Crime

Chief Judge denies former governor Bello’s request for transfer of trial to Kogi state

The Federal High Court, has faulted former Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello’s application for transfer of his money laundering trial of N80billion from Abuja to the Lokoja division of the court, declaring that it is improper to preempt the decision of the Court of Appeal.

Penpushing reports that the Chief Judge, Justice Johnson Tshoso made the declaration in a letter dated July 2, 2024 explaining that he had reviewed the arguments of both the defence and the prosecution in support of and against the request to come to his conclusion.

The Chief Judge maintained that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was right to file the case in the Abuja division of the court, stressing that the law permits filing the charge either in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) – Abuja, or Lokoja, and the offence(s) having been allegedly partly committed in both places.

Lush Arena

‘The main complaint in the case borders on alleged conversion and transfer of funds of Kogi State to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to purchase property through acts of concealment’, the letter emphasized.

Penpushing further reports that the letter signed by Special Assistant to the Chief Judge, Joshua Ibrahim-Aji was subsequently addressed to defence lawyers – Abdulwahab Muhammed and Musa Yakubu, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).

The former Governor it is recalled had snubbed the Federal High Court in Abuja in June, stalling, for the fifth time, his scheduled arraignment for the N80.2 billion money laundering charges pending against him.

Penpushing also reports that the wanted Bello, who left office as Governor of Kogi State in January had instead of appearing in court, sent his lawyers to request the transfer of the case to the court’s division in Lokoja, his home state for his trial.

The hiding former Governor, faces 19 counts of money laundering involving over N80 billion allegedly diverted from the coffers of Kogi State during his time as Governor, and was charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after Bello left office and lost his immunity from criminal prosecution.

Penpushing reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has not been able to bring him to court following his (Bello) sudden disappearance and was subsequently declared wanted by the authorities

The counsels of Bello during the last proceedings in June, had informed the trial judge, Justice Emeka Nwite, seeking the transfer of the trial to Lokoja, with the defence team sending a letter to the court’s Chief Judge to order the transfer and arguing that the request was based on the defence team’s belief that Lokoja is a more suitable territorial jurisdiction to hear the matter.

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