EFCC Vs Bello: Battle of the Eagle Against the White Lion

EFCC Vs Bello: Battle of the Eagle Against the White Lion

Sunday, June 2, 2024 1:39 pm


Cover design on Bello

Cover design on Bello

Yahaya Bello, former Kogi State Governor, is in hiding. The Economic and Financil Crimes Commission wants him to come and answer questions pertaining to alleged money laundering, breach of trust, and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N84 billion


No 9, Benghazi Street, Wuse, Abuja is well known in the neighbourhood. The heavy human and state-of-the-art automobiles that throng it every day on friendly missions speak to the character of its occupant as a man set under authority. On Wednesday, 17 April 2024, it played host to visitors of a different hue. It was, in fact, the setting of a bizarre performance with all the aspects of a Nollywood theatricality.

Early that day, a sizable number of detectives from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, with their trademark vehicles mounted with communication gadgets, took positions on the street. They came with arms as against a thief. Their mission? To arrest its lord, the self-styled White Lion, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the immediate past governor of Kogi State.

Bello left office on January 27. The commission has since been on his trail over multiple allegations of sleaze. The agency, whose symbol is an Eagle, beamed its klieg light on the former governor, unsuccessfully inviting him to explain identified grey areas in his eight-year stewardship as governor of the Confluence State.

Former Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello2

Former Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello

The men’s advance into the premises was, however, halted by other security details at the gate. In no time, more armed men in black uniforms marked with ‘Special Force’ and suspected to be non-state actors wandered around the area. Further still, another band, made up of young kinsmen of the embattled ex-governor, paraded the street protesting against the planned arrest. A volley of gunshots into the air and tear gas canisters completed the spectacle of pandemonium.

Meanwhile, Bello’s media office raised an alarm on the siege, describing it as an invasion in flagrant disobedience of a court order. The statement urged President Bola Tinubu to beat the agency back to the line.

“About 9:30 am today, the 17th day of April 2024, persons who described themselves as officers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrived at the Wuse Zone 4 Residence of His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello to effect his arrest.

“This is despite a subsisting order of injunction granted on 9th February 2024 by the High Court of Justice, Lokoja Division in Suit No. HCL/68M/2024 between Alhaji Yahaya Bello v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, restraining the commission either by itself or its agents from harassing, arresting, detaining, or prosecuting Alhaji Yahaya Bello, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive fundamental rights enforcement action.

“The EFCC was duly served with that Order on 12th February 2024 and on 26th February 2024; the EFCC filed an Appeal (Appeal No.: CA/ABJ/CV/175/2024: Economic and Financial Crimes Commission v. Alhaji Yahaya Bello) against the said Order to the Court of Appeal Abuja division. The Appeal was accompanied by a Motion for Stay of Execution of the Order of the High Court, which the Court of Appeal adjourned for hearing until the 22nd day of April 2024.

EFCC operatives in front of the Abuja residence of ex-Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello on Wednesday, April 17, 2024

EFCC operatives in front of the Abuja residence of ex-Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello on Wednesday, April 17, 2024

“Furthermore, Judgement in the substantive case between Alhaji Yahaya Bello and the EFCC is to be delivered at noon today in Lokoja.

“Contrary to all of the above, the EFCC has now laid siege to the home of H.E Yahaya Bello seeking to arrest him in contravention of the extant orders! It is a surprise that an agency led by a lawyer could flagrantly disobey a subsisting court order by taking actions contrary to the reliefs granted.”

Hours into the chaotic siege, at about 2:30 pm, a black Mercedes saloon with tainted glasses accompanied by a convoy of security vehicles and personnel snaked into the premises locking the mayhem behind it. At exactly 4:20 p.m.,  the convoy drove out seamlessly from the cordoned building and disappeared into thin air, just as suddenly as it emerged on the scene.

The EFCC, thereafter, pulled out its men and issued a statement. The apex antigraft agency identified the convoy as that of Bello’s protege and successor at Lugard House, Governor Usman Ahmed Ododo. The EFCC further noted that the commission’s attempt to execute a warrant of arrest lawfully obtained against Bello met stiff resistance that Wednesday.

