ARDI, Other Anti-Corruption Groups Decry EFCC’s Unlawful Tactics, Call for Due Process in Yahaya Bello Case

Yahaya-Bello, ARDI

A coalition of anti-corruption watchdogs, led by the Anti-Corruption Research-Based Data Initiative (ARDI), has expressed grave concerns over the methods employed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in its pursuit of former Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello.

The coalition claims that the anti-graft agency’s strong-arm approach undermines the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

The group addressed these concerns at a press conference in Abuja today, themed ‘EFCC VS YAHAYA BELLO: RESCUING THE WAR ON CORRUPTION FROM FURTHER ODIUM’. The organizers released a detailed press statement highlighting what they consider procedural missteps and potential breaches of due process in the handling of the case. They argue these actions have hindered the EFCC in fulfilling its statutory duty.

Among other concerns, the coalition condemned the EFCC for failing to extend a formal invitation to Bello for questioning prior to the raid on his Abuja residence. They also asserted that the EFCC is defying a subsisting court order barring the arrest or harassment of the former Governor, a situation compounded by a pending appeal filed by the EFCC at the appellate court.

The coalition further questions inconsistencies in the alleged charges against Bello, suggesting issues with the investigative process. The press statement notes that the EFCC has shifted the timeline of their embezzlement accusations – initially alleging the crime occurred before Bello’s tenure as Governor, then revising the date to weeks after he took office. The anti-corruption groups call for clarity on these discrepancies.

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The coalition, led by prominent anti-corruption crusader Chief Dennis Aghanya (who spearheaded the anti-graft investigation of former Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen), also criticized the EFCC for what it perceives as a sustained media campaign of slander against the ex-Governor, citing a lack of professionalism and prejudicial behavior.

The group concluded by emphasizing that Bello’s contrarian stance is not sufficient grounds to deny him his constitutional rights. While acknowledging instances where Bello’s initially controversial viewpoints (on COVID-19, currency redesign, etc.) have ultimately been vindicated, they noted with concern his reputation as an abrasive figure.

The watchdog group commended the former Governor for his record of fiscal responsibility and accountability. This includes returning surplus project funds to the World Bank and achieving top scores in the States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability, and Sustainability (SFTAS) index. As an NGO in the anti-corruption space, they find such records in public office encouraging.

Stressing their commitment to the Rule of Law and Due Process in the fight against corruption, the anti-corruption group emphasized the importance of EFCC and other law enforcement agencies protecting the rights of all citizens so as to set clear precedents for the future.

ARDI and its partners also urged the media to rigorously scrutinize the facts of the case, uphold journalistic objectivity, and inform the public without prejudice.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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