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Appeal Court Sets Aside Contempt Proceedings Against EFCC Chairman

 The Court of Appeal in Abuja has set aside contempt proceedings that were initiated by the former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, against the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ola Olukoyede.

The unanimous judgement was delivered by Justice Joseph Oyewole on Thursday. 

The court overruled the preliminary objection raised by the respondent, Yahaya Bello, on technical grounds. Justice Oyewole noted that the trial judge failed to extend the orders from February 9 in the final judgement delivered on April 17.

Additionally, Justice Oyewole stated that the issue raised by the respondent regarding the interim order had become an academic exercise, implying that it was no longer relevant to the case’s outcome. 

The court also imposed a cost of N1 million against the respondent, Yahaya Bello.

Previously, the appellate court had granted an ex-parte motion to stay the contempt proceedings filed against the EFCC Chairman by the former governor. 

The court permitted the EFCC to serve the appeal processes by substituted means on Bello. Subsequently, the court adjourned the hearing of the motion on notice to May 20.

The controversy began when the EFCC chairman was summoned to appear before the Kogi State High Court in May to explain why he should not be committed to prison for allegedly disobeying court orders.

 The orders, issued on February 9, restrained the EFCC from certain actions pending the hearing and determination of the substantive originating motion.

The Kogi High Court’s ruling, delivered by Justice I. A. Jamil, indicated that the EFCC had carried out actions that were explicitly restrained by the court. On April 17, EFCC operatives laid siege to the residence of former Governor Bello at 8 AM, intending to arrest him despite the restraining order. 

Justice Jamil ruled that this act constituted contempt of court.

In response, Bello’s legal team, led by lawyer M.S. Yusuf, filed a motion ex-parte requesting the court to issue and serve the EFCC chairman with a Form 49 Notice. 

This notice required Olukoyede to show cause why an order of committal should not be made against him for violating the court’s restraining order.

The Appeal Court’s decision, led by Justice Oyewole and supported by Justices A.M. Talba and D. Z. Senchi, marks a notable turn in the legal battle between the EFCC and the former governor.

 The ruling not only nullifies the contempt proceedings but also highlights the appellate court’s stance on the procedural errors and the irrelevance of the interim order issue.

This judgment is a pivotal moment in the ongoing legal saga and underscores the complexities involved in high-profile cases involving prominent political figures and anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria.

 

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