The Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, on Tuesday stepped up its bid to prosecute the duo of the ex-governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello and a former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, for alleged misappropriation of public funds.

Bello, who has been declared wanted by the EFCC, is alleged to have stolen about N80 billion from the Kogi treasury.

The anti-graft agency is now seeking to arraign him on 19 counts bordering on alleged money laundering, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N80.2 billion.

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Last week, EFCC moved to arrest Bello when it laid siege in his home in an attempt to prosecute him in court for his alleged crimes during his eight years as governor of the state.

DAILY POST reported that the officers of the EFCC had, alongside armed security personnel, barricaded Bello’s Abuja home, blocking both entrances to his residence located at Benghazi Street, Wuse Zone 4.

However, the move met stiff opposition by Governor Usman Ododo, who the commission accused of whisking Bello away from his Abuja residence in his official car.

While the drama ensued, a conflicting court order over the arrest of the former governor emerged on Wednesday.

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One of the rulings, which came from a Kogi State High Court sitting in Lokoja, restrained the EFCC from arresting, detaining or prosecuting Bello.

The order was given by Justice I.A Jamil, ruling that infringing on the fundamental human rights of the former Kogi governor was null and void except as authorised by the court.

“By this order, the EFCC is hereby restrained from arresting, detaining and prosecuting the applicant except as authorised by the Court.

“This is a definite order following the earlier interim injunction given,” he said.

However, the EFCC, obtained permission from the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to arrest the ex-Kogi State governor in preparation for his arraignment last Thursday.

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The warrant was granted by Justice Emeka Nwite at the instance of the EFCC.

During his planned arraignment in court on Thursday, Bello absconded trial at the federal high court in Abuja, making the Counsel for the EFCC, Kemi Phinro, to inform the court that Bello’s absence in court was a strategy to frustrate his trial.

On Tuesday, the Chairman of the Commission, Ola Olukoyede, came hard on Bello and vowed to follow his prosecution to a logical conclusion.

Olukoyede also vowed to resign as EFCC chairman if the ex-governor is not prosecuted.

He disclosed that the embattled former governor allegedly withdrew $720,000 from the government account.

According to him, Bello wired the money to a Bureau de Change operator to pay for his child’s school fees in advance.

He said: “A sitting governor, because he knew he was leaving office, moved money directly from the government to Bureau de Change (and) used it to pay his child’s school fee in advance.

“Over $720,000 or thereabout, in anticipation that he was going to leave the Government House. In a poor state like Kogi? And you want me to close my eyes under the guise of ‘I’m being used’. Used by who? At this stage of my life? Used by who?” He queried.

Olukoyede, who spoke in Abuja on Tuesday during an interactive session with newsmen, also revealed how he put a phone call across to Bello on the allegations of corruption against him.

He said Bello wanted EFCC to come to his village to interrogate him.

“I called Yahaya Bello, as a serving governor, to come to my office to clear himself. I shouldn’t have done that.

“But he said because a certain senator has planted over 100 journalists in my office, he would not come.

“I told him that he would be allowed to use my private gate to give him a cover, but he said my men should come to his village to interrogate him,” he further disclosed.

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Before now, Bayo Onanuga, spokesperson to President Bola Tinubu, had urged Yahaya Bello to submit himself to the EFCC.

According to Onanuga, Bello has nowhere to run to.

The statement came after EFCC declared Bello wanted for an alleged financial crime to the tune of N80.2 billion.

In a post on his X handle, Onanuga said Bello should submit himself to the EFCC and get a good lawyer.

He said: “Yahaya Bello, where will you run to? It’s better you submit yourself to the EFCC and get a good lawyer.”

EFCC quizzes ex-Aviation Minister Sirika over alleged N8bn fraud

Still on Tuesday, the Commission quizzed a former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, over alleged N8bn Nigeria Air fraud.

The accused ex-minister made an appearance at the EFCC’s Federal Capital Territory Command around 1:00 pm on Tuesday.

Olukoyede, who confirmed that the EFCC has been investigating the Aviation and Humanitarian Affairs ministries, said that the probe has not been about only Sirika and Betta Edu but everything about the two ministries.

“It is the system I am investigating and whosoever is now found culpable along the line, those are the names you will hear,” Olukoyede stated.

Sirika was accused of conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of public funds, contract inflation, criminal breach of trust and money laundering amounting to ₦8,069,176,864.

The Commission alleged that the sum was for four aviation contracts from the former minister to a company known as Engirios Nigeria Limited, owned by his younger brother.

The agency said apart from being listed as the company’s MD/CEO, Abubakar was the sole signatory to the company’s two accounts, domiciled in Zenith and Union banks.

Sirika was also alleged to have awarded the contracts to his brother Abubakar, knowing that he is a civil servant, a deputy director on Level 16 in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, where he has been working since 2000 till date.

DAILY POST reported the raging controversy over the “unveiling” of the supposed national carrier, Nigeria Air plane, at the twilight of former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

Many, including civil society organisations, said the matter should not be swept under the carpet.

The unveiling of Nigeria Air was carried out by Hadi Sirika, former Minister of Aviation, on May 26, 2023, at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

Reacting to the development, ex-chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, said the EFCC has suddenly woken up.

According to him, the anti-graft agency woke up to its duty because of public pressure, which followed after it arrested and convicted Idris Okuneye, better known as Bobrisky.

Many Nigerians had criticized the EFCC for going after soft targets while leaving corrupt politicians.

In his post on X on Tuesday, Odinkalu said: “Since it went after #Bobrisky, @officialEFCC has suddenly woken up. But some people will tell you public pressure doesn’t matter sha….!”

Meanwhile, the Director of the Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts, Sam Amadi, has said that lawyers are now paid enablers.

Amadi revealed on Tuesday via a post on his X handle that an unnamed person contacted him asking if he knew senior lawyers who could be paid to defend the embattled former Kogi governor on national television.

He said: “Someone contacted me to say if I know senior lawyers who can be paid to defend @OfficialGYBKogi on @channelstv. The guy said of course I can never do it but help him with someone who can.

“Note: Lawyers are now paid enablers. When you see them on tv talking nonsense just remember.”