Yahaya Bello’s Lawyer Seeks Withdrawal From High-Profile Corruption Case

The lawyer representing former Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, has applied to withdraw from the high-profile corruption case against his client. 

Bello, who faces a 19-count charge for allegedly laundering money, breaching trust, and misappropriating approximately N80.2 billion in public funds, failed to appear for his scheduled arraignment, leading to a dramatic court session at the Federal High Court in Abuja.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), represented by lead counsel Kemi Pinhero (SAN), expressed frustration over the repeated absence of Bello, accusing his legal team of violating professional conduct by failing to produce their client. 

Pinhero urged the court to sanction Bello’s legal representatives, citing Order 31(3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which condemns lawyers who fail to fulfill court undertakings as being in contempt and guilty of misconduct.

“My lord, our application is that since one of the lawyers is present in court, he should be moved to the dock and dealt with summarily, that is what the law says,” Pinhero asserted. 

He emphasised the need for the court to exercise its disciplinary jurisdiction over the lawyers to preserve judicial integrity.

 Pinhero drew parallels to high-profile cases, noting that even a former Chief Justice of Nigeria and a former President of the United States had faced legal accountability.

“For five consecutive sittings, the defendant refused to make himself available for his trial, and his lawyers have continued to use all forms of chicanery to frustrate his arraignment,” Pinhero continued.

 “If this sort of conduct is not punished, then we will be sliding to a situation that will be worse than the Animal Farm. The world is watching. Punishing these senior lawyers will send a very clear message.”

In response, Adedipe (SAN), who was present in court, denied being the lead counsel for Bello and refuted the prosecution’s claims.

 He insisted that he had not given any undertaking to ensure Bello’s presence at the trial.

 “My lord, the narration by the prosecution counsel is very untrue and is accentuated by malice. I am not the lead counsel in this matter,” Adedipe stated. 

He argued that it was the EFCC that had treated the court with disrespect by failing to execute the arrest warrant for Bello.

Adedipe further invoked section 349(8) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, to withdraw his appearance for Bello, arguing that his team had earlier notified the court of their ignorance regarding Bello’s whereabouts.

 However, the EFCC countered, arguing that Adedipe’s request to withdraw was merely an afterthought and urged the court to set an example by holding him accountable.

“My lord, he should be used to set an example that this is not a lottery game. His request to withdraw is only an afterthought, and it should not be countenanced by this court. I urge your lordship to invite him to the dock immediately,” the prosecution counsel submitted.

Justice Emeka Nwite has yet to rule on the matter. The case’s complexity was further highlighted by Bello’s earlier request to transfer the EFCC’s case against him to Kogi State, arguing that the alleged offences occurred during his tenure as governor and should be tried within the state’s jurisdiction.

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