From Godwin Tsa Abuja

The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to serve a copy of the charge against the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello him on his lawyer following his absence in court for arraignment.
Justice Emeka Nwite who relied on the provisions of Section 382(4) and (5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, directed Bello’s counsel, Mr. Abdullahi Mohammed (SAN), to receive a copy of the charge on behalf of his client.
Counsel to the ex-governor, Abdullahi Mohammed (SAN) had announced an unconditional appearance for him.

Justice Nwite held that the law was clear that where it became practically impossible to effect personal service of a legal process on a defendant, such could be done through substituted means, by handing same to either his counsel or any adult in his household.
He held further that it was not in dispute that whereas the erstwhile governor failed to appear in court to take his plea, he however briefed a lawyer to announce an appearance on his behalf.
In addition, the trial judge held that it was therefore in order for the EFCC to seek leave of the court to hand over the court documents to his lawyer.

“Service of any process of court on a defendant is fundamental to vest the court with jurisdiction.

The court cannot assume jurisdiction in the absence of effective service of the Originating Summons.

“Any decision reached in the absence of service will be subject to an appellate attack no matter how brilliant the decision reached.

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“I therefore make an order for the charge and the proof of evidence to be served on counsel who had unconditionally announced appearance for the defendant,” Justice Nwite held.

Even though ex-governor Bello’s lead counsel, Mohammed, SAN, initially hesitated to accept the charge, he was however compelled to receive it by the court.

Bello is facing a 19-count charge bordering on his alleged complicity in money laundering, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds to the tune of about a billion.