mohammed explained that the ex-governor had on February 9 secured an order from a Kogi State High Court, restraining the EFCC from inviting, arresting or prosecuting him over the subject matter of the instant charge against him.

He added that the EFCC had appealed against the order which was still pending.

Addressing Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja, who was meant to preside over the money laundering charge slammed against the ex-governor during the proceeding on Thursday, the ex-governor’s lawyer,  Mohammed, said his client had already filed a preliminary objection to challenge the legal propriety of his planned arraignment and trial.

The arraignment of the ex-governor could not go on as he did not show up in court.

Bello’s lawyer

Addressing the court, Bello’s lawyer said, “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 (Wednesday), where they laid siege to the house of the former governor while he was in Lokoja waiting for judgment 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.”

Bello’s lawyer then urged Nwite to vacate the arrest warrant issued against his client, insisting that the court was misled.

Speaking earlier, the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), threatened that the anti-graft agency might enlist the help of the military to arrest and bring Bello before the court for his arraignment.

He said, “My Lord, what happened yesterday (Wednesday) 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 to an individual.

“However, we know what to do. If it will take inviting the military to bring him (Bello) 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.”

Nwite adjourned the matter till April 23, 2024.

Meanwhile, some civil society organisations have advised the EFCC not to desecrate the courts in the course of carrying out its constitutional role of fighting corruption.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, the CSOs and human rights crusaders cautioned the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies against trampling on the rights of supposed suspects of corruption to avoid breaking a law to enforce another law.

The media briefing was attended by the Executive Chairman, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran; Sina Loremikan, (Campaign Against Impunity); Declan Ihekhaire, (Activists for Good Governance); Gbenga Soloki, CADOV; Ochiaga Ohaneze, (Ohaneze Youth Council); Funmi Jolade, (Women Democratic Vanguard); Kola Abe, (Centre for Socioeconomic Rights); Ologun Ayodeji, (Transparency and Accountability Group); Femi Lawson, (Centre for Public Accountability) and Gbenga Ganzallo (Media Rights Campaign) and others.

The activists noted specifically that the public face-off between the EFCC and the ex-Kogi state governor was “both unnecessary and unfortunate.”

Adeniran argued that the rush by the EFCC to make an arrest when the Court of Appeal hearing on its application to vacate the restraining order was just in a few days might lend credence to the allegations of political persecution.

“Mr Olukoyede (EFCC chairman) is my friend. But if he begins to trample on the rule of law, then that’s the terminal point of our friendship,” Adeniran said.

Speaking further, he said, “We do not consider Yahaya Bello a saint, but even the devil deserves his rights under the law. Court documents at our disposal show that the former governor had obtained a high court restraining order against the EFCC not to arrest or prosecute him pending the determination of a case of the enforcement of his fundamental human rights, which the commission has rightfully appealed with the intention of vacating it

“The commission has done very well up to this point following the due processes of law because without vacating that order, it cannot proceed with arresting the suspect.’’

Citing court documents, the activists pointed out that a hearing on the appeal has been slated for April 22 in Abuja.

‘’However, suddenly yesterday (Wednesday) the news of the foiled arrest of the former governor by the commission went viral. One would have expected the commission to wait for the determination of its own appeal before going after the suspect.

“We think it is an abuse of court processes to ignore a court order still on appeal at the instance of the commission and to obtain a warrant of arrest from another court on the same suspect,’’ he asserted.

The CSOs noted that the EFCC’s action on Wednesday was “tantamount to the agency pre-empting the outcome of its appeal and also violating a subsisting and valid court order to pause action pending the determination of the case before it.”

“Our layman’s understanding is that a court of coordinate jurisdiction cannot assume superiority over another,” they further noted.

Gbenga Soloki of the Centre Against Injustice and Domestic Violence, said civil societies in Nigeria would protest vehemently against any attempt to use the military to arrest an individual who had not been accused of treason.

“It is extremely disappointing to hear this afternoon that EFCC is threatening to involve the military in their desperation to forcefully or violently arrest an individual who has not been alleged of treason.

“Should that happen, we will be a laughing stock globally. Civil society will be active in protesting against such an unforgivable infraction on our democracy should it happen as threatened. It should better not happen,” he warned.

The CSOs urged the EFCC to fight, prevent and prosecute corruption cases strictly within the ambit of the law set up to regulate the interaction between them and corruption suspects.

They noted that laws, including the Nigerian criminal justice system regulations and court processes, were meant to be obeyed non-selectively by both state and non-state actors.

The CSOs recalled that when the Chairman of the EFCC, Ola Olukoyede, came on board last year, one of his promises was to operate strictly within the rule of law.

“For those who are likely to misinterpret this intervention as it is their regular trademark, this goes beyond Yahaya Bello. Injustice to anyone should not be allowed to stand because it may be your turn tomorrow,” they noted.

The activists, therefore, urged the EFCC to revert to the status quo pending the determination of its appeal and a vacation of the restraining order placed on it, saying “That is the way and dictate of the law.”


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