Yahaya Bello: Anti-corruption CSOs condemn ‘unjust’ application of state power

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Human rights activists,yesterday, hit the streets of Lagos to condemn what they described as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s antidemocratic approach to law enforcement as well as unjust application of state power by the Federal Government.

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The groups, numbering over 120, said the actions of government in the ongoing face-off between EFCC and former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, which took an ugly dimension during the week, suggested that the bone of contention was beyond the anti-graft agency exercising its constitutional responsibility.

According to them, from the facts and documents obtained on the matter, the EFCC never sent a letter of invitation to ex-Gov Bello.

The issue of evading arrest, they said, did not therefore exist.

“Someone who was never invited, who has a valid court order restraining his arrest and harassment, among other reliefs, until the determination of the court case, could not be said to be evading arrest. It is deliberate misinformation to turn the public against the governor,” they said.

The anti-corruption activists and human rights crusaders, specifically condemned the military action threat by an EFCC lawyer, saying that, issuing “such a threat before a judge and inside a court was a violation of the sanctity of the courtroom.”

The Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, Debo Adeniran, who led other activists during the protest on Saturday, noted that the ongoing disregard for the rule of law was not only about Yahaya Bello.

“We don’t know who the next victim will be,” he said.

“If the FG continues in its iniquitous way of trampling on the rule of law by undermining our judicial system, we will mobilise a much larger number of Nigerians to join this pro-democracy struggle. It concerns all Nigerians because we don’t know who the next victim may be,” Adeniran said.

He called on government to first obey all the court orders preceding their own actions in court and then go ahead to vacate them through due processes of law.

“There is no point in endangering anyone’s life unnecessarily because that’s the situation we believe that Yahaya Bello is in now. If the government doesn’t handle this matter carefully, it may shoot itself on the foot and put all Nigerians in collective injury,” the activist said.
The activists warned that Government should not instigate anarchy, insisting that democracy is governed by the rule of law and not the rule of force.

They pointed out that some of them had been in the trenches for over four decades without compromising their stand on justice.

“Thirty-one years ago when we organized to confront the military for the annulment of the June 12 election by General Ibrahim Babangida’s junta, it was for the cause of justice.

“Nobody paid us a dime to organize the anti-SAP protests of 1989 that nearly shut down the entire country.

“We have organised or participated in many altruistic struggles’’.

The anti-graft CSOs stated, “Our intervention today is to ensure that each side in the ongoing but avoidable tension between the Federal Government through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the immediate former Governor of Kogi State gets the justice that is deserved – both the agency and the suspect.

“We feel that it was totally unnecessary to threaten military action in a civil case because it may escalate beyond proportions and cause devastating even if unintended consequences as being suggested by the EFCC through their lawyer.

“We are hearing now that some citizens of Kogi State are already saying that the FG would be held responsible if anything untoward happens to their former Governor.”

“If the FG insists on inviting the military to intervene in a civil case involving a citizen, it is better they return power to the military so that we know that we are back to ground zero. It is now very clear to all Nigerians that this Yahaya Bello’s saga is far from being about corruption. Come to think of it, how do you accuse a man of stealing an amount that the combined total of its IGR and Federal allocation for two years is not even up to? Why is the FG fishing for chicken inside a river? It doesn’t live there,” one of Nigeria’s lead activists, Gbenga Soloki, said.

“If anyone doubts our determination to continue fighting for justice on this matter, they should wake up and smell the coffee. We will not relent and neither will we retreat until justice is not only done but seen in this Yahaya Bello’s case. We won’t stop,” a spokesperson for the Coalition of Anti-Corruption Civil Society Organisations Olufemi Lawson, added.

Those at the gathering include Comrade Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership CACOL); Sina Loremikan, (Campaign Against Impunity); Declan Ihekhaire, (Activists for Good Governance); Gbenga Soloki, CADOV; Ochiaga Ohaneze, (Ohaneze Youth Council); Funmi Jolade, (Women Democratic Vanguard); Kola Abe, (Centre for Socioeconomic Rights); Ologun Ayodeji, (Transparency and Accountability Group); Femi Lawson, (Centre for Public Accountability) and Gbenga Ganzallo (Media Rights Campaign), among others.


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