From Godwin Tsa Abuja

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), has called for the former Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, to surrender himself to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Issuing a statement on Thursday, the AGF expressed his concerns and warned against any obstruction of the EFCC’s statutory duties. Prince Fagbemi described the “bizarre drama” surrounding the EFCC’s efforts to carry out its responsibilities in relation to the charges filed against the former governor.

“It is now beyond doubt that the EFCC is legally empowered to invite any person of interest for questioning, irrespective of their status. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us all, when summoned, to not impede the EFCC’s work, but rather to respond to their invitation with honour,” stated Prince Fagbemi.

The AGF emphasised the gravity of obstructing the EFCC’s efforts, particularly when public officials, who are themselves protected by law enforcement, engage in strategies to hinder the agency’s work. Such actions, he added, are disconcerting and unacceptable.

Prince Fagbemi underscored that evading the law only exacerbates the issues at hand and does not provide a resolution. He asserted his commitment to upholding the rule of law and maintaining vigilance to ensure that the fundamental rights of Nigerians are protected.

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The AGF called for individuals who have been invited by the EFCC or any other agency to respond promptly and respectfully to such invitations.

The EFCC had recently filed a 19-count charge against Alhaji Yahaya Bello before the Federal High Court in Abuja. The charges include allegations of money laundering, breach of trust, and misappropriation of funds totalling approximately N84 billion.

However, the EFCC’s attempt to arrest the former governor at his Abuja residence on Wednesday was reportedly thwarted by the current Governor of Kogi State, Ahmed Ododo. It is alleged that Governor Ododo whisked Alhaji Yahaya Bello away in his official vehicle, leading to condemnation of the incident.

Reacting to the events, the EFCC, through its Head of Media & Publicity, Dele Oyewale, warned that the agency would no longer tolerate any further obstructions to its operations. Oyewale highlighted that obstructing officers of the Commission from carrying out their lawful duties is a criminal offence, punishable by a jail term of not less than five years, according to Section 38(2)(a)(b) of the EFCC Establishment Act.

The EFCC expressed concern over the increasing trend of individuals and groups under investigation recruiting thugs to obstruct the lawful operations of the agency. It emphasised that the Commission has shown restraint in the face of such provocations to maintain law and order, but this has been misconstrued as a sign of weakness.

The EFCC cautioned that any attempts to obstruct its operations would be met with appropriate punitive actions, signalling its determination to ensure the rule of law prevails.