Yahaya Bello loses bid to hear N80bn fraud case in Kogi

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

The CJ, in a letter dated July 2 and signed by his  Special Assistant, Joshua Aji, said he agreed with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that Bello should be tried in Abuja and not Kogi State.

Justice Tsoho rejected Bello’s application dated June 10, praying that his trial for alleged N80.2bn fraud should be transferred to Kogi.

Bello’s lawyer, Adeola Adedipe (SAN), had on June 27 told the trial judge, Justice Emeka Nwite, that his client had applied to have his case transferred to Kogi.

Adedipe said Bello took the decision to seek the transfer of the matter after he was briefed about what transpired at the June 13 proceedings in court.

Adedipe said, “After the proceeding on that day, we gave him (Bello) the report of what happened in court. I was made to understand that a letter had been written on behalf of the defendant to the honourable Chief Judge of the FHC requesting in substance that this matter be administratively transferred to the FHC Lokoja judicial division believed to have territorial jurisdiction.

“This issue is no longer in the hands of the Bar but the bench. If the honorable Chief Judge has taken an initiative, I need to give him the necessary respect.”

But the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), expressed displeasure about the attitude of the defence, insisting that Bello ought to have been in court for his arraignment.

Pinheiro also opposed Bello’s bid to have the case moved to Kogi State.

In his letter to the counsel, the CJ said he agreed with the EFCC that the case should be tried in Abuja.

In the letter, the CJ’s SA, Aji, wrote: “I am directed by His Lordship, the Honourable, the Chief Judge to inform you that he has considered your arguments in support of the application for transfer of the defendant’s case from Abuja to Lokoja and the response of Dr. ‘Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, to the same.

The anti-graft agency had declared his wanted following his repeated absence in court for his arraignment.

At the June 27 proceedings, the EFCC lawyer, Pinheiro, had urged the court to jail Bello’s lawyer for reneging on their commitment to produce him in court for his arraignment.

Pinheiro said, “Since no reason has been offered by Adeola (for Bello’s absence), Your Lordship should treat this as professional misconduct and contempt of court.

“We urge the court to exercise disciplinary jurisdiction over the lawyers so as to preserve the integrity of the judiciary.

“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?”

Justice Nwite adjourned till July 17 for ruling.


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