NGOs Slam EFCC Over Yahaya Bello’s Children

Court Orders Bello To Appear, Adjourns To June 13 For Arraignment

An umbrella body of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based group for youths and children, Children’s Rights Advocacy Network (CRANE) has condemned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over what it described as undue exposure of innocent children in its quest to fight crime.

The group made reference to the manner in which the anti-graft agency is dragging innocent children of former governor of Kogi State Yahaya Bello, into the case of alleged fraud of over N80 billion levelled against their father.

The EFCC told the public that Bello used part of the money to pay school fees for his children at the American International School, Abuja even as the school has reportedly returned about $760,000 of the paid fees to the EFCC.

The group led by Franklyn Edede told a press conference at the weekend that while the EFCC has the right to investigate any issue of financial crime in the country, it denounced the public exposure and potential harm inflicted upon the minor children of former Governor Bello amidst his ongoing investigation by the EFCC and the face-off that ensued.

The group said, “Without prejudice to the duties of the EFCC to investigate and prosecute any person  or any offense within the terms of reference , CRANE denounces  the repeated  mention  of  Bello’s children  in the press conferences and statements   by the EFCC officials, particularly   the Chairman Olanipekun Olukoyede and the spokesman Dele Oyewale”.

It also condemned the public statement by the American International School regarding the remittances of the school fees paid for the children by their family to the EFCC, stressing that the higher interest of the children should have been of paramount importance.

Edede said, “While acknowledging the EFCC’s mandate to investigate financial crimes, CRANE emphasised that the rights and well-being of children must be protected throughout any legal process. The actions of all parties involved in this case have inadvertently exposed these children to undue public scrutiny and potential harm, contravening both the Nigerian law and international conventions on children rights.

“The EFCC’s action raises serious concerns about the violation of due process, the presumption of innocence, and the potential for lasting psychological and emotional damage to the children involved. Targeting children to gain leverage over their father is not only unethical but also potentially illegal.

“Nigeria is a signatory to the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child and has enacted the Child Rights Acts (2003), both of which guarantee children protection from violence, abuse, and exploitation. The EFCC actions arguably constitute psychological abuse and violate these essential safeguards,” he said.

CRANE called on the EFCC to immediately cease all actions and public statements that directly or indirectly target Yahaya Bello’s children and strictly adhere to due process and the presumption of innocence in all investigations.

It also called on President Bola Tinubu to order a thorough and impartial investigation into the EFCC’ s action concerning Bello’s children and all children facing such potential ill-treatment from state agencies.

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