Listen to Dele Oyewale, the commission’s spokesman. “The security cordon around the former governor’s residence in Abuja was breached by the current Governor of Kogi State, Usman Ododo, who ensured that the suspect was spirited away in his official vehicle.

Governor Usman Ododo of Kogi

Governor Usman Ododo of Kogi

“As a responsible law enforcement agency, the EFCC exercised restraint in the face of the provocation, waiting for his arraignment on Thursday, April 18, 2024. It is needful to state that Bello is not above the law and would be brought to justice as soon as possible.”

It was gathered that Governor Ododo was in council when he received a Save Our Soul, SOS, call that jolted him. After the call, he allegedly became restless, and the weekly Executive Council meeting was abruptly brought to an end to enable him to set out on his two-hour journey to Abuja.

Once the suspect was spirited away, the beehive of security operatives on the ground also disappeared. One after the other, they entered their respective vehicles and drove away from the scene. End of scene one.


Conflicting Signals From The Courts

The EFCC relied on a warrant of arrest issued by the Federal High Court,  Abuja. Justice Emeka Nwite ordered the arrest to enable the agency to arraign Bello and three others. The enrolment order was granted that Wednesday.

However, while the Abuja siege was going on, a Kogi State High Court was delivering judgment in a case for the enforcement of Bello’s fundamental human rights. The court granted a perpetual injunction against the EFCC not to arrest, detain, or prosecute the former governor. Justice I.A. Jamil gave the order in a two-hour judgment delivered in suit no HCL/68/M/2020 in Lokoja the same day.

“By this order, the EFCC is hereby restrained from arresting, detaining, and prosecuting the applicant.

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

Bello had filed a case for a breach of his fundamental human rights by the Anti-graft agency before the state High Court in February days after he completed his tenure. The judge immediately granted an interim injunction, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

A flurry of events

The former governor has since remained in hiding, living as a fugitive whose voice is occasionally amplified through his lawyers and a retinue of other advocates. Indeed, the event of that Wednesday was a catalyst for national discourse and sporadic networking in the nation’s intelligence sector.

Realizing the futility of its efforts to tame the ex-governor and bring him into captivity, the EFCC declared him wanted and enlisted the support of sister security agencies for his arrest. That was after he failed to appear in court to face charges of money laundering and abuse of office. On Thursday, April 18, 2024, the declaration memo occupied the social and national media.

The tacit message reads in part: “The public is hereby notified that YAHAYA ADOZA BELLO (former Governor of Kogi State), whose photograph appears above is wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in connection with an alleged case of Money Laundering to the tune of N80,246,470,089.88 (Eighty Billion, Two Hundred and Forty-Six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand and Eighty Nine Naira, Eighty Eight Kobo).

“Bello, 48-year-old Ebiraman, is a native of Okenne Local Government of Kogi State. His last known address is: 9, Benghazi Street, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja,”

The same day, the anti-corruption watchdog asked all security agencies to place Bello on their watch list to prevent him from leaving the country “through any land, air, or sea borders.”

Granting the request and circulating the EFCC directive, the Nigeria Immigration Service in an internal circular that went viral directed its area and zonal commands to arrest Bello if seen.

“VERY URGENT, PLEASE!!! I am directed to request you place the above-named subject on the watch list with immediate effect. The subject has resisted arrest and arraignment. Therefore, he may run out of the country anytime. Please accept the assurances of the CGIS’s warmest regards and esteem,” it read.

Copied in the circular are the Director-General of the Department of State Services, the Inspector General of Police, and others.

Also, on Thursday, April 18, 2024, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the federation, Lateef Fagbemi, condemned the attitude of the former governor advising him to turn himself in for justice to take its course. Fagbemi clarified that the EFCC has the power  “to invite any person of interest to interact with them in the course of their investigation into any matter regardless of status.”

“Therefore, the least that we can all do when invited is not to put any obstruction in the way of EFCC but to honorably answer their invitation.

“A situation where public officials who are themselves subject of protection by law enforcement agents will set up a stratagem of obstruction to the civil and commendable efforts of the EFCC to perform its duty is, to say the least, insufferably disquieting.

“I, therefore, encourage anyone who has been invited by the EFCC or any other agency to immediately toe the path of decency and civility by honouring such invitation instead of embarking on a temporizing self-help and escapism that can only put our country in bad light before the rest of the world.”

