Why Yahaya Bello missed court appearance revealed

Adedayo Adedipe, a member of Yahaya Bello’s legal team, informed Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja that their client would have attended court but expressed concerns about receiving a fair hearing and justice.

Adedipe relayed Bello’s message to the court following his client’s absence in court for his arraignment on Tuesday. He was absent from court for his arraignment on a 19-count charge of alleged money laundering to the tune of ₦84bn.

Following his absence, Justice Nwite, ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to serve a copy of the charge against him on his lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohamed.

The judge relied on section 384 (4 and 5) of the Administrative and Criminal Justice Act 2015, directing the counsel to the immediate past governor, to receive a copy of the charge.

The court held that where it had become impossible to effect personal service of a legal process on a defendant, such could be done through substituted means.

Justice Nwite further held that it was clear that the former governor failed to appear in court for his arraignment.

Although Bello’s lawyer, Mohammed, initially declined to accept the charges and proof of evidence, he was compelled to do so by Justice Nwite.

The judge rejected the plea by the senior lawyer that a junior lawyer in his team, AI Musa, be the one to accept the charges on behalf of the former governor.

However, in defence,  Adedipe said although Bello was absent as a result of fear of not getting a fair hearing, he was ready to appear before the court to answer the 19-count charge preferred against him by the EFCC.

Adedipe urged the court, to set aside the ex-parte order of arrest it had earlier issued against the former governor, saying that at the time the order of arrest was made, the charge had not been served on his client.

Bello had earlier argued that the EFCC was an illegal organisation. According to him, the Federal Government did not consult the 36 states of the federation before enacting the EFCC Act through the National Assembly. He added that section 12 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, required the various Houses of Assembly to ratify the act before it could become operative.

Counsel to the EFCC, Kemi Phinheiro, however, urged the court to dismiss the application, insisting that the warrant of arrest should not be set aside until the defendant makes himself available for trial.

He argued that Bello did not have the legal ground to file numerous applications while in hiding.

The senior lawyer added that the applications he was filing, were tactics intended to delay his arraignment, as the main issue was to determine his whereabouts.

He adds that if Bello wanted the order of his arrest to be discharged, he should come before the court and make the application.

Justice Nwite then ordered that the charge sheet of the N84bn fraud allegation against Bello be served on his lawyer.

The EFCC added that it would not execute the arrest warrant until the counsel to Bello undertakes to ensure his presence at the next adjourned date.

Justice Nwite had last week issued a bench warrant against Bello following an application to that effect by EFCC.

The EFCC subsequently declared the former governor wanted for his persistent absence in court, and for evading the criminal charges against him.

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