EFCC Vs. Yahaya Bello: Is the lion afraid of the Eagle?

By Dr.Muiz Banire

As I have stated in several fora, and have equally become more convinced, wonders shall never end in Nigeria. It is a nation of one week, one drama. It is always one comedy or the other, or else how does one explain the scenario of a former Governor, Yahaya Bello of Kogi State turning himself into a fugitive? It will be recalled that while in office, so many accusations of fraud trailed the former Governor and now outside the office, what appears to be a major one is staring him in the face. At a time, the same former Governor was enmeshed in a 20 billion Naira bailout fund scandal and the fund, wrestled from the bank that was involved, was remitted to the apex Bank.


As if that was insufficient, the wife and nephew of the same former Governor Yahaya Bello were arranged over a 3 billion fraud. Interestingly, the said wife, Rashidat, was said to be at large in the charge filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja. Thus, it is now becoming a family tradition. The allegation now is that former Governor Yahaya Bello misappropriated a sum in excess of three hundred billion naira. Information in the public space is that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has several times invited him for interview and interrogation but he continuously failed, neglected and /or refused to honour the invitations. Instead of presenting himself as a willing guest, Yahaya Bello resorted to filing a fundamental human rights action before the Kogi State High Court preventing his arrest, detention and probable prosecution, on the ground that the allegations against him were spurious and subject of malice. Although he was lucky to have secured the main reliefs but not without a caveat by the judge that, should there be an appropriate order from the Federal High Court, such must be honoured.

On the strength of that, the EFCC approached the Federal High Court for a warrant of arrest in the face of his refusal to honour the commission’s invitation. In order to effect the warrant of arrest, the EFCC traced the former Governor to his private residence in Abuja where the Commission attempted to execute the warrant of arrest. There and then, two scenarios played out. The first is that the security details attached to the former Governor resisted the execution of the warrant of arrest on the Governor, to the extent of shooting with ammunition procured for them with the public fund for the enforcement of the rule of law. Second, whilst that was going on, the entourage of the current Governor of Kogi State was said to have arrived the former Governor’s home and ferried the former Governor, Yahaya Bello away.

With respect to the issue of resistance of arrest by the security aides attached to Yahaya Bello, this calls for an examination of the role of security officials in our society and in the upholding of the rule of law. To this end, I believe that there is urgent need for the security organizations in the country to embark on enlightment of their men on loyalty and to whom it is actually owed. It is high time the men realized that their loyalty is to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not to those subjects to whom they are attached. Security officials need to appreciate the fact that they are primarily charged with the role of upholding of the rule of law in the country, beyond allegiance to individuals they are assigned to. This extends to all office holders. I recall my intervention during the Magu confirmation saga in which I differed with majority of the commentators that the Department of State Security had the right to write adverse report where found against any nominee of the President.

In fact, I took the view that, just as it obtains in other civilized countries, the security officials can even write against their principals including the President; just as they could disobey any unlawful order from any public official. The point I am making is that the oath they take is to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and not to any individual or entity. The import of the above is that where there is conflict between such loyalty to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the individual they are meant to serve, loyalty and allegiance to the Federal Republic prevails. In this instance, where there is a warrant of arrest directing the arrest of the individual they are assigned to, the primary responsibility of the policemen and other security officials attached to such a person is to effect the arrest on the strength of the warrant, once shown. They need not even wait for the approaching officials of the Commission, and where they have waited, their primary duty is to handover the named person to the arresting crew and render necessary assistance where desirable. The attached security officials need to realize that they must not turn themselves into instrument for breaching the law by aiding the culprit to resist the lawful arrest.

Doing so is an infringement of the law and for which the security officials are liable to be prosecuted and duly punished. Beyond the contempt of the court order they have committed and for which they ought to individually and collectively be arraigned, they are liable to be interrogated and reprimanded by their relevant agencies. This is the only way to enthrone the rule of law in the country and sanitize the space, otherwise the country will regain its ugly reputation of a jungle it assumed during the reign of then President Buhari, in which we had incessant confrontation amongst the various security agencies. It is in this regard that it is gladdening to note that the Inspector General of police, Kayode Egbetokun, did the right thing by withdrawing, in the first instance, all the security officials attached to the former Governor, and in the second instance, subjecting them to interdiction. The Police Service Commission, the organ responsible for the discipline of the erring policemen and its counterparts in other agencies must equally trigger the process of discipline of the concerned officials.