Withdrawal and detention of details

The 48-year-old Bello may have bitten more than he could chew. The federal government intensified actions to strip him of his privileges and paraphernalia as a former governor. On Friday, 19 April, the police high command ordered the withdrawal of his security details. Inspector General of Police, IGP, Olukayode Egbetokun gave the directive and summoned them to the office.

That was not all. By the weekend, reports quoting multiple sources indicated that Bello’s female Aide De Camp, ADC, Iwanger Ufuoma Akaya, and other personnel in his security team had been clamped into detention. Their offense was the refusal to disclose how the embattled politician evaded arrest and his hiding place.

“The ADC and the other police details attached to Yahaya Bello have been arrested and detained. They were arrested on the order of the IG, on the suspicion that they aided and abetted the former governor’s escape from the EFCC on Wednesday,” one of the sources told a reporter.

Another source was quoted as saying, “Yahaya Bello’s female ADC and other police officers attached to him were brought to the command this morning, and they’ve been detained for aiding and abetting (the governor’s escape).”

Failed invitations

The EFCC and the former governor have been in a running battle for years. The cat-and-mouse relationship hovers around alleged mismanagement of state funds. The face-off led to the arrest and subsequent charge of Bello’s nephew Ali Bello, one Dauda Sulaiman, and Abdusalam Hudu (at large). It is instructive that while Ali is now Chief of Staff to the incumbent Kogi State Governor, Hudu, formerly a cashier in Government House, was recently elevated to Permanent Secretary, in the state’s civil service. However, Bello could not be arrested or charged along with them due to the constitutional immunity he enjoyed as a sitting governor.

When Bello lost immunity after serving out his two tenures, the anti-graft agency began a systemic move to tie the noose on him. The agency extended several invitations to him in vain. The agency’s head, Ola Olukoyede, confirmed placing a call to the former governor and inviting him to come for interrogation over his public service. He said Bello declined, claiming that a certain Senator had planted journalists around the EFCC to embarrass him if he ever visited. He then requested that the agency should come to his village to conduct the questioning.

“On my own, I called him, which I am not supposed to do, just to honour him as an immediate-past governor. ‘Sir, there are issues. I’ve seen this case file. Can you just come let us clarify these issues?’” Mr Olukoyede recalled his phone conversation with Mr Bello.

‘Ha! Thank you, my brother. I know, but I can’t come. There’s one lady that has surrounded EFCC with over 100 people to come and embarrass me and intimidate me,” the EFCC chair quoted Mr Bello as saying on the phone.

The case against Bello

On Thursday, 14 March, he was charged in absentia for money laundering. He was charged along with the trio of Ali Bello, Sulaiman, and Hudu. In an amended 17-count charge, the quartet was accused of perpetrating money laundering, breach of trust, and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N84,062,406,089.88 (Eighty-four Billion, Sixty-two Million, Four Hundred and Six Thousand, Eighty-nine Naira, Eighty-eight Kobo). They were brought before Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Maitama, Abuja.

The EFCC led evidence to show how Ali and Sulaiman fronted for the ex-governor in the purchase of a property valued at N950 million located in Danube Street, Maitama, Abuja. The money was allegedly paid in cash and mostly in hard currency.

Following its inability to arrest the former governor for arraignment before Justice Emeka, the agency talked tough on Thursday, 18, April. Its lawyer, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, expressed disgust at its frustration in arresting Bello. He vowed that the agency would go to any length to execute the warrant of arrest even if it meant enlisting military force.

Referring to section 12 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, Mr Pinheiro said, “We will invite the military if need be to produce the defendant (Mr Bello) in court. Immunity does not attach to a home; it attaches to a person. We will produce the defendant in court.”

The defense lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed, also SAN, said his client did not break any law by the action of the previous day. He cited a subsisting order as the reason Bello avoided arrest.

On Tuesday, 23 April, Justice Emeka granted the prosecutor’s request for substituted service of the charge on the plaintiff. He was charged through his lawyer, Mohammed, who requested the lifting of the arrest warrant. He said the former would have been in court but for fear of arrest. The commission’s counsel opposed vacating the warrant.

