Honorable Justice Moses Bello JP, OFR, FICMC, recently retired amid great encomium from the bench after serving as Honorable President of the Customary Court of Appeal (CCA) for twenty-five years and six months without blemish.
Indisputably the longest serving Head of Court in Nigeria, Hon Justice Moses Bello is celebrated as one of Nigeria’s eminent judicial officers whose reign as CCA President is regarded as a golden era of jurisprudence, expansion and infrastructural development.
Under his watch, the FCT Customary Court developed from a two-bedroom office apartment to forty-four courts spread across the FCT, each with state of the art court room facilities.
In this interview with Francis Kadiri in Abuja, the highly regarded judicial officer whose high profile home-coming ceremony was aborted for unproven security reasons called for peace and advised ‘powerful people in Kogi State’ to tread with caution in the exercise of power.
According to the erudite jurist, ‘Power should be exercised judicially in order to ensure justice which is the source of harmony, peace and sustainable development.’
- The Government of Kogi State does not want peace – Justice Bello
- No, we sent delegation to resolve disputes – Gov Govt
- As Youth Congress insists Gov Yahaya Bello is attacking perceived political opponents
Former President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Honorable Justice Moses Bello has called on the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Kogi Central Senatorial District to resolve their differences and ensure peace in the homeland, while expressing doubt in the commitment of the state government to peace.
Honourable Justice Moses Bello who was a key figure in the negotiation that restored peace to his warring homeland in 2008 expressed concern that the government of Kogi State has not exhibited the political will needed for peace, adding that tolerance is the way to go in order to ensure harmonious co-existence.
‘I went home with several judges and dignitaries to attend a homecoming ceremony organized for me in view of my retirement from service, but police officers informed me that an order from above says the ceremony cannot hold. I was sad because the organisers had spent a lot of money preparing to host dignitaries who honored me to come home with me.’
‘However, in the interest of peace in the land, I put a stop to the ceremony,’ he said, adding that although the government of Kogi State does not want peace, but God will bring peace because peace is of God.
Hon Justice Bello, a conferee of the international Justice of Peace (JP) award, stressed the point that peace in Ebiraland and the country is a precious asset that must be sustained, and warned that if the evolving crisis in Kogi Central Senatorial District is not promptly curbed, the homeland stands the risk of drifting into violence again.
‘I plead with the major parties in Ebiraland namely the APC and PDP to resolve their dispute through dialogue, they should never consider violence because violence is not an alternative to peace,’ he said adding that lives and properties are divine blessings too precious to be destroyed.
Regarding ugly incidents that happened in Okene on March 2, 2018, Justice Bello fearlessly condemned political maneuvers orchestrated by those in power that use thugs to unleash havoc on frail citizens and thereafter ensure the deployment of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to intimidate their victims.
‘The state government needs to put an end to this so that we can all continue to enjoy peace,’ he said.
The jurist tasked the governor of Kogi State, Alh Yahaya Bello, the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Alh Dr. Ado Ibrahim, leaders of the APC and PDP in Kogi state as well as all stakeholders to rise up and speak the truth in order to avert violence.
While he warned ‘powerful people in Kogi state’ against underestimating the capability of those they perceive as weak, Justice Bello alluded to the biblical story of David and Goliath in which David killed Goliath-the-giant with a stone, adding that God also delivered David from King Saul. He emphasized the need to ‘curb the developing crisis in Ebiraland’ warning that it must not be allowed to escalate.
The President-General of Ebira Youth Congress (EYC), Comr. Baba Abdulrazak expressed disappointment in the ‘sudden, repulsive and highly questionable interruption of a planned reception in honour of a highly revered elder statesman, Hon. Justice Moses Bello, who recently retired from active service, adding that the disruption of Senator Ogembe’s empowerment programme and its damaging effects on the properties and business of Afims Hotels does not present the state in good light.’
