EFCC, Yahaya Bello And The Rule Of Law

EFCC, Yahaya Bello And The Rule Of Law

By Dr Nura Inuwa Musa

On Wednesday, April 17th 2024, the country’s media space was awash by news that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stormed the Abuja residence of former Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello to effect an arrest despite a subsisting Order of injunction granted on 9th February 2024 by the High Court of Justice, Lokoja Division in Suit No. HCL/68M/2024 between Alhaji Yahaya Bello v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, restraining the Commission either by itself or its agents from harassing, arresting, detaining or prosecuting Bello, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive fundamental rights enforcement action.

Moments after the residential siege , news flickered in that the incumbent governor of Kogi, Usman Ododo had arrived the residence of Yahaya Bello in Abuja and whiskered him away from the EFCC, a move vehemently denied by Kogi State Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo. According to Kingsley, ‘Ododo is committed to upholding the laws of the country, including respecting its legal processes.’

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24 Hours after the EFCC’s show of might at Bello’s Abuja residence, it was reported that Bello’s absence in court has forced the adjournment of his planned arraignment for Thursday. Justice Emeka Nwite, who had earlier issued a bench warrant for Bello’s arrest and arraignment, subsequently adjourned the matter to April 23 for the hearing of an EFCC application seeking substituted service of the charges.

And then before the end of work hours on Thursday, the EFCC had declared Bello wanted, according to a notice on their social media platforms. The notice read, “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 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 Okenne Local Government of Kogi State”. The notice asked anybody with useful information about the former governor’s whereabouts to contact any of the commission’s offices across the country.

And by nightfall Thursday, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) had placed Bello on its watchlist to prevent him leaving the country and the Inspector General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, had also withdrawn all police officers attached to the former Governor of Kogi State.

Therefore, it’s baffling that the top security agencies in the country will go after Bello within 48 hours like they did, flagrantly disobeying a subsisting High Court order that has restrained the EFCC from arresting, detaining and prosecuting the ex-governor. Justice I.A Jamil of High Court IV gave the order in a two hour judgement delivered in suit no HCL/68/M/2020 in Lokoja on Wednesday. The judge said that infringing on the fundamental human rights of the former Kogi is null and void except as authorised by the Court. And then – all of these happened, there is definitely something someone is not telling us.

It is an established fact that the EFCC has the statutory powers to invite any person of interest to interact with them in the course of their investigation into any matter regardless of status. But, in this matter, it’s very clear that the EFCC has a motive as they have dumped all recourse to the rule of law in their blind pursuit to hang Yahaya Bello.

When the EFCC boss assumed office on October 17th 2023, he stated that the agency under his watch will be guided by the rule of law. In his words, “We are going to drive professionalism in discharging our duties in line with the rule of law. The rule of law is going to be our guiding light.

“We are going to drive EFCC to a place where when you see EFCC personnel, you will see a touch of professionalism

“We are also going to be involved more in prevention because it is better to save money for the government than to spend money on prosecution. The EFCC is a creation of the law. Its Act is a legal instrument. This means that all our activities should be in line with the rule of law. There is nothing we are going to do that will be at variance with the law.”

Nigerians believed him because for the second time in our nation’s history, there seem to be a right appointment at the EFCC then, but with this recent show of shame and blatant abuse of the rule of law, there is a need for someone to print out the above words a thousand copies and mail them to the EFCC chairman as a big reminder.

The Presidency’s silence on the matter has also been a source of concern to Nigerians and the world at large, because the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is seen globally as a man who is a stickler to the rule of law. Just recently after the Supreme Court verdict that affirmed him as the President of this country, Tinubu said, “ I want to reiterate that my faith in our nation’s judiciary has never been shaken, not even for a moment, because I know that our hallowed courts of law will not fail to administer justice to all Nigerians in all matters and at all times.

And in his first Independence speech, the President said, “this year, we passed a significant milestone in our journey to a better Nigeria. By democratically electing a 7th consecutive civilian government, Nigeria has proven that commitment to democracy and the rule of law remains our guiding light”.

If all of these words were to continuously mean something to Nigerians and Nigeria, now is the time to mean it Mr President, as a big beneficiary of the rule of law and respect for courts, you should make strict compliance to the rule of law a cornerstone for this administration. Notorious human rights abusers like the Police, EFCC and Department of State Services, and other security agencies must be compelled to imbibe a new culture of full compliance with the rule of law, including obeying court orders, and adhering to due process in arrests, detentions, and investigations.

Musa, Ph.d, a journalist and public commentator, writes from Kano.

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