The new charges contain 19 counts all centered around theft of public funds. It is essentially a rehearsal of the previous charges with slight amendments in dates and details. The new charges partly read:

Count one of the charges read: That you,  Yahaya Adoza Bello, Ali Bello, Dauda Suliman, and Abdulsalam Hudu (Still at large), sometimes, in February 2016, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to convert the total sum of N80, 246,470, 088.88( Eighty Billion, Two Hundred and Forty-Six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand and Eight Nine Naira,  Eighty Eight Kobo), which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity to wit, criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the Money Laundering ( Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended”.

Count 17 of the charges read: “That you Yahaya Bello between 26th July 2021 to 6th April 2022 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable  Court aided E-Traders International Limited to conceal the aggregate sum of  N3081,804,654.00( Three Billion, Eighty-One Million Eight Hundred and Four Thousand Six Hundred and Fifty-Four Naira) in account number 1451458080 domiciled in Access Bank Plc, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful activity to wit, criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a), 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering ( Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15( 3) of the same Act.

Count 18  of the charges reads: “That you Yahaya Adoza Bello sometime in November 2021 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court indirectly procured E-Traders International Limited to transfer the aggregate sum of $570,330.00( Five Hundred and Seventy Thousand, Three Hundred and Thirty Dollars) to account number 4266644272 domiciled in TD Bank, United States of America which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful activity to wit, criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering ( Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15( 3) of the same Act”.

Gaffes and inconsistencies

The anti-corruption agency’s fight against Bello has been riddled with gaffes, inconsistencies, and flaks opening the operation to the charge of indolence, window dressing, and persecution. A casual look at some of them.

The first thing that ignites curiosity about the EFFCC charge sheet is the inconsistency in the date Bello was said to have committed the fraud. When he was charged in absentia in February, the agency accused Bello of embezzling Kogi funds in September 2015, more than three clear months before he assumed office as governor. Bello’s marketers cried blue murder and accused the EFCC of a plot to tar the former governor with the brush of infamy.

The agency beat a retreat. In the current charge sheet, the date was adjusted to February 2016, less than a month into Bello’s stewardship. The question in the mind of many observers is how Bello could have so hurriedly mismanaged such a humongous amount within so short a period in office.

Of concern is also the rate at which the amount allegedly embezzled was transmuted. At the beginning of the case, there were reports that Bello would be charged for N100b. However, when the matter came before Justice Omotosho, the former governor, was accused of misappropriating N84b only. The amount dipped down to N82b before stabilizing at the current figure of N80.2b. The inconsistencies cast a big shadow over the diligence of the EFCC investigations.

But more blunders were to be committed by the plaintiff. The EFCC boss at a press briefing claimed that Bello transferred 720,000 dollars for the school fees of his ward just days before the end of his tenure. Documents in the public domain from the American International School, Abuja beneficiary of the transfer have since confirmed that the transaction was in 2021 and not as claimed by the commission.

Furthermore, some people condemned the EFCC boss’s disclosure of calling Bello a self-indictment and the peak of selective justice. “That is the very reason why people can conclude from his media briefing that he does not want to prosecute Yahaya Bello. Again, by what he did, he has given materials to Bello to use against him in the court of law.


Is loyalty stretched too far?

The events of that Wednesday were just a question of time. Both Bello and his successor have come a long way. They are said to be blood relations from the same Okene. Bello gave Ododo his first major public service job when he appointed him Auditor General of Local Governments.

Their filial links more than Ododo’s satisfactory performance nudged the then-outgoing governor to present him as his preferred successor. He did everything humanly possible to ensure his victory in the All Progressives Congress, APC Primary, and the 11 November 2023 gubernatorial poll in the state.

Ododo’s generosity in showing gratitude to a benefactor is uncommon. In speech and deed, the Kogi number one citizen has never left anyone in doubt about who is in control of his government. For instance, on a few occasions, when both men travel in the same vehicle, Ododo normally sits behind the driver while the former governor takes the owner’s seat.

There was a rumor of a jubilant Ododo, telling some of his supporters that if there was a conflict between his position and that of his predecessor on any issue, the people should follow that of his boss. As further proof of his loyalty, it was said that Bello continued to live in Lugard House even after his tenure fueling speculation that the new administration had created the office for the immediate past governor.

