Court fixes April 23 for ruling on substituted service of charge on Yahaya Bello

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By Kenneth Atavti

The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday fixed April 23 for ruling in the application by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seeking a substituted service of the charge on the immediate-past Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

Justice Emeka Nwite fixed the date after counsel for the EFCC, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, and the ex-governor’s lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN, presented their arguments for and against the oral application.

When the matter was called for the arraignment of Bello on a 19-count money laundering charge preferred against him, the former governor was not in court.

However, his team of lawyers, including Adeola Adedipe, SAN, was in court.

Mohammed, who announced appearance for Bello, challenged the validity of the charge on the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter on the one hand and to have issued the arrest warrant against his client on the other hand.

He informed the court that a preliminary objection had already been filed before the court to the effect.

The lawyer, who urged the court to vacate the arrest warrant order, said a High Court of Kogi had on February 9 restrained the anti-graft agency from arresting, detaining or prosecuting Bello.

He said the ruling was on a fundamental rights suit filed by the former governor and that the EFCC was a party in the matter.

He added that two of the senior advocates representing the anti-graft agency in the instant charge were also in the matter.

Mohammed said the order was challenged by the EFCC at the Court of Appeal and the matter was already fixed for hearing.

He stressed that the arrest warrant the commission surreptitiously got from the court was an attempt to bring the court on a collision course with the Appeal Court.

Bello’s lawyer, who insisted that the issue of jurisdiction was a threshold which the court must address first, argued that the charge ought not to have been filed in view of the appeal.

Mohammed told the court that, contrary to Pinheiro’s submission, the court should direct that he should be served with the charge in the open court since he represented Bello, he said that he was not authorised to receive the charge on his client’s behalf.

He argued that if the commission could not serve Bello personally with the charge, they should formally apply so that the defendant could respond accordingly.

Besides, he insisted that their objection to the whole charge and the arrest warrant on the ground of lack of jurisdiction had not been dealt with.

However, EFCC’s lawyer disagreed with Mohammed’s submission.