Alleged N10b fraud: Court Rejects Request To Transfer Bello’s Nephew’s Trial To Kogi


A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, has rejected the request for either the discontinuation or transfer the ongoing money laundering trial of the Chief of Staff to Governor Ododo, Mr. Ali Bello, nephew to former Governor Yahaya Bello and an associate, Dauda Suleiman to Kogi State.

The duo are being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged money laundry of about N10billion belonging to Kogi State during the tenure of the immediate past Governor Yahaya Bello.

In his two notices of objection, Counsel to Suleiman, Mr Nureini Jimoh, SAN, queried the territorial jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Abuja to try a case relating to the finances of Kogi State.

Jimoh also queried the power of the EFCC, being a federal agency, to prosecute offences relating to the use of Kogi State’s funds even after the State House of Assembly investigated and came out with resolutions that no money was missing and therefore queried the competence of the amended charge filed against his client.

Ruling on the objection on Friday, Justice James Omotosho faulted all the points raised in the two notices of objection and held that the Abuja Court possesses the territorial jurisdiction to hear the case even on grounds of insecurity.

Relying on the provision of Section 93 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015), Justice Omotosho held that even though the proper venue of a criminal trial is a court within that locality, in this case, Kogi State insecurity is a ground to file and try such offences outside the State.

The trial judge declared; “The main plank of this objection goes to the root of ownership of the funds in question.

“Counsel to the 2nd Defendant has relied on several cases where the Court held that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission lacks the powers to investigate financial crimes against a State.

“However, the decisions in those case are distinguishable from this instant case. In those cases, the Prosecution had led evidence and closed its case before the objections were made and ruled upon.

“In this case, the prosecution has not closed its case and this court cannot on the basis of the evidence led so far conclude that the monies indeed belong to Kogi State.

“In addition, the second defendant is expected to lead evidence to show that indeed the Kogi State House of Assembly investigated and found that no monies are missing and the facts are in respect of which the EFCC has no power to investigate and prosecute.

“It is therefore premature at this stage to hold that the complainant lacks powers to investigate the said offences. It is also worthy of note that the offences charged prima facie borders on the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is empowered to investigate and prosecute under Section 7 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act,” the judge held.

While ruling on the defendant’s objection to the amendment of the charges, Justice Omotosho held that the amended charge filed on 5th February 2024 has only been filed and it is left for the court to deem it amended and call on the defendants to enter their plea to the newly amended charge.

According to the trial judge; “The mere fact that this amended charge is titled amended charge, where there exist a pending amended charge, is merely semantics. The prosecution is entitled to amend its charge or even frame a new charge and the only requirement is for the defendant to be allowed to take his plea on the new charge.

“Thus, the submission that the charge is different is simply as to form and not to substance. Both charges bother on money laundering offences and not offences that are of completely different nature like substituting a charge of murder for a charge of money laundering.

“Consequently, I hold that the amended charge filed on 5th February 2024 is hereby deemed valid and competent. Under my inherent powers under Section 6 (6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, I order that the amended charge filed on 5th February 2024 be christened second amended charge.

“The defendants are therefore called upon to enter their plea to the second amended charge. In final analysis, the objections of second defendant is bound to fail. Consequently, the objections of second defendant are hereby overruled.

“In the interest of justice, I hereby grant accelerated hearing of the charge or matter and it is also hereby ordered that any objections by any of the parties relating to the charge or amended charge shall be put in abeyance till final address stage when same will be carefully considered and determined,” Justice Omotosho declared.

…Sourced from The Nation Newspaper

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