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Alleged N80.2bn Fraud: EFCC Raises Contempt Charges Against Yahaya Bello’s Counsel

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has raised contempt charges against two defence counsels in the N80.2 billion alleged money laundering charges against a former governor of Kogi State, Mr. Yahaya Bello.

Bello is facing prosecution alongside his nephew, Ali Bello, Dauda Suleiman and Abdulsalam Hudu on 19-count charges bordering on money laundering to the tune of N80,246,470,089.88 (Eighty Billion, Two  Hundred and Forty-Six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand,  Eighty-Nine Naira and Eighty-Eight kobo).

At the resumed hearing of the matter on Thursday, June 27, 2024, EFCC’s lead counsel, Kemi Pinhero, SAN, prayed the court to exercise disciplinary actions against Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN and  Adeola Adedipe, SAN for reneging on their undertaking to produce the former governor for arraignment.

“My  application is to invite them and show cause why my Lordship will not deal with them for professional misconduct. My Lord, since Adedipe is here, my Lord should deal with him to remove him from the inner bar and deal with him summarily in the dock. It is a serious responsibility.

Our rules of professional conduct 2023, rule 32 sub 33 states that, ‘a lawyer who fails to comply with any undertaking by him either personally or to his client, aside from being in contempt of court, is prima facie guilty of professional misconduct”, he said. He prayed the court  to hold the two counsel for contempt to serve as a lesson to other lawyers

Mohammed and Adedipe had at different times taken an undertaking to produce the suspect in court without any success.

At Thursday’s proceedings, Adedipe informed the court of a letter allegedly written to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court requesting the matter to be transferred to the Lokoja Judicial Division, stressing that there was need for the matter to have a territorial jurisdiction.

“My Lord,  a letter has been written on behalf of the defendant to the  Honourable Chief Judge of the Federal High Court requesting in substance that this matter be administratively transferred to the Federal High  Court Lokoja judicial division, because there is need to have territorial jurisdiction, and the letter was received by the Chief Judge  office”, he said.

However, Pinhero insisted that the matter of the day was for the defence to tell the court why their client refused to appear in court, after making an undertaking at different instances to produce him.

“My  Lord has ordered Abiola Adedipe SAN and Abdulwahab Mohammed SAN the opportunity to produce the defendant for arraignment today, but he has chosen to avoid responding to that. That undertaking was made by him on the 13th of June, the letter to the Chief Judge was dated and delivered on the 10th, and delivered 13th of June, 2024, so the letter pre-dated the undertaking” he said.

Pinhero submitted that the letter to the Chief Judge was already in court, and was aware of the letter before making an undertaking. “My Lord,  the letter to the Chief Judge does not discharge the undertaking made in this judicial proceeding, nor does the Chief Judge discharge the proceedings. That letter does not discharge the undertaking”, he said.  He stressed that Justice Emeka Nwite still retained the power of the proceedings and no contrary claim should be entertained by him. He prayed the court to exercise disciplinary actions against Mohammed and  Adedipe for reneging on their undertaking to produce the former governor for arraignment.

In his further reaction,  Adedipe applied to withdraw his legal services to the defendant, but Pinheiro insisted that he could not withdraw his services after he joined issues with the prosecution. He further argued that Adedipe should have done that from the beginning but refused.

“My Lord, we have gone to a point where they can’t withdraw. The undertaking is on record, and I also undertook that because of their undertaking that day, we withdrew our undertaking of arrest to the suspect. My Lord should hold them to that, it is an issue of contempt,  and if they are withdrawing their services, let them come before my lord and do so” he said.

Justice Nwite, after listening to the submissions of all the counsels, adjourned the matter to July 17, 2024, for ruling on the contempt charges and arraignment of the former governor.

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