June 13, 2024

Yahaya Bello’s Trial: A-Court dismisses contempt case against EFCC chairman

Why Force Headquarters ordered detention of Yahaya Bello's ADC

Former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello

…awards N1m cost against Bello, says Kogi court lacks power to stop his trial

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, has dismissed the contempt charge the former Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, instituted against the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ola Olukoyede, over his planned trial.

The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-man panel of Justices, on Thursday, faulted the judgement of a High Court in Kogi State, which the embattled erstwhile governor relied upon to initiate the contempt case against the EFCC boss.

Justice Jamil Abdullahi of the Kogi State High Court had summoned the EFCC Chairman to appear before him to show cause why he should not be committed to prison for allegedly disobeying his orders pertaining to the case against Bello.

The summon followed a suit marked: HCL/68M/2024 and a motion No: HCL/190M/2024, which the former governor who is facing a 19-count charge the anti-graft agency preferred against him, filed before the court.

Bello contended that the EFCC Chairman flouted an interim order the high court made on February 9, when he directed officials of the Commission to lay siege at his Abuja home in a bid to effect his arrest.

He maintained that the anti-graft agency spurned the subsisting court ruling, when it approached the Federal High Court in Abuja and obtained an ex parte order for his arrest and trial for alleged money laundering, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N80.2 billion.

Therefore, Bello, through his team of lawyers, initiated a form 49 (contempt charge) for the committal of the EFCC chairman to prison for disobedience of court order.

Meanwhile, after he had listened to submissions of Bello’s lawyer, Justice Abdullahi summoned the EFCC boss to appear before him to adduce reasons why the application that was made against him should not be granted.

According to the trial judge, Bello, tendered exhibits before his court to establish that the EFCC Chairman and the anti-graft agency, “carried out some acts upon which they have been restrained by this Court on February 9, 2024 pending the determination of the substantive motion on Notice before this Court.’

“That the said act was carried out by the Respondent in violation of the order which was valid and subsisting when they carried out those acts. That same act of the Respondent amounts to an act of contempt.

“It is against the above facts that this court hereby grants the prayers sought in line with the principle of ‘Audi Ultra Patem’ (listen to the other side),” Justice Abdullahi held.

He said the summon was for the EFCC Chairman to appear before his court to answer to a form 49 that was entered against him.

However, dissatisfied with the court summon, the EFCC Chairman took the matter before the Court of Appeal.

He persuaded the appellate court to stay further proceedings in the contempt charge, pending the determination of his appeal.

While delivering judgement in the matter on Thursday, the appellate court held that no court of law has the powers to stop a law enforcement agency from performing its statutory duties.

Specifically, the court, in the lead verdict that was delivered by Justice Joseph Oyewole, held that “ a court of law cannot preclude the EFCC or any Law Enforcement Agency from investigating and prosecuting crime.”

“This is a fundamental jurisdictional point that cannot be shoved aside as it borders on the doctrine of separation of powers. The argument of the Respondent that no ground covers this point cannot stand in view of the instant circumstance,” the appellate court added.

While allowing the appeal, the court, dismissed a preliminary objection that was brought before it by the former Kogi state governor.

The appellate court further awarded a cost of N1million against the former governor.