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N82bn Fraud Case: Yahaya Bello Skips Court For The Fifth Time

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For the fifth time, a former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, failed to appear for his arraignment at the Federal High Court in Abuja, where he faces corruption charges.

Bello is in court facing trial for an alleged N82 billion fraud case. He was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Bello’s absence, the fifth instance of his non-appearance since the trial began, has prompted speculation that the former governor and his lawyers are utilising legal manoeuvres to delay proceedings.

Bello’s legal team, led by Adeola Adedipe, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), informed Justice Emeka Nwite that their client had petitioned the Chief Judge of the Court, Justice John Tsoho, seeking a transfer of his trial venue to Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State.

Adedipe argued that Lokoja held territorial jurisdiction over the case, though no response from the Chief Judge was disclosed.

“The application for transfer of the trial to Lokoja is based on our belief in the jurisdiction of the court there, and we await a response from the Chief Judge,” said Adeola Adedipe, SAN, counsel for Yahaya Bello.

The absence of Bello, despite assurances made on June 13 to appear in court, compounded tensions between the defence and prosecution counsels.

Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, representing the prosecution, expressed frustration and called for contempt charges against Bello’s legal team for alleged misleading of the court.

The EFCC has been investigating Bello for alleged financial misconduct during his tenure as governor, focusing on misuse of public funds.

The legal battle surrounding Bello has also extended beyond the courtroom, involving appeals and procedural disputes.

Previously, the Court of Appeal in Abuja intervened by setting aside contempt proceedings initiated by Bello against EFCC Chairman Olanipekun Olukoyede.

The appellate court granted a stay of proceedings on Bello’s application and allowed substituted means for serving legal documents on the former governor.

In a separate ruling, the Kogi State High Court had summoned Olukoyede to explain actions that allegedly violated court orders during a previous legal dispute involving Bello.

This ruling was later challenged and overturned by the appellate court, citing procedural errors.

Justices of the Court of Appeal, Justice D. Z. Senchi, Justice A.M. Talba and Justice Joseph Oyewole had set aside the ruling and overruled the respondent’s preliminary objection, citing technicalities.

The appellate court ruled that the high court judge neglected to carry forward the directives issued on February 9, 2024, in the conclusive judgment rendered on April 17, 2024.

Additionally, the court noted that the secondary concern raised by the respondent regarding the interim order had now become moot.

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