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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Yahaya Bello responds to outcry over $720,000 advance payment for children’s school fees.

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The immediate-past Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, has denied paying $720,000 from the state treasury for his children’s tuition fees.

The chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Olanipekun Olukoyede, on Tuesday, accused Mr Bello of stealing the funds while his administration was coming to an end to pay his children’s education at the American International School, Abuja.

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PREMIUM TIMES also reported how the American International School Abuja offered to refund $720,000 paid by Mr Bello for his children’s tuition fees.

The school’s letter, which went viral online on Friday, showed that the former governor paid the money in August 2021, in advance for school terms his children had yet to use.

The letter is part of the exhibits the EFCC filed in support of the N80 billion money laundering charges it instituted against Mr Bello after he left office in January.

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But, Mr Bello, who left office as governor on 27 January, said his children’s educational pursuit at the American International School Abuja preceded his ascension to the Kogi State Government House in 2016.

READ ALSO: American school confirms ex-governor Yahaya Bello’s advance payment of $720,000 in court filing

“…Yahaya Bello DID NOT pay the fees of his Children with monies from the Coffers of the Kogi State Government,” a statement from Mr Bello’s media office on Friday said.

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The statement explained that when the EFCC approached the school to “illegally recover the funds legitimately paid by Alhaji Yahaya Bello and other family members, a member of the family challenged the EFCC’s unlawful acts.”

According to the statement, the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, restrained the school from returning the funds to the EFCC.

“His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello did not pay the sum of USD720,000 as alleged by the EFCC Chairman or USD840,000 as is being bandied about on the internet.”

‘EFCC persecuting Mr Bello’

On Friday, details of the tuition payments to the American International School Abuja emerged on social media.

A media report also said the school has indicated an interest in returning the disputed funds to the anti-graft agency.

However, Mr Bello’s media team said all the documents being released online are in furtherance of EFCC’s “unrelenting persecution of the former Governor.”

The EFCC filed an N80 billion money laundering case against Mr Bello at the Federal High Court in Abuja. But efforts to get the former governor to answer to the charges have been futile.

Mr Bello said Mr Olukoyede’s comments regarding the pending suit against him amount to subjudice as parties have since joined issues in the suit.

The statement added that no amount of blackmail by the EFCC would bring Mr Bello before the court through “the backdoor.”

Read the full statement below:

MEDIA OFFICE OF HIS EXCELLENCY, YAHAYA BELLO

PAYMENT OF SCHOOL FEES: SETTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT

NO AMOUNT OF BLACKMAIL WILL MAKE HE YAHAYA BELLO ‘COME THROUGH THE BACKDOOR’

On Tuesday, 23rd April 2024, Mr. Olanipekun Olukoyede, in a conduct which we view as unbecoming of a Legal Practitioner, organised a press conference where he alleged (amongst other outrightly defamatory statements) that His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, withdrew cash from the Kogi State Government Account, sent same to Bureau De Change Operators and then used same to pay the school fees of his children in advance.

According to Olukoyede, the payment was made just about the time the former Governor was to leave office.

Since the said press conference, receipts of payments of the said fees bearing the names of His Excellency’s Children and those of other family members, who separately paid their fees, have been flying all over the internet.

While we reserve our rights to seek redress against the said defamatory statements, permit us to briefly state the following for the purpose of setting the records straight:

1. His Excellency, Yahaya Bello’s children have attended the American International School, Abuja well before he became Governor and he has paid fees for his children as and when due and without fail.

2. His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello did not pay the sum of USD720,000 as alleged by the EFCC Chairman or USD840,000 as is being bandied about on the internet.

3. The payment of the fees was not effected at about the time his Excellency was to leave office as claimed by Mr. Olukoyede but same commenced in 2021.

3. Alhaji Yahaya Bello DID NOT pay the fees of his Children with monies from the Coffers of the Kogi State Government.

4. When the EFCC approached the American International School Abuja (AISA) to illegally recover funds legitimately paid by Alhaji Yahaya Bello and other family members, a member of the family challenged the EFCC’s unlawful acts to recover funds legitimately paid. The FCT High Court, in Suit No. FCT/HC/2574/2023 between: Mr. Ali Bello v. The Incorporated Trustees of American International School, Abuja, held that AISA could not lawfully and unilaterally refund to a third party, including the EFCC, fees paid by the parties to the suit.

The Court subsequently mandated AISA to continue to provide the services it had been paid with respect to the fees.

From the foregoing, it is clear that no money belonging to Alhaji Yahaya Bello or his family members with regard to school fees has been recovered by the EFCC.

5. Now, let it be known that, contrary to misleading narratives by the EFCC, all the documents published online i.e. receipts and letters, that the EFCC has released online, in furtherance of its unrelenting persecution of the former Governor, are documents filed by lawyers in the suit instituted on behalf of Alhaji Yahaya Bello and others who paid fees for their wards under the Advance Fee Payment Agreement with AISA.Those documents, having been filed by his lawyers, are thus public documents, which shows that his Excellency, Yahaya Bello, has nothing to hide with regard to the payment of advance fees for his children. This unending harassment and persecution, even while in office, were among key reasons he sought to enforce his fundamental human rights.

6. We state that the payment of these fees and the legitimacy thereof is the subject matter of Charge No. FHC/CR/573/2022, filed by the EFCC since 15th December 2022 at the Federal High Court, Abuja. The Charge is pending and the Court has yet to make any finding or convicted anyone in respect of the said sum.

7. It is imperative to remind Mr. Olukoyede, who is a Lawyer, that once parties have submitted a dispute to the Court, they are to shun all actions and statements that may prejudice the hearing of the matter or the mind of the Court.

8. Since the matter is sub judice, we say no more, we await the EFCC’s proof of the allegations in Court, which is the only venue where the proof of these allegations matter.

9. We thank Nigerians who have recognized the obvious desperation of the EFCC boss to convict the former Governor by all means in the Court of public opinion rather than in the law court, as personal vendetta, with the connivance of like minds, and not a fight against corruption.

10.We implore others who might have been misled by their shenanigans not to be fooled by mischievous narratives but tofollow the case through until justice is served.

11. Finally, our Principal, Yahaya Bello, doesn’t visit law enforcement agencies “through the backdoor”. He has insisted on following due process in line with the rule of law. No amount of blackmail will intimidate him.

Thank you.

SignedOhiare MichaelMEDIA OFFICE,HE YAHAYA BELLO

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