Nigeria’s Law and Yahaya Bello’s Itching Fingers

Anselm Okolo

Drama over Arrest

The drama of the arrest and trial of former Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello is not over, as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is reported to be considering, abandoning the non – kinetic approach it has so far adopted so far, for the kinetic in arresting him for arraignment any time soon.

According to sources very close to the EFCC “soon can be this weekend”, AHR learnt in Abuja.

Hearing at Federal High Court

At continued hearing into the criminal case against brought before the Federal High Court, presided over by Justice Emeka Nwite, in Abuja on Thursday, the Commission told the court, Bello was wanted for arraignment in connection with alleged embezzlement of the public treasury and complicity in money laundering, cumulatively valued over N84 Billion.

According to EFCC through its lawyer Kemi Pinhero, SAN, efforts to arrest the former governor by its operatives a day before “was frustrated by a person with immunity” he did not name but believed to be the sitting governor of Kogi State Usman Ododo, the former governor’s successor in office.

“My lord, what happened yesterday was that a person with immunity came to whisk the defendant away. But what they forgot was that immunity does not attach to a building, but an individual” Pinhero told the court, adding “however, we know what to do. If it will take inviting the military to bring him here, we will do that because section 287 of the Constitution cannot be ridiculed”

Talking real tough, the lawyer even chided, “if he wants to play games, we will show him that the constitution is above every individual and you cannot fight the constitution”

Bello was not without defense at the court proceedings. Speaking through his lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN, he told the court not to listen to the EFCC argument.

Defence at Court of Appeal

“What they are trying to do is to bring this court in collision with the Court of Appeal by rushing to this court to obtain an ex-parte warrant of arrest for someone that is already a defendant” noting that “our position is that this court has no jurisdiction to do any other thing than to take our motion challenging its jurisdiction to entertain this charge.

“What happened at Zone 4 Abuja yesterday, where they laid seige to the house of the former governor while he was in Lokoja waiting for judgement in his fundamental right enforcement suit, was unfortunate.

Near Bloodbath

“A bloodbath was avoided. You don’t issue a warrant against a defendant who is already before the court and who has also briefed lawyers to defend him” he added.

But why is Bello evading trial? According to EFCC, Bello and three others including his junior brother, are alleged to have diverted about N100 billion belonging to the Kogi state government, during his time as governor of the state. Bello it seems does not have cogent responses to the streak of allegations weaved against him by the EFCC.

N750Bn when 61% of its Residents Lived under Multidimensional Poverty

During his tenure as governor, the state received a total of N750 Billion, at a time that nearly 61% of its residents lived under multidimensional poverty. The situation of wellbeing in the state was further damaged by spiraling rate of inflation in the state.

Kogi, Highest Inflation Rate among States of the Federation

As at January 2024, seven months after Bello left office, Kogi still ranked as state with the highest inflation rate of 39.75% in the country.

When Bello was elected governor of Kogi state in 2015, many residents of the state and even beyond were full of positive expectations for the state. They hinged their expectation on the relative young age of the governor and his popularity within the inner circles of the President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration.

Eight Years Performance

Eight years after, these expectations changed for disappointments. In spite of receiving more than N750 Billion in monthly allocations from the Federation Account, FA, there are very little on ground in the state to justify the huge expenditure.

Kogi is one of the largest states in the country in terms of land area, second only to Niger state. It is reported to have also one of the finest land in the country for agriculture.

In fact, the state is famed to have capacity to supply the cassava needs of the country and the whole of West Africa. Strangely, Bello did not see this goldmine, waiting to be harnessed for all of the eight years he was governor.

Lokoja Dirtiest state Capital

Lokoja, the state capital remains one of the dirtiest and poorly developed in the country. Its potentials as a transit city between the north and the south are enormous. For whatever were his priorities, Bello left this economic advantage untapped throughout his tenure. Instead, Bello who hardly stayed overnight in the city, found Abuja a more preferred city to live, only returning to Lokoja when it was expedient to preside over state activities, only to beat a hasty retreat to Abuja, even if it meant doing so, as late as midnight.

Ganaja Flyover Bridge as Legacy

One of his legacy projects in the state, is the Ganaja flyover bridge. This project taunted as “a first in the state” pales in stature when compared to other similar projects in other states of the country, Ebonyi. The project stands tall for being shrouded in a mesh of cost controversy. No one in the state, can say for sure what the project cost.  Bello announced that the project will cost N1.9 Billion but total payments to the contractor, according to reporting by SaharaReporters shows “overall cost of the project is N4,674,443,644 Billion”

Remodeled Kogi Specialist Hospital

Bello can also claim the remodeled Kogi Specialist hospital and the Central reference hospital Okene, his home town, as achievements. A scorecard a former legislator from the state, Musa Ibrahim describes as “very poor”

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, in terms of internally generated revenue, IGR, Kogi generated 107.57 Billion for the eight years Bello was governor, a figure some states like Ebonyi created at the same time with Kogi generates in two years. In the view of Usman Idanwonjo, a financial analyst from the state but based in Abuja, “for a state with huge industrial capacity, Bello’s performance can only be described as abysmal”.

NBS Data

Over the same period, Bello exponentially grew the state’s domestic debt profile from N42.03 Billion when he came into office to N121.81 Billion in 2023 when he left office. He did not spare either on the external debt profile, growing it from $33.63 Million to $51.17 Million, according to NBS.

It is instructive that on the two occasions the domestic debts of the state rose above the N100 Billion threshold, Bello was preparing the two elections, the first in 2029 when he was running for a second term in office and President Buhari was running for a second term too. He is recorded as one of highest contributors to the Buhari re – election vault.

The second time was in 2023 when he was funding the election of his stooge, governor Ododo’s election campaign. Asked what Bello could have spent the huge borrowing on, Idanwonjo said, “not in the development of the state, not at all, he simply carted the money away, I hope the EFCC will find out where and help return the humongous monies to the state, for the development of infrastructure”

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