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Yahaya Bello’s Trial to Remain in Abuja, Transfer Rejected – Federal High Court

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The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, has rejected a request to transfer the N80.2 billion fraud trial of former Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, from Abuja to Kogi State. This ruling comes amidst allegations of significant financial misconduct by Bello, who is accused of misappropriating state funds.

The Chief Judge’s decision was detailed in a letter dated July 2, authored by his Special Assistant, Joshua Aji. The letter indicated a clear stance in favor of keeping the trial within the jurisdiction of Abuja, aligning with arguments presented by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The EFCC has been vigorously pursuing charges against Bello, emphasizing the gravity and complexity of the case which involves alleged financial crimes extending beyond the confines of Kogi State.

Justice Tsoho’s ruling responded to an application filed on June 10 by Bello’s legal representative, Adeola Adedipe (SAN), which sought to move the trial to Kogi. The application argued that the local court in Lokoja, Kogi State, would be more appropriate given the nature of the allegations. However, during a hearing on June 27, presided over by Justice Emeka Nwite, Adedipe informed the court of the request for transfer based on proceedings that occurred on June 13.

The EFCC, represented by senior advocate Kemi Pinheiro, countered the defense’s motion. Pinheiro expressed concerns over the defense’s behavior and stressed the importance of Bello’s presence in court for his arraignment, which had been hindered by his repeated absences. The prosecutor firmly opposed the transfer to Kogi State, suggesting that such a move could diminish the trial’s integrity.

In his detailed rejection of Bello’s transfer request, Justice Tsoho elaborated on several legal precedents and procedural matters. He noted the strategic manipulation of funds from Kogi State to Abuja as central to the case, justifying the trial’s location in the capital. Furthermore, he referenced previous rulings in related criminal charges where attempts to transfer to Lokoja were denied, underscoring the consistency in judicial decisions regarding jurisdictional issues.

The Chief Judge emphasized the need of not interfering with this appeal process by highlighting an appeal that Bello has filed, which asks for a court order to reassign the case. He emphasized that in order to ensure openness and compliance with legal requirements, any jurisdictional disputes should be publicly addressed in court.

The EFCC, which has declared Bello a fugitive due to his nonappearance in court, has leveled serious charges against him in this ongoing legal dispute. When Bello’s attorney failed to guarantee his client’s appearance, the EFCC’s attorney urged the court to take disciplinary action against him, assessing the oversight to professional misconduct and contempt of court. This caused the situation to escalate during the June 27 hearing. Justice Nwite has scheduled a ruling for July 17, where further legal arguments will be considered.

 

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