EFCC is an illegal organization, can’t try me—Yahaya Bello

  • Says he wants to appear in court but afraid of arrest

The immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is not competent to try him for any offence because it is an illegal organization.

Yahaya Bello made the assertion through his legal team before a Federal high court, Abuja, on Tuesday at the resumed hearing of his case.

According to him, the Federal Government did not consult the 36 states of the federation before it enacted the EFCC Act through the National Assembly.

He argued that section 12 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, required the various Houses of Assembly of states to ratify the Act before it could become operative.

“This is a very serious matter that borders on the constitution and the tenets of federalism. It has to be resolved because as it stands, the EFCC is an illegal organisation,” he added.

He however said he was ready to appear before the Federal High Court in Abuja to answer to the 19-count charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission preferred against him when his objection to the hearing of the case has been taken care of.

Though he was absent for his arraignment, he briefed a team of lawyers who addressed the court on his behalf on Tuesday.

A member of his legal team, Adeola Adedipe (SAN), told the court that his client would have made himself available for the proceedings, but was afraid that he would be arrested.

“The defendant wants to come to court but he is afraid that there is an order of arrest hanging on his head,” Adedipe submitted.

Consequently, he urged the court to set aside the exparte order of arrest it earlier issued against the former governor.

Adedipe contended that as at the time the order of arrest was made, the charge had not been served on his client as required by the law.

He noted that it was only at the resumed proceedings on Tuesday that the court okayed substituted service of the charge on the defendant, through his lawyer.

He said: “As at the time the warrant was issued, the order for substituted service had not been made.

“That order was just made this morning.

“A warrant of arrest should not be hanging on his neck when we leave this court.”

However, EFCC’s lawyer, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), urged the court to refuse the application, insisting that the warrant of arrest should not be set aside until the defendant makes himself available for his trial.

Pinheiro said: “The defendant cannot stay in hiding and be filing numerous applications.

“He cannot ask for the arrest order to be vacated until and when the defendant is present in court for his arraignment.

“He cannot be heard on that application.

“The main issue should be ascertaining the whereabouts of the defendant.

“All these applications he is filing are nothing but dilatory tactics intended to delay his arraignment and frustrate the proceedings.

“If he wants the order of arrest to be discharged, let him come here and make the application.

“Our position is that the defendant should be denied the right of being heard until he is physically present before this court.”

The EFCC’s lawyer further argued that in line with section 396 of ACJA, 2015, the court could not effectively assume jurisdiction to decide any application or objection in the matter until the defendant is arraigned.

The anti-graft agency said it would not execute the arrest warrant if counsel to the defendant undertook to ensure his presence on the next adjourned date.

Pinheiro added: “If he gives an undertaking that his client will be in court on the next date, I can assure him that the arrest warrant will not be executed.

“If he gives that assurance, as the prosecution, I will personally apply for the warrant to be discharged.”

The EFCC told the court that the Supreme Court had since settled the issue of its legality.

The SAN said: “The charge before this court is not against a state or House of Assembly, but against an individual who is said to have laundered public funds.

“It is against an individual who is said to have taken public funds to buy houses in Lagos, Maitama and also transferred funds to his accounts abroad.”

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