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Governor Yahaya Bello’s Trial Is Prime Time For Corruption

The EFCC accused Bello of laundering roughly $180 million and serving Bello with the charges has become a drama because he hasn’t appeared in court for his arraignment.

Former Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State / Photo credit:

Corruption charges are nothing new in Nigeria and the most informed citizens have learned not to take any highly-publicised investigation seriously.

As charges and trials grew, so has malfeasance intensified, to the extent that instead of corruption being reduced, it has become fantastically elegant.

Everyone wants to be corrupt, including the youths.

It is in vogue.

But there is a different ambience to the charges in Kogi State, where a former governor is on the run.

Governor Yahaya Bello, who ruled Kogi with iron fist for eight years is also one of those who campaigned vigorously for the current President, Mr. Bola Tinubu.

In a country where politicians rub each other’s back, the former governor was seen as protected.

But when the corruption police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) came calling, sniffing at the accounts of Kogi State Government, Yahaya Bello became disoriented.

He asked his lawyers to erect some barriers through the courts.

The EFCC, known for its bark-and-retreat approach to corruption, was expected to be worn out easily.

It hasn’t.

Strangely, the feisty anti-corruption chiefs are not backing down on this one and have, instead cast a wide net to catch the fugitive former governor, dead or alive.

What is it about Yahaya Bello that is giving the EFCC energy?

He is alleged to have stolen just N80 billion.

That’s peanuts by Nigeria’s kleptomaniac standards.

There must be something special about the magnetic hands of the youngest governor in Nigeria in the last decade.

Yahaya Bello was not just another governor.

He was an aspiring president of Nigeria, having contested in the primaries of the ruling party, the APC, in 2023.

He lost in the primaries but secured the profile of one those who delivered the current administration.

Nigerians are now pondering if the former governor would travel through the underground railroad which many of his predecessors have plied to safety

The EFCC accused Bello of laundering roughly $180 million and serving Bello with the charges has become a drama because he hasn’t appeared in court for his arraignment.

Instead, Bello filed a lawsuit against the EFCC to prevent his arrest, leading to legal maneuvers as both sides filed appeals against each other.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal halted contempt proceedings against the EFCC, allowing it to proceed with serving charges.

Although it paves the way for a future trial, no trial date has been fixed

Nigerians are now pondering if the former governor would travel through the underground railroad which many of his predecessors have plied to safety.

That is, if EFCC would abandon the case file after public show.

In his public statements, the EFCC Chairman, Mr. Olanipekun Olukoyede, is giving an impression that this time, it is different.

Is this EFCC any different?

The Nigerian law grants immunity to current political office holders.

As such, as soon as they vacate office, it is a tradition for many former governors to be investigated.

Many have been charged but only a few have gone through trial.

Among those merely charged along this tradition are Abdulaziz Yari and Bello Matawalle, former Zamfara governors; Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti; Samuel Ortom, Benue; Rabiu Kwankwaso, Kano; Theodore Orji, Abia; Aliyu Wamakko, Sokoto; Ali Modu Sheriff, Borno and the late Olusegun Agagu of Ondo State.

Apart from Yahaya Bello, among governors whose cases have gone through prosecution are
Attahiru Bafarawa of Sokoto State; Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara; Gabriel Suswam, Benue; Murtala Nyako, Adamawa; Timipre Sylva, Bayelsa; Sule Lamido, Jigawa; Ayo Fayose, Ekiti; Chimaroke Nnamani, Enugu; and Sullivan Chime of Enugu State.

Others include Abdullahi Adamu, Nasarawa; Danjuma Goje, Gombe; Peter Odili, Rivers; Abubakar Audu, Kogi; Gbenga Daniel, Ogun; Saminu Turaki, Jigawa; Rochas Okorocha, Imo; Ikedi Ohakim, Imo; Jonah Jang, Plateau; Usman Dakingari, Kebbi; Ramalan Yero, Kaduna; Ibrahim Shema, Katsina; Rashidi Ladoja, Oyo; Alao Akala, Oyo; Akwe Doma, Nasarawa; James Ngilari, Adamawa and Willie Obiano of Anambra State.

In spite the long list of prosecutions, only a few governors have been successfully convicted.

They are Joshua Dariye, Plateau; Jolly Nyame, Taraba; Lucky Igbinedion, Edo; James Ibori, Delta; Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Bayelsa and Orji Kalu, former governor of Abia State, who is a federal senator.

Most of the convicted politicians have been pardoned and released, removing any impression about the seriousness of fighting corruption.

The time, resources and financial commitment into these cases have not been worth it for the people. Prosecution could go on forever, and Nigerians have lost confidence in the EFCC and its sister agency, the ICPC, to fight systemic corruption.

The EFCC is seen as a political weapon, often used by the government in power to score political goals.

The image of the agency and its allied organisations has been further battered by the allegation of corruption against them by Binance, the international cryptocurrency company, whose executives were arrested in Nigeria for facilitating money laundering.

During a business visit to Nigeria, Binance officials – Anjarwalla, a 37-year-old British-Kenyan and Binance’s regional manager for Africa; and Gambaryan, a 39-year-old US citizen and Binance’s head of financial crime compliance – were arrested.

Since then, one of the Binance guys has escaped mysteriously from custody, while the other alleged that anti-corruption officials demanded hush money to facilitate his release, a claim that Nigerian officials have denied.

But the damage is already done.

The news has lit wire services and financial news pipelines across the world.

It is bad image for Nigeria but not really an unheard news to Nigerians, who are used to seeing rich people arrested and released.

With Yahaya Bello, the EFFCC has both a challenge and an opportunity.

It is a challenge because they are fighting against one of the toughest, craftiest and most crooked nuts in Nigeria.

The current EFCC chairman has been giving good speeches but it remains to be seen if he is not just blowing hot airs

As governor, not only did he withhold salaries of state workers, Bello was vindictive and went extremely hard on his opponents.

He ruled with an iron fist and deployed violence and intimidation as tools for compliance and survival.

He was a conspiracy theorist, who though denied the validity of Covid-19, collected federal funds meant for the pandemic and blew it on other things without being open to his people.

Among my friends from Kogi State is a college professor who has always posited that Kogi cannot make progress under Bello. This friend believes that the support Bello gave to President Tinubu during the election was to secure his own future. “I am sure it would have been worse for him if another party is in power both at federal and state levels,” he reasoned.

Since Bello’s term expired, he claimed, pensioners have been receiving 100% salaries while local government workers are getting somewhere around 80%.

Defeating the antics of a cornered gangster who knows he would be captured will not be easy, and the EFCC has quickly learned that lesson.

Even when Yahaya Bello is arrested, prosecuting him would not be an easy task. He is probably crafting his next move while the EFCC searches for him.

Yahaya Bello’s case is also an opportunity because if the EFCC gets this prosecution right, it can quickly get Nigerians to believe again.

The current EFCC chairman has been giving good speeches but it remains to be seen if he is not just blowing hot airs.

He sounds like someone who means business, who can’t be swayed and who has strong convictions about how his agency can facilitate a new Nigeria.

One can only hope he really understands just how important it is to truthfully fight corruption in Nigeria, because every problem can be traced back to a single root cause – corruption.

Olukoyede has a date with history.

So does Yahaya Bello, if the allegations against him are proven, he is convicted and allowed to spend some good time in a Nigerian prison.

Written by Tunde Chris Odediran

Tunde Chris Odediran studied and practiced journalism in Nigeria. He is now a Technical Communications and Information Technology professional in the United States.

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