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May 18, 2024

‘Children first!’, Group demands protection for Yahaya Bello’s kids amid EFCC probe

Yahaya Bello

By Luminous Jannamike

ABUJA – The Child’s Rights Advocacy Network (CRANE) has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prioritize the protection of former Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello’s minor children amid the ongoing investigation into his financial dealings.

The call was made on Friday, at a press conference held in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.

CRANE, a leading advocacy group for children’s rights in Nigeria, expressed deep concern over the potential harm and public exposure of Bello’s children, citing Nigerian law and international conventions on children’s rights.

The group condemned the EFCC’s actions, which they argue violate due process, the presumption of innocence, and children’s rights.

According to CRANE, the EFCC’s repeated mention of Bello’s children in press conferences and statements, as well as the public statement by their school, the American International School, Abuja, regarding the remittance of their school fees to the EFCC, has inadvertently exposed the children to undue public scrutiny and potential harm.

Frankline Edede, speaking on behalf of the group, said: “The Nigerian child, our hope of any meaningful tomorrow as a nation, is now increasingly an endangered species. They are faced with a myriad of threats, ranging from poverty, malnutrition, and lack of access to quality education and healthcare, to abuse, exploitation, and neglect. These challenges not only deprive them of their fundamental rights but also stifle their growth and development, hindering their ability to contribute meaningfully to society.

“The Child’s Rights Advocacy Network (CRANE) is deeply concerned about recent incidents in our polity which once again paint in stark contrast the plight of the Nigerian child. We are referring, of course, to the public exposure and potential harm inflicted upon the minor children of former Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello amidst his ongoing investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the face-off that has ensued.

“CRANE denounces the repeated mention of Bello’s children in press conferences and statements by EFCC officials, particularly Chairman Olanipekun Olukoyede and spokesperson Dele Oyewale. We also condemn strongly the public statement by their school, the American International School, Abuja, regarding her remittance of the school fees paid for the children by their family to the EFCC.

“Targeting children to gain leverage over their father is not only unethical but also potentially illegal. Nigeria is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and has enacted the Child’s Rights Act (2003), both of which guarantee children protection from violence, abuse, and exploitation.”

“CRANE calls upon the EFCC to immediately cease all actions and public statements that directly or indirectly target Yahaya Bello’s children, and to strictly adhere to due process and the presumption of innocence in all investigations. We also urge the Bello family to seek age-appropriate counseling and psychological support for their children to mitigate any potential harm caused by the public exposure.

“The fight against corruption must not come at the expense of children’s well-being or the principles of justice. We urge the EFCC and all law enforcement agencies to uphold the highest ethical standards, ensuring that the rights of all individuals, especially vulnerable children, are protected throughout any legal process.”

The group also urged the Bello family to seek age-appropriate counseling and psychological support for their children to mitigate any potential harm caused by the public exposure, and to consult legal counsel to address the potential violations of their children’s rights.

Furthermore, CRANE called on the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to: “Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the EFCC’s actions concerning the Bello children; publicly condemn any tactics that endanger children and reaffirm Nigeria’s unwavering commitment to protecting children’s rights; and, take decisive disciplinary action against any EFCC personnel found to have violated children’s rights.”

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