N83 Billion Fraud: Lawyer Dumps Yahaya Bello, Withdraws From Case

On Thursday, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Adeola Adedipe applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja to withdraw his representation for Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the former Governor of Kogi State. Bello faces a 19-count charge involving allegations of money laundering, breach of trust, and misappropriation of public funds amounting to approximately N80.2 billion.

Bello’s absence from court for his scheduled arraignment prompted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to take action against his legal team. The EFCC requested that the trial judge hold Bello’s lawyers accountable for not ensuring his presence in court, as they had previously committed to doing so.

The lead counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Kemi Pinhero, SAN, advocated for punitive measures against the two senior lawyers representing the former governor. Pinhero argued that their failure to uphold their undertaking constituted a violation of professional conduct rules, warranting disciplinary action.

Pinhero cited Order 31(3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for legal practitioners, which states that a lawyer who does not fulfill an undertaking made before the court is not only in contempt but also automatically guilty of professional 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 him summarily, that is what the law says.”

“We urge the court to exercise disciplinary jurisdiction over the lawyers so as to preserve the integrity of the judiciary.”

“If a Chief Justice of Nigeria can be docked before an inferior tribunal, who then is an SAN or a former governor in terms of status?”

“Even a former President of the United States of America was docked. These senior lawyers have been helping the defendant to treat this court with scorn.”

“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.”

“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,” EFCC’s lawyer added.

Responding, Adedipe, SAN, told the court that he was not Bello’s lead counsel, even as he denied making any undertaking to secure his presence for the trial.

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

“What the learned prosecution counsel has tried to do was to pitch my person against this court,” Adedipe, SAN, insisted.

He argued that it was the EFCC that treated the court with disrespect as it failed to execute the warrant it obtained for the arrest of the defendant.

Adedipe, SAN, said his team had earlier notified the court that it was not aware of the whereabouts of the former governor.

He said in the light of the turn the case had taken, he had no option than to activate the provision of section 349 of ACJA, 2015, by withdrawing his appearance for the defendant.

However, the EFCC, through its counsel, maintained that it was late for the defence lawyer to pull out of the case.

“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.

Trial Justice Emeka Nwite is yet to rule on the matter.