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Friday, May 24, 2024

EFCC charge: Court fixes date to rule on substituted service on Yahaya Bello

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An Abuja Federal High Court, on Thursday, fixed April 23 for ruling in an application by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, seeking a substituted service of the charge filed against the immediate-past Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello.

Justice Emeka Nwite fixed the date after counsel for the EFCC, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, and the ex-governor’s lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN, presented their arguments for and against the oral application.

When the matter was called for Bello’s arraignment on a 19-count money laundering charge preferred against him, the former governor was not in court.

However, his team of lawyers, including Adeola Adedipe, SAN, was in court.

Mohammed, who announced appearance for Bello, challenged the validity of the charge on the ground that the the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter on the one hand and to have issued the arrest warrant against his client on the other hand.

He informed the court that a preliminary objection had already been filed before the court to the effect.

The lawyer, who urged the court to vacate the arrest warrant order, said a Kogi State High Court had on February 9 restrained the anti-graft agency from arresting, detaining or prosecuting Bello.

He said the ruling was on a fundamental rights suit filed by the former governor and that the EFCC was a party in the matter.

He added that two of the senior advocates representing the anti-graft agency in the instant charge were also in the matter.

Mohammed said the order was challenged by the EFCC at the Court of Appeal and the matter was already fixed for hearing.

He stressed that the arrest warrant was an attempt to bring the court on collision course with the Appeal Court.

Bello’s lawyer, who insisted that the issue of jurisdiction was a threshold which the court must address first, argued that the charge ought not to have been filed in view of the appeal.

Mohammed told the court that, contrary to Pinheiro’s submission that the court should direct that he be served with the charge in the open court since he represented Bello, he was not authorised to receive the charge on his client’s behalf.

He argued that if the Commission could not serve Bello personally with the charge, they should formally apply so that the defendant could respond accordingly.

Besides, he insisted that their objection to the whole charge and the arrest warrant on the ground of lack of jurisdiction had not been dealt it.

However, EFCC’s lawyer disagreed with Mohammed’s submission.

Pinheiro said the matter was fixed for Bello’s arraignment and Mohammed, having announced appearance for the ex-governor, could be served in the open court for the matter to proceed.

The court adjourned to May 23 for ruling on substituted service.

Justice Nwite had, on Wednesday, issued a warrant for the arrest of Bello despite a subsisting judgment by a Kogi High Court restraining the Commission from arresting, detaining, or prosecuting him.

The court had also ordered that the ex-governor be produced in court for his arraignment.

Daily Post.

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