The state government denied the reports describing them as fake news. Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to the governor, Oladele Nihi, made the denial. He said  the fake news should be disregarded as the handiwork of psychotic mischief makers, who have been thrown into confusion by the unprecedented achievements of our former Governor, His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, CON, and the realization that the good people of Kogi State sincerely appreciate this.”

Bello’s whereabouts are currently unknown. The state government absolved Ododo of involvement in staving EFCC arrest and prosecution. Fanwo said Ododo did not shield the former governor from arrest.

In a related development, the family of another former governor of the state, the late Prince Abubakar Audu, debunked reports that Bello might be hibernating in their country home in Ogbonicha, Ofu LG. The first son of the former governor, Mohammed Abubakar,  in a rebuttal,  described the allegation as spurious and intended to create confusion.

“We wish to emphasize that our family house at Ogbonocha serves solely as a private residence for members of the Audu family and is not a sanctuary for any political figure, past or present.

As custodians of our family’s heritage, we uphold the principles of honesty and integrity that Prince Abubakar Audu embodied throughout his lifetime.”


Protests and prayers:

There is a business angle to the crisis. Aside from drilling a big hole in the pockets of the parties in legal fees, it has attracted other auxiliary costs. The number of protests and counter-protests for or against the former governor’s battles are sometimes not without financial inducements. Not a few individuals or groups have mobilized people to the streets in different parts of the country, mostly in support of Bello and occasionally against him.

For instance, hundreds of young persons converged in Lokoja to block the highway to Abuja. The protesters under the aegis of the Coalition of Civil Society for Democracy and Africa Youths Coalition for Justice accused the anti-graft agency of blackmailing and victimizing the former governor.

They carried banners with various inscriptions, “Nigeria is not a banana republic”, “President Tinubu, Call EFCC to Order”, “EFCC Stop Witch Hunting”, “Yahaya Bello remains a responsible citizen”, “EFCC Obey Court Order Now” and many more. The groups called for caution and adherence to the rule of law during Bello’s trial.

Different civil society groups also accused the EFCC of selective justice and media trial during a protest in Lagos. They were led by the chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, Debo Adeniran, and other frontline anti-corruption and human rights crusaders. They protested in Lagos on Tuesday, 23 April.

A group of lawyers kickstarted the week-long demonstrations on Monday. Hundreds of the lawyers reportedly stormed the Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council, NJC, both in Abuja, accusing the EFCC of high-handedness and disregard for the rule of law. The lawyers, under the umbrella of judicial watchdogs, faulted the siege on the ex-gov’s residence in a bid to arrest him, despite a valid court order to the contrary.

It was gathered that the coordinators of the protests smiled at the bank just as some of the participants got a stipend for feeding, transportation, and other logistics. It may well be cash-out time for those in the know.

The Bello versus EFCC conundrum has also metamorphosed into a subject of remarkable spirituality. Prayers were being offered in mosques and churches, while libations and sacrifices were ongoing in shrines across the state and beyond.

Videos of groups of traditionalists offering animal sacrifices to appease the gods to put an end to the misery emerged in the public domain. Items like cowry shells, native chicken, a fire set inside a pot, white cloth, etc. were common in the videos. In one, the ritualists spoke in Ebira. In another, they communicated in Igala and English.

While fans of the ex-governor sought divine help for his victory, his traducers daily bombarded the throne of God with prayers for his condemnation. One of such is Rev. Rufus Atolaye, the Bishop of Imesi ile and Obokun Diocese of the Methodist Church. The bishop reportedly criticized the embattled former governor and prayed for his day of reckoning at the burial ceremony of a lady Evangelist in Imesi-ile, Osun State, recently.

So much Ado for the capture of a former governor, one who prided himself as a White Lion. How far can the Eagle go?

Richard Akinola and Femi Falana respected lawyers and activists believed it was best for Bello to cooperate with the law by surrendering to the investigators. Akinola pointed out that he has a good chance for bail instead of postponing the evil day. Listen to him in part:

“It’s not the job of the commission to adjudicate. So, l really can’t see the reason for all this grandstanding he is currently engaged in, hiring people to make noise for him all over the place and blackmailing the EFCC. With the way the system has thrown him under the bus, that is enough reason for him to smell the coffee -EFCC declares you wanted; the Attorney-General issued a statement against you on behalf of the FG and the immigration put you on the watch list, and alerting the DSS, while the IGP ordered the withdrawal of your security details. Man, smell the coffee! At the end of the day, you would still appear in court, but this time around, l would be surprised if the trial judge doesn’t give him stringent bail conditions given his current behaviour. But we keep our fingers crossed.”

