Yahaya Bello’s Jurisdictional Objection Against EFCC


Yahaya Bello’s Jurisdictional Objection Against EFCC

Yahaya Bello

A legal dispute has arisen between the former Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The dispute centers around a jurisdictional objection raised by Bello’s legal team, which has temporarily stalled the EFCC’s proceedings.


Bello’s lawyers have invoked the provisions of Sections 19 and 45 of the Federal High Court Act, alongside the landmark case of Ibori v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2009) 3 NWLR Appeal No CA/K/81C/2008. Their argument is rooted in the legal principle that criminal trials should be conducted within the jurisdiction where the alleged offense occurred—in this instance, Lokoja, Kogi State. If there are exceptional circumstances preventing this, the case must be referred to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for direction.


The objection claims that initiating a suit outside the proper jurisdiction without the Chief Judge’s approval constitutes “forum shopping,” a practice condemned by the Supreme Court as it implies “judge shopping.”


The case of Ibori v. FRN sets a precedent that jurisdiction in criminal matters is fundamentally territorial. It stipulates that criminal charges should be tried in the location where the crime was allegedly committed to ensure fairness and minimize logistical challenges for the defense. In the Ibori case, the Court of Appeal determined that the trial should occur where the offense took place or in the most proximate location.


Bello’s legal team contends that continuing the trial outside Lokoja would infringe on his right to a fair hearing, particularly given the logistical difficulties of preparing his defense and transporting witnesses. They argue that the EFCC’s attempt to try Bello in a different jurisdiction without following the appropriate legal procedures is a violation of established legal norms.


The EFCC, however, maintains that it has the authority to prosecute Bello and that the choice of venue should not be dictated by the defendant. This standoff highlights the ongoing legal complexities and procedural challenges in high-profile corruption cases in Nigeria.


For a deeper understanding of the legal principles involved, the Ibori v. FRN case provides extensive judicial analysis and interpretation of jurisdictional matters in criminal proceedings, emphasizing the importance of adhering to procedural rules to ensure justice and fairness in the legal process.


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