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June 12, 2024

EFCC vs Bello: Nigerians demand justice as case resumes Thursday

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By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja

The proceedings in the case of the former Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, are set to resume on Thursday, with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) preparing to present its case against him.

Bello is facing charges of fraud and money laundering, allegedly embezzling N80 billion in state funds during his tenure.

The EFCC has been investigating Bello for months, and his trial has been a subject of public interest, with many Nigerians calling for his prosecution.

The commission has gathered evidence and witness statements, and is expected to present a strong case against the former governor.

Bello has denied all allegations, claiming political persecution.

The proceedings resume Thursday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, with Justice Emeka Nwite presiding.

From civil society organizations to legal practitioners, many are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the case, which is seen as a test of the country’s commitment to fighting corruption.

First, Hon. Austin Usman Okai, the People’s Democratic Party candidate for Dekina/Bassa Federal Constituency of Kogi state in the 2023 general elections, emphasized the significance of the trial.

Speaking with Our Correspondent, he said, “We’ve been struggling with corruption for so long, and it’s time we show the world that we’re serious about tackling it. A conviction would be a huge victory, but it’s not just about winning a case – it’s about setting a precedent, about showing that our institutions are strong enough to take on the powerful and hold them accountable.”

In agreement, Comrade Jacob Okpanachi, the National Secretary of Kogi Conscience Liberation Movement (KCLM), stressed the impact of a trial.

“A successful trial would be a game-changer because it would show that the EFCC is not just paying lip service to the fight against corruption. It’s going to inspire other agencies to take a cue from the EFCC and go after corrupt officials. It’s going to show the world that Nigeria is no longer a haven for corrupt practices,” he told Vanguard.

Olufunke Okunnu, a rights activist, added that the trial presents an opportunity for Nigeria to redeem itself.

She said. “This trial is a chance for Nigeria to redeem itself. We’ve been plagued by corruption for so long, and it’s time we take a stand. A conviction would be a statement that we’re no longer willing to tolerate corruption.”

However, Barrister James Okwe of Justice Gate Law Firm Abuja expressed skepticism about the trial’s impact.

“I believe that Yahaya Bello’s conviction won’t set a precedent, as he won’t be the first or last Governor to be accused and convicted of corruption.

“The real issue is that institutions in Nigeria are not equipped to hold the powerful accountable due to immunity clauses and executive control over appointments and funding,” the legal practitioner argued.

In stark contrast, human rights lawyer, Barr Deji Adeyanju criticized the EFCC’s approach, saying, “The EFCC seems scared of Yahaya Bello, but very brazen when it comes to violating the rights of citizens.

“The EFCC is very quick to arrest and prosecute innocent citizens, but when it comes to corrupt officials, they become toothless. This trial is a sham, and the EFCC is just trying to save face. They’re not serious about fighting corruption.”

Meanwhile, Dele Oyewale, the EFCC spokesman, in providing an update on the case, defended the anti-graft agency’s approach to the case.

Oyewale said, “The issue of former Kogi governor, Yahaya Bello, is public knowledge. We are in court against him. The next court appearance is June 13, before Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

“It is wrong for anybody to say that the EFCC is involved in selective prosecution. There is no basis or argument to justify that claim. All our activities are broad-based, fully integrated, professional, and non-selective.”