Another lawyer and former spokesman of Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2023 presidential election, Daniel Bwala, thinks can triumph over his current challenges. He took exception to the public utterances of the EFCC boss.

For Bello, legal setbacks like a flood

While the drama over the suspect’s arrest continued to generate far-reaching interests, proceedings over his guilt have witnessed one form of unfavorable judicial pronouncements over another. Indeed, for the former governor in hiding, these may be far from the best of seasons.

On Friday, 3 May, the Court of Appeal upheld the reliefs sought by  Olukoyede ordering a stay of proceedings in the execution of a contempt suit brought against him by Bello in a Kogi High Court. A three-member panel of the appellate court, led by Joseph Oyewole, the others being Peter Obiora and Okon Abang gave the order.

The court in Lokoja presided over by Isa Jamil on 26 April had ordered Mr. Olukoyede to appear before it on 13 May to show why he should not be jailed for allegedly disobeying its earlier order.

Mr. Bello had initiated a contempt charge against the EFCC chair as part of the ex-governor’s efforts to stop his arraignment and trial.

Bello was still sucking from the effects of that reversal when another judicial huddle was placed in his path exactly one week later. On Friday, 10 May, Justice Nwite came down hard on the former governor when he flatly refused to vacate his arrest warrant, insisting that he must be in court first before he could seek any relief.

The judge was decisive in his ruling that Bello’s repeated refusal to submit himself for arraignment had stripped him of any entitlement to leniency.

Bello, through his lawyer, had applied for the revocation of the arrest warrant on his head, an application opposed by the EFCC. Ruling on the matter on Friday, Nwite held that any party that disrespects the court is not entitled to his prayers to be heard by the same court.

“Yahaya Bello is acting in disobedience of the court. Anyone in contempt of the court is not entitled to be heard. The defendant should make himself available. He ought to make himself available in court. The defendant is taking this court for granted. The application of the defendant can not be heard unless he is present in court,” he said.

The judge did not mince words in reprimanding Bello’s counsel for his actions. “You are the one who is misleading the defendant. What is your fear? How many people have you heard that the EFCC killed? The EFCC is a law-abiding agency. Is your client the only past governor who has been invited by the EFCC? Bring him to court and I will entertain your applications”,  he said.

He adjourned the matter till June 13, 2024, for Bello’s arraignment.


In the beginning

Both litigants, EFCC and Bello, are not new to each other. They have been at each other’s throats for quite some time. The genesis of their brawl was not long into the ex-governor’s second tenure journey. They went into their first angle-bangle in 2021 when the EFCC, under its former chair, Abdulrasheed Bawa, announced the discovery of a Kogi government fixed deposit account containing about N20 billion suspected to be part of the state’s salary bailout fund.

The EFCC had claimed it discovered N19.3 billion belonging to the Kogi government in a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank, which was opened sometime in 2019. The funds in account 0073572696 with the name Kogi State Salary Bail Out Account were meant to pay salaries in the state and were allegedly not used for that purpose.

The state government denied opening the account and ownership of the money. It said further that its findings showed that it was a shadow account opened by the bank without its permission. After a diatribe, from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN announced the forfeiture of the money in that account. However, the Bello administration sued the EFCC, CBN, and Sterling Bank for defamation of character and demanded N35 billion as damages. The status of that suit is not clear today.

The News reports that the EFCC and Bello have been in court over the ownership and forfeiture of 14 properties. Justice Nicholas Oweibo of Federal High Court, Ikoyi had, on Wednesday, February 22, 2023, granted an interim forfeiture of the properties in Lagos, Abuja, and hotel in the United Arab Emirates and also ordered the preservation of the sum of N400, 000,000.00 (Four Hundred Million Naira) recovered from one Aminu Falala, which “is reasonably suspected to have been derived from unlawful activity and intended to be used for the acquisition of Plot No. 1224 Bishop Oluwole Street, Victoria Island Lagos.”

