Fraud: Court rejects Yahaya Bello’s request to move trial to Kogi

Fraud: Court rejects Yahaya Bello’s request to move trial to Kogi

The application to transfer the N80.2 billion fraud trial of former Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, from Abuja to Kogi State has been refused by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho.

Bello, according to the Chief Justice, in a letter dated July 2 and signed by his Special Assistant, Joshua Aji, should be tried in Abuja and not in Kogi State.

The Chief Justice said he agreed with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Justice Tsoho dismissed Bello’s application dated June 10, seeking to have his trial over alleged N80.2 billion fraud transferred to Kogi.

READ: I want to be tried in Kogi – Wanted Yahaya Bello asks to be tried

Osun Defender reports that Bello, through his lawyer, Adeola Adedipe (SAN), had on June 27 told the trial judge, Justice Emeka Nwite, that his client had requested that his case be transferred to Kogi.

Adedipe said Bello took the decision to seek the transfer of the case after being informed of what happened during the June 13 court proceedings.

Adedipe said: “After the proceedings of that day, we handed over to him (Bolo) the report of what transpired in court. I was made to understand that a letter was written on behalf of the respondent to the Honourable Chief Justice of the FHC requesting in substance that this matter be administratively transferred to the judicial division of the FHC, Lokoja, which is supposed to have territorial jurisdiction.

“This issue is no longer in the hands of the Bar but of the Supreme Court. If the honourable Chief Justice has taken an initiative, I must show him the necessary respect.”

But EFCC counsel, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), expressed displeasure with the defence’s attitude, insisting that Bello should have been present in court for his arraignment.

Pinheiro also opposed Bello’s request to transfer the case to Kogi State.

In his letter to the lawyer, the Chief Justice said he agreed with the EFCC that the case should be tried in Abuja.

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

“His Lordship’s position on the matter is as follows:

“The main complaint in the matter is the alleged conversion and transfer of funds from Kogi State to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, to purchase properties through acts of concealment.

“The law allows for the prosecution to be filed either at Abuja, FCT or at Lokoja, Kogi State, the offence having been partly committed in both places. This is therefore distinguishable from IBORI v. FRN (2008) LPELR8370 or (2009) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1127) CA 94 and other judicial authorities relied upon by the respondent.

“The prosecution has demonstrated with documentary evidence that two criminal charges in the same scheme of alleged fraud leading to the charge against the defendant were previously filed and are being tried at the Federal High Court, Abuja under charge number FHC/ABJ/CR/550/22 FRN v. 1. Ali Bello, 2. Dauda Suleiman and FRN v. 1. Ali Bello, 2. Abba Daudu, 3. Yakubu Siyaka Adabenege, 4. Iyadi Sadat.

“In both cases, a formal request for transfer to Lokoja was filed, but the court, in a considered decision, rejected the request. The decision has not been annulled and cannot be annulled by administrative decision.

“There is documentary evidence of a pending appeal in the matter of Yahaya Adoza Bello v. FRN, filed on 17/05/2024, in which the respondent, as appellant, sought a consequential order remitting the matter to the Chief Justice for reassignment. It is not appropriate to take any step that would amount to preempting the outcome of the appeal.”

The Chief Justice also considered the issue of jurisdiction.

“The main issue raised is jurisdictional in nature and will be better decided by the court. The case should therefore be presented in open court.

“Please accept the distinguished greetings of His Excellency, the Honourable Chief Justice,” Aji added.