Home Economy EFCC’s charges against Bello highly fraudulent, say anti-graft CSOs

EFCC’s charges against Bello highly fraudulent, say anti-graft CSOs

by Business News Report

A coalition of the nation’s anti-corruption civic organisations has slammed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC for filing what it described as “fraudulent” charges against the immediate-past Governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, urging the agency to get its act right and not waste taxpayers’ money chasing shadows. Speaking on the aegis of Anti-Corruption and Research- Based Data Initiative ARDI, the coalition wondered how the EFCC could initially accuse Bello of misappropriating N80.2 billion in September 2015, about four months before he ever became governor. Those who signed the address which was read to the Press were Chairman, Board of Trustees, ARDI, Chief John Ozigbo, Micheal Ibrahim, Nwabueze Anyanwu and Bitrus Austine Sunom. While it urged both parties to work within the ambit of the law, the coalition beyond clarifications of murky details sought from reputable sources on both sides, it had not discussed its positions with either party.

The coalition said “The EFCC originally alleged that the N80.2bn embezzlement occurred in September 2015, except that will put the alleged offense several months before Alhaji Yahaya Bello assumed office for the first time as Kogi State Governor, having not been an official or servant of the Kogi State Government in any capacity prior to then. Perhaps, confronted with the incongruity of that accusation, the Commission later amended the date to February 2016, that is, just 3 weeks after he assumed office, and by which time the records show that his administration was yet to collect its first federal allocation. The Anti- Corruption Coalition will really appreciate deeper insight from the Anti-Corruption agency on the mechanics of these charges.

“The inconsistencies in the allegations by the EFCC against Alhaji Yahaya Bello clearly shows that the allegations lack substance. Moreover, the EFCC has continued a sensational media trial of Alhaji Yahaya Bello with media releases in staccato fashion that call to question how they serve the interests of justice in the matter. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC has not extended to Mr Bello the customary invitation to visit her offices for the purpose of assisting her in any investigations. We could also not find evidence anywhere, no matter how remote, where the Commission has asserted that it did extend such an invitation to him. We do know that the Commission will usually send an invitation letter, and often several reminders, to a respondent in any petition before even seeking warrants of arrest, and certainly long before taking drastic actions like the raid she conducted last Thursday.

“The attempt by officers of the EFCC to arrest Alhaji Yahaya Bello is in flagrant disregard of a subsisting court order that comprehensively bars her from doing so based on a determination that their actions in the entire circumstances of the case amounts to actual and threatened breach of sundry of his fundamental human rights. The EFCC is currently at the Appeal Court to challenge that subsisting order of the High Court of Kogi State and the Appellate Court has insisted that parties should maintain the status quo pending determination of the appeal. We are convinced that the EFCC has breached both the principles of sanctity of court orders and pendency of suits by her subsequent actions. This informs our conclusion that the EFCC’s raid on Yahaya Bello’s Residence at No 9 Benghazi Street, Zone 4, Wuse, Abuja on Wednesday, April 17, 2024 is in disobedience of subsisting orders of courts and practice procedure, making it both regrettable and an aberration under the Rule of Law.

“The sundry allegations of embezzlement of a whooping sum of N80.2bn by EFCC against Alhaji Yahaya Bello is poorly presented and appears to be politically motivated. The EFCC under the leadership of Abdulrasheed Bawa (former Chairman of the Commission) had previously accused Alhaji Yahaya Bello of hiding a whooping sum of N20 billion being bail- out money due to Kogi State in a Sterling Bank account, and for his own aggrandisement and personal enrichment. From 2022 when it first became breaking news at the instance of the EFCC till today, the agency could not substantiate that particular allegation against Alhaji Yahaya Bello in any court of law with the same energy with which it tried and found him guilty in the media. As it is, those allegations seem to have evaporated with the exit of Bawa as Chairman while new allegations have surfaced under the newest leadership.

“As anti-corruption NGOs, we are intrigued by several aspects of Yahaya Bello’s time in office which completely negate the popular perception of him as a corrupt and degenerate leader for Kogi State. For instance, during our research, we came across information in the media that he is apparently the only governor the World Bank Group in Nigeria has openly commended in an official letter after he returned a whopping $4.63 million surplus funds to the Bank following the completing of a joint project under the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project NEWMAP. We also discovered to our consternation that Kogi State under his leadership consistently emerged in the top percentile of the States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability, and Sustainability (SFTAS) index, even scoring 100% on all indices in 2020 as reported in the media in November 2020”.

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