Chief Judge Rejects Yahaya Bello’s Request To Transfer N80.2bn Fraud Trial To Kogi State

6 days ago
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Chief Judge Rejects Transfer Request

The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, has declined the request to transfer the N80.2bn fraud trial of former Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, from Abuja to Kogi State.

The decision, dated 2nd July and communicated through a letter signed by his Special Assistant, Joshua Aji, aligns with the stance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

EFCC’s Position on Yahaya Bello’s Trial

The EFCC had argued against the transfer, insisting that Yahaya Bello should be tried in Abuja.

In a letter addressing the matter, Aji wrote, “His Lordship, the Honourable Chief Judge, has considered your arguments and the response from Dr. Kemi Pinheiro, SAN.

The main complaint involves the alleged conversion and transfer of funds from Kogi State to Abuja to purchase property. The law permits filing the charge in either Abuja or Lokoja, Kogi State.”

Yahaya Bello’s Legal Team’s Response

Yahaya Bello’s lawyer, Adeola Adedipe (SAN), applied on June 10 to transfer the trial to Kogi State, believing that the Lokoja judicial division had territorial jurisdiction.

Adedipe explained, “After the June 13 proceedings, we informed Bello of the court events. He decided to seek the transfer of the case, as a letter had been written on his behalf to the Chief Judge requesting the transfer.”

READ ALSO: N80.2bn Fraud: Yahaya Bello Absent In Court Again Amidst EFCC Ongoing Search

EFCC’s Displeasure Over Yahaya Bello’s Absence

The EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), expressed displeasure over Bello’s repeated absence from court.

“Since no reason has been offered for Bello’s absence, Your Lordship should treat this as professional misconduct and contempt of court,” Pinheiro stated.

He urged the court to consider disciplinary action against Bello’s legal team.

Previous Cases and Jurisdiction Issues

The Chief Judge referenced previous cases related to the alleged fraud scheme, emphasizing the importance of jurisdiction.

“Two criminal charges in the same scheme of alleged fraud were earlier filed and are being tried in the Federal High Court, Abuja. Applications to transfer these cases to Lokoja were refused,” the letter stated.

The Chief Judge underscored that jurisdictional issues should be decided in open court.

Upcoming Court Ruling

Justice Emeka Nwite, who is presiding over the trial, has scheduled a ruling for July 17.

The ongoing legal battle highlights the complexities and jurisdictional challenges in high-profile fraud cases like that of Yahaya Bello.

EFCC’s Stand on Accountability

The EFCC remains firm in its stance on holding individuals accountable, regardless of their status. Pinheiro remarked, “If a Chief Justice of Nigeria can be put in the dock before an inferior tribunal, who then is a SAN or a former governor in terms of status?”

This underscores the EFCC’s commitment to pursuing justice in cases of significant financial misconduct.

The decision to keep Yahaya Bello’s trial in Abuja reflects the judiciary’s approach to handling complex fraud cases. With the next court date set for July 17, the legal proceedings will continue to unfold, drawing significant public and media attention.

The trial’s outcome could have substantial implications for the accountability of public officials in Nigeria.

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Emmanuel Ochayi is a journalist. He is a graduate of the University of Lagos, School of first choice and the nations pride. Emmanuel is keen on exploring writing angles in different areas, including Business, climate change, politics, Education, and others.

Emmanuel Ochayi is a journalist. He is a graduate of the University of Lagos, School of first choice and the nations pride. Emmanuel is keen on exploring writing angles in different areas, including Business, climate change, politics, Education, and others.

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