EFCC vs. Yahaya Bello: Upholding Legal Accountability

By Milcah Tanimu

According to William H. Neukom, co-founder of the World Justice Project, “the rule of law is the foundation for healthy communities of justice, opportunity, and peace.” This principle is built on four universal tenets: accountability, just laws, open government, and accessible and impartial justice. A central idea within these tenets is that “no one is above the law,” meaning all individuals and entities must adhere to the laws of their nation.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was established on April 10, 2003, with a broad mandate to investigate and prosecute financial crimes, including fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal fund transfers, and more. The EFCC also coordinates the enforcement of economic and financial crime laws and collaborates with other government bodies to eradicate such crimes. In addition, the commission educates the public on the dangers of economic and financial crimes.

The EFCC has faced both praise and criticism. On one hand, it has recovered billions of naira and secured thousands of convictions. From May 29, 2023, to now, the EFCC has achieved 3,175 convictions and recovered N156,276,691,242.30, along with significant amounts of foreign currency. On the other hand, its actions against high-profile individuals often lead to media attacks and demonstrations orchestrated by influential figures facing prosecution.

A recent case illustrating these dynamics involves the former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello. Despite the EFCC’s efforts, there has been significant media and public backlash, including a demonstration by “500 lawyers” purportedly in support of Bello. Critics argue that such protests are politically motivated and not genuinely concerned with upholding the rule of law.

During legal proceedings, Bello’s lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN, sought to revoke an arrest warrant issued against Bello and questioned the court’s jurisdiction. Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja firmly ruled against entertaining any applications from Bello unless he appeared in court. Justice Nwite emphasized that anyone in contempt of court is not entitled to be heard, underlining the importance of respecting judicial processes.

Lead prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, echoed this sentiment, expressing disappointment in the defense’s attempt to bypass court orders. Justice Nwite further criticized Bello’s lawyer for misleading his client and insisted on the importance of Bello’s physical presence in court for proceedings to continue.

This ruling underscores the triumph of the rule of law, demonstrating that no individual, regardless of their status, is above legal accountability. The case has been adjourned to June 13, 2024, for Bello’s arraignment, where it will be seen if the defense counsel can persuade his client to comply with the law.

In conclusion, the principle that “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands” remains a cornerstone of justice. This case reaffirms the rule of law as the ultimate arbiter in matters of justice, accountability, and fairness.


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