Transfer my case to Kogi, ex-Gov Yahaya Bello tells Court

The immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, facing a 19-count charge, has requested to face his trial in Kogi rather than Abuja.

In a letter to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, Bello, through his legal team led by Mr Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN, argued that only the Lokoja Division of the high court has the territorial jurisdiction to handle the allegations brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

During the resumed proceedings on Thursday, Bello did not appear before the Federal High Court in Abuja to enter his plea.

Instead, his lawyer, Mr Adeola Adedipe, SAN, informed the court of the letter his client had sent to the Chief Judge.

Adedipe stated, “After the proceedings of the last adjourned date, I went back and gave a report of what happened in court to our team.

“However, I was made to understand that a letter had been written on behalf of the defendant to the honourable Chief Judge of the Federal High Court requesting in substance, that this matter be administratively transferred to the Federal High Court, Lokoja Judicial Division, which we believe have territorial jurisdiction to handle this matter.”

Adedipe continued, “That letter was received at the Chief Judge’s Chambers and the office of the honourable CJ wrote the prosecution team through Mr. Iseoluwa Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, on June 13, notifying him that administrative steps have been activated, whereof he was directed to provide a response to the request for transfer of the matter.

‘As of this morning, I am not aware whether there has been a response by the prosecution team in compliance with the directive of the CJ.”

Adedipe added that there has been no decision from the Chief Judge on the request, and he is not urging the court to take any action at the moment but merely presenting the facts.

In response, EFCC counsel Mr Kemi Pinhero, SAN, urged the court to compel the defence to explain Bello’s absence, despite an earlier undertaking to ensure his presence.

Pinhero dismissed the defence’s explanation as an attempt to delay the proceedings and argued that the letter to the Chief Judge does not absolve the defendant from appearing in court.

He also applied for the court to invite the defence lawyers to explain why they should not be sanctioned for contemptuous conduct.

Bello, who governed Kogi State for eight years, faces charges related to alleged money laundering, breach of trust, and misappropriation of public funds amounting to approximately N80.2 billion.

The EFCC accused him, along with his nephew Ali Bello and two others, Dauda Suleiman and Abdulsalam Hudu, of complicity in money laundering.

Although Bello previously failed to appear for his arraignment, he had his lawyers file an application to set aside an arrest warrant issued against him on April 17 and to challenge the court’s jurisdiction.

The former governor argued that the EFCC violated a subsisting judgement from a Kogi State High Court by bringing charges against him and seeking a bench warrant for his arrest.

Despite the court’s ruling on May 10 to uphold the arrest warrant, it allowed Bello the opportunity to voluntarily present himself for arraignment.

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