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Just In : Court okays amended N10bn corruption charges against ex-governor Bello’s nephew

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Just In : Court okays amended N10bn corruption charges against ex-governor Bello’s nephew

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EFCC had filed the amended charges on 5 February, raising the number of counts from 10 to 17 against the younger Bello and his co-defendant, Dauda Suleiman, in a trial that dates back to 2022

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The Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday okayed the amended N10 billion money laundering charges filed against Ali Bello, a nephew of the immediate-past governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had filed the amended charges on 5 February, raising the number of counts from 10 to 17 against the younger Bello and his co-defendant, Dauda Suleiman, in a trial that dates back to 2022.

The prosecution named former Governor Bello in one of the amended counts as an accomplice, but has yet to charge him as a defendant.

 

The charges accused the defendants and others allegedly on the run of diverting N10 billion belonging to Kogi State during Mr Bello’s administration.

 

The Kogi State Government led by the new governor, Ahmed Dodo, who came to office last month with the backing of Mr Bello, had kicked against the amended charges. It alleged that naming Mr Bello in one of the counts was politically-motivated.

On 22 February, defendants on record – Ali Bello and Mr Suleiman – also filed an objection to the amended charges, urging the court to strike them out for being incompetent.

They maintained that the amended charges amounted to an abuse of court processes, and that the Federal High Court in Abuja lacked jurisdiction to try the matter.

Prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), opposed the application.

He noted that the alleged offence committed by the defendants were in Abuja and “within the jurisdiction of the Honourable Court and all three witnesses in the case are residents of Abuja”. He also pointed at the insecurity challenges involved in prosecuting the matter in Kogi State.

Ruling on Friday, the judge, James Omotosho, dismissed the objection, saying it lacked merit.

“It is immature to say that the EFCC cannot amend charges at any time before judgment,” a statement by the EFCC quoted the judge as saying in his ruling on Friday.

Read EFCC statement in full here:

N10bn Money Laundering: Court upholds EFCC`s Amended Charges

Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on February 23, 2024 overruled a motion on notice filed by Ali Bello and Dauda Suleiman urging the court to strike out the 17- count amended charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on the ground against them claiming that the charge lacked merit and invalid.

The court held that the 17-count amended charges filed on February 5, 2024 are valid as the prosecution is entitled to amend its charges provided it is done before judgment is given.

The motion on notice by the defence which was filed on February 22, 2024 by counsel to the second defendant, Nureini Jimoh objected to the admittance of the amended charges stating that it amounted to an abuse of court processes. Also, the motion questioned the Federal High Court in Abuja on the ground that it lacked jurisdiction to try the matter and seeking that the matter be transferred to Kogi State. Jimoh also submitted that the 17-count amended charge was fatally incompetent, citing Section 216 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.

“My lord, the EFCC lacks the grounds to investigate the revenue of Kogi State Government, because the EFCC is not constitutionally recognised to have the powers to usurp the decision and powers of Kogi State House of Assembly. Let me say that based on the resolution and decision by the Kogi State Assembly, which says that no fraud was committed in the Kogi State Account, that should lay to rest EFCC`s allegation that a fraud was committed,” Jimoh said

Responding, Prosecution Counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, in a counter- affidavit objected to the allegations, urging the court to discountenance the application of the defense. He noted that the alleged offence committed by the defendants were in Abuja and “within the jurisdiction of the Honourable Court and all three witnesses in the case are residents of Abuja”. He also pointed at the insecurity challenges involved in prosecuting the matter in Kogi State.

“We are opposing the application with a counter- affidavit and we urge my Lord to dismiss this application. In the circumstances that offences were committed in Abuja, the funds alleged to have been laundered belong to the Kogi State government, but the alleged money laundering act was committed in Abuja and that the funds in question had been allegedly used to acquire properties and equally used to engage in foreign exchange transactions in Wuse Zone 4, Abuja. My Lord, I will rely on Section 20 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011″, he said.

Delivering his ruling, Justice Omotosho discountenanced the application of the defence, stating that the prosecution has not concluded its case , “so it is immature to say that the EFCC cannot amend charges at any time before judgment”

He also stated that the EFCC under its Establishment Act has the power to investigate and prosecute anybody or entity when cases of corruption and money laundering are established including the powers provided by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.

“Prosecuting a money laundering charge is “within the purview of the EFCC. I hold that this criminal trial is properly constituted before this court. I also hold without hesitation that the second amended charge filed on February 5, 2024 is hereby deemed valid and competent. I hereby order that the defendants are called upon to take their pleas in the amended charge, the objection of the defendant is hereby overruled”, he ruled.

He also added that the case will be given accelerated hearing, equally noting that insecurity could be a reason to try a criminal offence outside jurisdiction

Justice Omotosho adjourned to March 14, 15, and 21 for the continuation of hearing.

Dele Oyewale
Head, Media & Publicity
February 23, 2024.

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