While it observed with utter dismay and grave concern, ‘the gradual but imminent relapse of Ebiraland into the horrible state of yesterday,’ the Youth Congress noted that if nothing sincere and concerted is done to arrest the situation, the land risks losing its peace.
The Congress recalled that in 2007, the inordinate desire of some Ebira political leaders pushed Ebiraland into what it described as ‘theater of war,’ and lamented the effect of the violence.
The President-General said: ‘Our land and its people are yet to fully recover from the politically induced blood baths and the wars of immolation between 2007 and 2009,’ adding that EYC cannot forget the massive loss of lives and properties, and the sacking of communities which was the result of wrong use of power.
Discussing government’s intolerance of perceived opponents, the EYC said: ‘Patriotic minds are worried and wondering why some programmes identified with certain persons or groups were cancelled for security reasons while many others are allowed in the same space and time.’
The group argued that while the well-planned reception for Justice Moses Bello was stopped by military personnel who stormed his residence a few hours to the event, a high profile marriage ceremony, and a religious programme organised by an appointee of the State government took place the same day in the land.
The youth congress expressed doubt about the sincerity of the Yahaya Bello administration saying: ‘To a very large extent, this brings to question claims by government of being on top of security in Ebiraland.’
The TRUTH confirms that the Yahaya Bello administration has not made any public statement on why it stopped the planned reception for the elder statesman, independent investigation by THE TRUTH shows that there are many perspectives to it.
According to some accounts, government’s assault of the proposed reception in honor of Hon. Justice Moses Bello was the result of fear of political domination, especially that the retired Chief Justice is being wooed to declare for the gubernatorial.
According to reliable sources, Justice Bello’s risen profile coupled with the opportunity afforded him by virtue of his retirement from the bench and his popularity and longstanding calls for participation in partisan politics is a major threat to some politicians in Kogi State, particularly those in power who hail from Kogi Central.
When THE TRUTH confronted the elder statesman with the perspective, he said: ‘I seek no political office because God did not say I should contest for political office.’
Explaining the basis of his deep conviction, the retired judicial officer said: ‘On 31st December 1988, and 31 December 1991, I implored God to give me direction as to whether to join partisan politics or remain in the judiciary.’
‘I told God that if I am appointed to a higher bench before the end of 1992, I will take it that God is saying that I should remain in the judiciary. But if I am not appointed to a higher bench by 30th December 1992, I will remain in the judiciary and retire from the civil service.’
‘I offered the prayer on 31st December 1991 and I was appointed in July to one of the highest benches in the FCT Judiciary. So I know how God wants me go. That is why I will not get involved in partisan politics no matter the pressure from the people.’
‘I will continue to speak the truth on issues that affect my people and country even if they are political issues, but I will not be a card-carrying member of any political party so that I will tell the truth irrespective of who’s ox is gored,’ he added.
The Special Adviser on Media to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Mrs Petra Akinti when confronted said government condemns in its entirety the recent attacks by hoodlums on some political leaders in the Central Senatorial District of Kogi State and vows to bring perpetrators of such heinous acts to book adding that the governor has directed relevant security agencies to ensure thorough investigation into the allegations.
Independent investigation further shows that there is a different perception to the issue as some stakeholders argued that no responsible government will usurp a reception in honour of Hon Justice Bello, but they noted that the order is likely to be sent by some overzealous aides of the governor.
Petra Akinti who spoke on telephone with THE TRUTH said: ‘Justice Bello is a well-known statesman and I assure you that Governor Yahaya Bello could not have ordered policemen to prevent his homecoming ceremony.’
Phone-calls put across to Gov Yahaya Bello’s via his private line were unanswered. The governor did not reply repeated text messages delivered to his mobile phone.
Two of the governor’s aides who were accosted to inquire of the governor, his level of involvement in the saga declined, saying they can’t undertake to confront him with the issue. One of them however said it is reasonable to infer that he sent the policemen.