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Court of Appeal set to review EFCC appeal against order restraining arrest of Yahaya Bello

Legal battle ensues as anti-graft agency seeks to overturn injunction amid allegations of obstruction

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The legal saga surrounding the former governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, takes a pivotal turn today as the Court of Appeal in Abuja convenes to deliberate on an appeal lodged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). At the heart of the matter lies a contentious order issued by a Kogi State High Court, which barred the anti-graft agency from taking any action against Bello pending the resolution of a fundamental rights suit filed by the ex-governor.

In a ruling dated February 9, 2024, the Kogi court imposed a restraining order, effectively prohibiting the EFCC from pursuing any investigative or prosecutorial measures against Bello. The agency, embroiled in a protracted legal battle with the former governor, seeks to arraign him on 19 counts related to allegations of money laundering, breach of trust, and misappropriation of funds totaling N80.2 billion.

Undeterred by the judicial injunction, the EFCC pressed forward in its pursuit of Bello, petitioning the Federal High Court in Abuja for an arrest warrant. However, their efforts were thwarted when an attempted arrest at Bello’s Abuja residence proved unsuccessful. Consequently, the scheduled arraignment in court was deferred, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the legal proceedings.

As the appeal court prepares to weigh the merits of the EFCC’s appeal, legal representatives from both sides engage in a spirited debate over the jurisdictional validity of the arrest warrant. Bello’s legal team, led by Mr. Abdulwahab Mohammed (SAN), contends that the EFCC’s actions constitute a violation of due process, particularly as the matter is already under appellate review.

In response, the EFCC, represented by Mr. Kemi Pinehero, defends its position, arguing that the trial should proceed unhindered. Central to their appeal is the contention that the lower court’s order constitutes an unwarranted impediment to the agency’s statutory mandate to combat economic crimes.

Amidst the legal wrangling, the EFCC, through its solicitor, J.S. Okutepa (SAN), seeks a stay of execution on the Kogi State High Court’s injunction. In a petition marked CA/ABJ/PRE/RDA/CV/165MI, the agency underscores the urgency of its appeal, decrying the restraining order as a hindrance to the effective discharge of its statutory duties.

As the proceedings unfold, all eyes remain fixed on the Court of Appeal, where the fate of the EFCC’s appeal and the legal ramifications surrounding Yahaya Bello’s case hang in the balance.

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