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Court Denies Yahaya Bello’s Bid To Stop Trial In N80.2bn Fraud Case | Citizen NewsNG

ByCitizen NewsNG

May 10, 2024

Yahaya Bello

 

 

A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed the application by former Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, to suspend proceedings in the trial concerning alleged N80.2 billion fraud charges against him.

Bello had sought to stop the trial before Justice Emeka Nwite, citing an appeal filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against a contempt application he filed against EFCC chairman, Ola Olukayode, at the Court of Appeal.

However, Justice Nwite rejected Bello’s request presented through his lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed, stating that the absence of the defendant in court rendered the application invalid.

Nwite emphasized that disregarding a court order showed disrespect and attempted to obstruct the court’s jurisdiction.

The judge asserted that no application could be entertained until the defendant appeared in court.

Nwite held that “The application cannot be entertained unless the defendant is present in the court. In the absence of the defendant in court, the motion on notice filed by the complainant can only be conducted if the defendant is in court.

“The motion filed by the defendant has no bearing”.

The trial judge ruled that “A person who disobeys an order of court should not be given a hearing in any subsequent application.

“A defendant who disobeys an order of court is not entitled to be heard and the disobedience of the defendant by not making himself available for arraignment in this criminal trial under the disguise of an application is an attempt to frustrate the court and make it practically impossible for the court to take jurisdiction.

“He is taking the court for granted and taking its orders for levity.

“The honourable thing to do by the defendant was to honour the court and be present for his arraignment. The warrant of arrest is an order.

“He has disobeyed the order of this court. An order of court of competent jurisdiction, no matter how it was obtained, (arrest warrant) subsists until it is set aside”.

Furthermore, Justice Nwite held that the law is settled on the fact that anyone who refuses to obey an order of court after becoming aware of it, is in contempt of court.

He said not obeying a court order is a show of disrespect to the court and as such any party who is guilty of this cannot expect a favourable discretion of the court.

Justice Nwite also stated that the Constitution mandates all persons and authority to respond to court orders. He held that the defendant’s decision to file an application instead of presenting himself for arraignment shows his intentions not to present himself for trial.

“I hold that no Application can be heard until the defendant makes himself available,” the judge said.

Mohammed, after the ruling told the court that they filed a motion on notice the previous day May 9, 2024

He said the motion prayed the court to stay further hearing of the money laundering suit filed against his client Bello, until the Court of Appeal decides on the appeal the EFCC filed against Bello’s contempt suit at the High Court sitting in Lokoja.

Mohammed also explained to the court that EFCC had, by a motion ex-parte, gotten an order from the appellate Court to stop the contempt proceedings filed by his client.

He explained further that the appellate court had already fixed May 20 to hear the case.

He prayed the trial court to await the conclusion of the appeal before continuing with the trial.

“We ask your lordship to wait since there is a matter at the Court of Appeal following the contempt filed against the EFCC chairman by the defendant we appealed just yesterday and the matter is coming up Friday.

“I have drawn your lordship’s notice to a motion we filed on the 9th of May 2024, to draw your lordship attention to a suit marked CA/ABJ/CB/413/2024, having the EFCC as appellant and Yahaya Bello as the respondent. It is basically to challenge the contempt proceedings initiated on behalf of Yahaya Bello at the High Court of Justice Lokoja, wherein by the said order of the high court delivered on the 9th of Feb 2024 in suit number HCL/68M/2024, the said high court restrains the complainant from prosecuting, from filing, or otherwise persecuting Yahaya Bello,” Mohammed said.

On his part, the EFCC’s counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, disagreed with Mohammed’s submission and urged the court not to grant any request of the defendant until he appears in court.

He said “Your Lordship by virtue of today, I humbly pray your Lordship not to entertain that application until the defendant is here and this not the first time the judiciary will say you cannot disobey me and be asking for the discretion of the court. In the very unlikely event that my lordship says let me look at it, that application cannot be entertained in law, it is dead”.

Oyedepo also asked the court to adjourn for arraignment.

“Your lordship should adjourn this matter for arraignment. We have the power and resources to ensure that the defendant comes before the court,”

Afterwards, Mohammed told the court that his client (Bello) would love to obey the court order but he is afraid of his life.

“Our client when served with the charge expressed fear for his safety. Right to life your lordship”.

The Judge urged him to ensure his client appeared in court for his arraignment on the next adjourned date.

“Bello should come to court on his own not through EFCC for arraignment on the next adjourned date.

“It is just a charge. It has not been proven. Counsel, it is your duty to bring him and you prepare yourselves,” Nwite said.

Mohammed however, assured the court that he will ensure the former governor appears in court for his arraignment in the next adjourned date.

The court adjourned till June 13, 2024, for Bello’s arraignment.

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