The immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, who was absent for his scheduled arraignment and plea bargain at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday, sent a letter to the court expressing his preference to be tried in his home state.

In the letter, which was submitted through his team of lawyers led by Abdulwahab Mohammed, Bello claimed that only the Kogi High Court in Lokoja has the territorial jurisdiction to handle the allegations brought against him. 

Adeola Adedipe, one of Bello’s lawyers, informed the court about the letter. Addressing the court, Adedipe explained that after the previous session, he reported back to his team about the court proceedings and was informed that a letter had been written on behalf of Bello to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.

“Requesting in substance that this matter be administratively transferred to the Federal High Court, Lokoja Judicial Division, which we believe has territorial jurisdiction to handle this matter. That letter was received at the Chief Judge’s Chambers and the office of the honorable CJ. We wrote the prosecution team through Mr. Iseoluwa Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, on June 13, notifying him that administrative steps had been activated, whereof he was directed to provide a response to the request for transfer of the matter,” Adedipe said.

Adedipe noted that he was unaware of any response from the prosecution team in compliance with the CJ’s directive. “We are also not in receipt of any decision that has been made on this request by the CJ,” he added.

He further stated that they had filed an affidavit and attached two documents referencing the same. He clarified that he was not urging anything from the court at the moment but merely presenting the facts as they were.

In response, the prosecution counsel, Kemi Pinhero, asked the court to compel the defense lawyer to explain why Bello was not present in court, despite an undertaking made on June 13 to ensure his presence for his scheduled arraignment, which had been postponed multiple times.

Pinhero contended that the letter to the CJ did not discharge the undertaking made by Bello’s counsel at the previous sitting. He argued that forwarding a petition against a judge to the National Judicial Council does not stop proceedings on cases pending before the judge. He urged the trial judge, Justice Emeka Nwite, to invite Bello’s counsels to show cause why they should not be dealt with for contemptuous conduct, describing the defense lawyer’s actions as “dilatory and a further attempt to treat this court with scorn.”

Bello is facing charges of money laundering, breach of trust, and misappropriation of public funds totaling about N80.2 billion, brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Following the news of Yahaya Bello’s absence in court and his request to have his trial moved to Kogi State, several Nigerians took to social media to express their opinions.

One user, Olanrewaju Abubakar, expressed disbelief at the situation. He remarked, “An accused criminal dictating where to be tried. Wonders shall never end in Nigeria.”

Another user, Kingsley, viewed the incident as an affront to the nation’s leadership. He commented, “This is a direct insult to the Presidency. What kind of country is this please, this man is making a mockery of our security and judicial systems for goodness sake.”

Oyebisi A. R. Kayode questioned Bello’s intentions and wondered about the legal validity of his request. He stated, “What history is Yahaya Bello trying to make? Is he feeling guilty already? What is the crux of the matter? But in law, if he is entitled to that request, the honorable should oblige the former governor.”

Hassan Sakiru Opeyemi suggested that Bello was merely attempting to delay the inevitable. He wrote, “He is only trying to postpone his evil day. He will soon be apprehended because Nigerians have interest in his case.”

Olatade Ismaila Oladajo criticized Bello’s actions as an abuse of the judicial process. He remarked, “Abuse of court process. It is a federal crime and can be prosecuted in any federal high court anywhere.”

Omika Musa expressed his dissatisfaction with the justice system in Nigeria, highlighting perceived inequalities. He noted, “It’s crystal clear that the constitution of Nigeria is for the poor and not the rich politicians. If you like, continue to believe in legal, political, and all other systems in Nigeria.”

Finally, Tim Anthony cynically observed the interplay between various Nigerian institutions involved in the case. 

He stated, “The judiciary, the APC, the EFCC, and the FG are loving friends playing hide and seek. Anyone taking them seriously is shallow-minded.”

These reactions reflect a mix of frustration, skepticism, and demands for justice from various segments of the Nigerian populace.


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