I must equally commend the EFCC for avoiding any confrontation that could have led to any casualty and taking the right administrative steps to give effect to the warrant of arrest. I am aware that beyond the formal complaint to the Inspector General of Police, formal notification of the warrant of arrest has been communicated to the Nigerian Immigration Service who took prompt action by placing the former Governor, who has turned himself into a fugitive, on the watch list. The role of the Attorney General of the Federation must equally be commended as he has lived up to expectation. I equally appreciate the President for not making it a ‘family affair’ as in the days of President Buhari. This is the proper way to ensure law and order in our society.
The second aspect of the matters arising is that relating to the arrival of the current Governor of Kogi State, Ahmed Usman Ododo, to cart away the ‘exhibit’, (to use the street lingo), the former Governor Yahaya Bello. This undoubtedly, if true, is a breach of the law which, in the first instance, is punishable. Ordinarily, the defence will simply be that of immunity of the Governor under the Constitution. As already settled by the courts, the immunity the chief executives enjoy does not extend to investigation which includes interrogation. Assuming without conceding that the immunity appears to cover the Governor, this is one instance in which our courts need to rise up and clarify the objective and purport of the immunity clause in the country’s Constitution. In my strong view, what transpired in this instance is simply an abuse of immunity conferred on the chief executive.
The immunity does not extend to the promotion of illegality. Are we saying, as a Governor under immunity, such a person can blatantly commit murder? Kill, main or rape citizens without consequence just because he has immunity? That certainly cannot be the intendment of the provision. To hold otherwise will amount to invitation to anarchy. The implication will then be that we are endorsing the use of the constitutional protection provided to the Governor to avoid unnecessary distractions to perpetuate illegality. The further implication of the above is that there is urgent need for the review of the immunity clause both legislatively and judicially. If we are not eliminating the immunity clause, the country needs to limit its scope. As things stand, the Governor must realize that if the facts as alleged are correct, what he has done is impeachable, and the State House of Assembly is expected to conduct the necessary investigation into the situation.
Let me not kid myself by expecting so much from such investigation, as the reality is that most members of such Houses are usually rubber stamps of the Governors. As known to most Nigerians, they are mostly imposed by the chief executives, and hardly product of any internal democracy in the various political parties. Again, this calls for reinterrogation of internal democracy in the parties to avert this kind of situation.
Should accidentally the House find him guilty of the allegation, then the needful should be done by impeaching the Governor as his act constitutes a breach of the Constitution he swore to uphold.
What he has done simply amounts to obstruction of the course of justice and the violation of the rule of law by disobeying the lawful order of court. Beyond the foregoing, I believe that the necessary order should be obtained to compel the Governor to produce Yahaya Bello in court as he was the last person in whose custody he was. Immunity, certainly, must not cover instances of this nature as the Governor is not being prosecuted but investigated. What remains amazing to me is the decision of the former Governor Yahaya Bello to be running away from justice. If, as he deposed to in the affidavit in support of his fundamental human rights before the Kogi State High Court, he is innocent and truly being witch-hunted, then he must have the audacity to gladly and graciously appear in court to defend the supposedly ‘frivolous’ charges.
Afterall, the law still presumes him to be innocent. Why must he adopt the unpopular template of Okorocha when there is the alternative majority-established template of his predecessors. Appear in court, secure bail and start seeking adjournments. Your situation cannot be an exception. I thought, with the kind of appearance and volte face that he has presented over time, he is a smarter person than we are seeing. Afterall, he should have emulated former Governor Fayose who left office and resumed in EFCC office the next day on his own volition.
President Tinubu, as former Governor of Lagos State, did the same thing upon exit from the Governorship office. So, what is the big deal about his case, except he already knows that he is guilty. Yahaya Bello is popularly known as ‘the white lion’ in Kogi while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission parades the symbol an eagle. One then wonders why the lion will be running away from the eagle except there is more to it than the ordinary, qualifying the situation as that of an abnormality. Finally, I must not fail to register the point that our courts need to be circumspect when it comes to the enforcement of fundamental human rights of the politically exposed persons. Most times, such applications are brought by way of a disguise to forestall the prosecution of such persons.
By now, it is an obsolete template and must be so treated. No court of law has the vires to prevent any agency of government from performing its statutory functions. This much must be appreciated when dealing with such applications before them.

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