The forfeiture order was later lifted based on the immunity Bello enjoyed then as governor. The EFCC went on appeal over the ruling.

In a related development, the EFCC at a time declared Bello’s wife wanted for money laundering and in a separate case reportedly seized the sum of $760,910.84 that Bello allegedly paid to American International School, Abuja, as prepaid school fees for four children until graduation, over alleged money laundering.

In all instances, the Kogi State Government described the anti-corruption agency as being meddlesome and yielding itself as a tool to witch-hunt Bello. Kingsley Fanwo, Commissioner for Information and Communication, has repeatedly said the state’s money is not missing. Former chairman, Bawa’s inglorious end in the commission added vent to the persecution or blackmail apology. The new sheriff does not look less combat-ready against the former governor.


Who will blink first between the combatants, the Eagle and the Lion?

Professor Olatunji Dare

Professor Olatunji Dare


On The Trail Of A Fugitive






The hegemonists must be ruing the day they dragooned Yahaya Bello, an obscure former chief accountant at a ho-hum federal parastatal, into the Kogi State gubernatorial race.

The race had been determined more or less. The APC candidate, Abubakar Audu, a former governor of the state, and his running mate, Abiodun Faleke, won. In an uncanny turn of fate, Audu slumped and died before he and Faleke could be declared the official winners.

In the perception of the public, no knotty legal or political issue was thrown up by Audu’ssudden death. It did not invalidate the fact on the ground: The Audu-Faleke ticket won the election. So, recognize Faleke as governor-elect, and leave it to the APC to produce a deputy governor-elect according to its own rules and usages

This, at any rate, was what commonsense dictated. But in Nigerian politics, commonsense has no place.

The APC’s national chairman, John Oyegun, allowed himself to be inveigled into referring the matter for resolution to Abuja, where an arch-hegemon was firmly in the saddle. It would be hard to find a more preposterous legal interpretation than what came out of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.

Discountenance the election entirely. Stage a fresh gubernatorial primary and a re-run. Faleke declined to partake in the travesty, from which Yahaya Bello, who had been clobbered in the primary that had produced Audu, was declared winner.

A reptile judiciary steeped in obfuscation and perjury would endorse the sophistic claim that the Audu-Faleke ticket belonged to the APC. If this is true, why stage costly, elaborate primaries to winnow the field of aspirants? Why not put forward the contending parties themselves as candidates, and leave it to them to designate whomever they please as the candidate for the position at issue?

All that fudging was in aid of an objective dear to the heart of the hegemonists: Kogi, being a “Northern” state, must remain in the North’s orbit by all means. Allowing it to be governed by a Christian and a person who cannot pass the “northern” test, would pluck it from that orbit and eviscerate the North’s agenda.

From that epic sleep of reason and judicial legerdemain was born and bred a monster that today haunts not only Kogi but Nigeria’s body politic.

Nobody who has followed Yahaya Bello’s brutal and capricious tenure in Kogi will be surprised at the corruption that has lately been documented about his time in office, and which I had remarked in four previous columns for this newspaper.

His tenure is a study in gangsterism. Who else but a gangster would at every turn employ the pa pa pa rhythm of automatic gunfire to dare anyone to transgress his gubernatorial will?

That was Yahaya’s standard practice whenever he deigned to address the people directly – the very people he took a solemn oath to serve.

Yahaya Bello’s contemporaries are learning to cope with life after office and life out of power. But he is basking in what has eluded every elected president or governor in Nigeria since the return to party politics in all its confections: A third term.

He bequeathed to his handpicked successor, Usman Ododo, his entire cabinet and personal staff and has for good measure remained holed up in the official residence. It is a measure of Bello’s continuing grip on power and of Ododo’s fealty that Ododo has solemnly declared that wherever and whenever his command conflicts with Bello’s preference, Heaven forfend, Bello’s will automatically supervene.

Until Ododo was thrust into office in an election that will not stand the most cursory examination, Ododo was chief accountant in the bankrupt Kogi Local Government Service, where employees were paid, not their statutory salaries, but whatever Yayaha Bello deigned to dole out to them, a practice Bello instituted shortly after he took office eight years ago.

Not knowing what they stood to receive at the end of each month, public servants were at the mercy of Yahaya Bello’s caprice. Even at its most generous – I employ that term advisedly – it was never more than 60 percent of their statutory entitlement. Employees’ unions that were not conscripted to sing Yahaya Bello’s praise learned not to stir things up.

Fear of the little Napoleon was the constant companion of public servants in Kogi, from the highest rung of the judiciary and the administrative class down to the lowliest functionary.

It was the same hegemonists who led Yahaya Bello to believe that the Presidency was his for the bidding. The office had been “zoned” to the North Central, and no one among the sitting northern governors favoured for the position was better qualified than he. It was not for nothing, they assured him, that he was President Muhammadu Buhari’s favourite governor.

Having no superior qualifications nor achievements to flaunt, Yahaya Bello parlayed his age — a youthful 47 years – into a unique selling point. He then placed the Kogi exchequer at the service of his quixotic quest to become President of Nigeria.

The Kogi State capital, Lokoja, became a Mecca for obtainers. One week, Bayelsa Youths for Yahaya Bello would bob up at a well-publicised ceremony to endorse Bello for president, based on his youthful vigour and unparalleled achievement in transforming Kogi from a backwater into the Dubai of Africa and destination of foreign investors flocking to the state with their footloose in numbers that could not be contained.

The following week, officials claiming to represent teachers would embark on a pilgrimage to Lokoja to proclaim him the best candidate for president, given the mouth-watering pay and conditions he instituted for them. It made no difference that when Kogi teachers were paid at all, they were paid only a fraction of their entitlements.

Hard on their heels would follow officials claiming to represent journalists, there to pay homage to Yahaya Bello for making media practice a soul-uplifting delight, shorn of the arbitrariness that constrained it elsewhere, and for making Kogi a land where the rule of law reigned supreme.

The week after, Zungeru Youths would surface in Lokoja to proclaim their solidarity and unflinching support for a Yahaya Bello presidency. The following week, Kaura Namoda Youths would storm Lokoja to declare their support for Bello, the only presidential aspirant capable of lifting Nigeria from the doldrums into a global power with immediate effect.

In subsequent weeks, Sambisa Youths, Okirika Youths, and Agbanikaka Youths, to mention only a few of those proclaiming support for a Yahaya Bello presidency, would converge on Lokoja to press their advocacy.

Youths for Yahaya Bello from Kogi were missing in the parade.

To supplement these carnivals. Yahaya Bello sponsored all manner of conferences,organized by entities of dubious provenance.

They came, they obtained, and they went back laden with bounteous rewards. And they deluded Yahaya into believing that he was the Great Khalifa Nigeria was waiting for.

In the presidential primaries, he was handed a shellacking that would have sobered the most obstinate creature. Not Yahaya Bello. Instead of elbowing him out as a bad advertisement for its cause, the APC humoured him by designating him its emissary to Nigerian youth and pressed his successor Ododo into service to supervise the party primaries for the gubernatorial race in neighboring Ondo State.

Ododo’s attempt to import into Ondo the tactics that his principal Yahaya Bello had employed to win every election in which he figured in one guise or disguise collapsed spectacularly, just when the EFCC was closing in on Bello.

Yahaya wangled an injunction from the compromised state judiciary restraining the EFCC and the police from summoning him for interrogation or arresting him, as well as his appointees. Just as he had dismissed as enemy agents visiting officials from the Federal Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and expelled them from Kogi, he denounced the EFCC as a cesspool of corruption out to besmirch the rectitude that pervaded official transactions in Kogi and sought to restrain its officials with a bogus injunction from a kept judiciary.

Posing as a champion of states’ rights, he dismissed the agencies as interlopers barred from operating outside federal territory.

Every bully is at heart a coward. Yahaya Bello, the arch-bully, is at this writing in hiding,a fugitive from the law.

The EFCC chair, Ola Olukoyede, is to be commended for his determined pursuit of the former governor. His iron resolve to bring the fugitive to justice is admirable. But zeal is no substitute for due process, which presumes every individual innocent until proven guilty. He should allow the process to work itself out, using every lawful means in his remit.


*Olatunji Dare wrote this piece originally for The Nation.

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