Suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, was rearrested on Tuesday by operatives of the Department of State Services after he was granted N20 million bail by a Federal High Court in Lagos.
The re-arrest followed a drama when DSS operatives engaged in a physical fight with officials of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) over the custody of the suspended CBN boss.
Emefiele, who was arraigned at about 9:21am, before Justice Nicholas Oweibo on a two-count charge of illegal possession of firearms, pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail in the sum of N20 million with one surety in like sum.
The court then adjourned the case till November 14 for trial and remanded Emefiele in the custody of the correctional service pending perfection of his bail conditions.
But sensing that he would be re-arrested by DSS, Emefiele remained in the courtroom for hours after the case was adjourned.
His lead counsel and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Joseph Daudu (SAN), also raised the alarm about the plot by the DSS to disobey the court by re-arresting his client.
The court premises was filled with armed operatives of the DSS, who were strategically positioned at the entrance to the courtroom.
When a senior officer of the Nigerian Correctional Service made an attempt to take the defendant into custody in line with the court’s directive, the DSS resisted the move, which led to a faceoff.
The senior officer of NCoS had his uniform torn in the ensuing melee as DSS operatives manhandled him while ordering journalists to vacate the court premises.
The faceoff disturbed the serenity of the court as officials and visitors were seen running for safety.
As of the time of filing this report, the DSS had yet to issue a statement on why it rearrested the suspended CBN governor.
But a source familiar with the case said Emefiele was rearrested based on an arrest warrant obtained from a magistrate’s court.
“The arrest warrant was based on an allegation of financing terrorism. We don’t know the propriety of the arrest warrant because a copy has not been made available to the defence team.
“We don’t know why the DSS will obtain an arrest warrant from a magistrate’s court when a Federal High Court has already granted him bail. This is impunity of the highest order.”
Several calls to the mobile phone of the spokesman for the DSS, Peter Afunanya, last night indicated “line busy”.
When contacted via WhatsApp to give the reason for the re-arrest of the embattled suspended CBN governor, Afunanya declined comments.
He had also yet to reply to a text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report.
It is clumsy and lawless – Lawyers
Meanwhile, lawyers have condemned the clash between operatives of the DSS and the NCoS over the custody of Emefiele.
A former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ekiti State, Dayo Akinlaja (SAN), described the incident as clumsy and inappropriate for the two services to engage in such conduct despite the clear order of the court.
He said the criminal charges should have been filed and the bail granted wholesale rather than the manner the DSS brought it.
“The way it is, I suspect that the DSS took him into further custody with respect to other cases they may be investigating against him. However, the civil and legitimate approach would have been for them to formally apply to the court and make a case for their continual custody of him.
“Be that as it may, nothing can justify the manhandling of the staff of the correctional service by the men of the DSS even when the cause of it is not known to the general public.
“There is a need for the federal government to stem the tide of such ugly spectacles that appear to be on the rise in recent years. Appropriate synergy and interaction at the top levels of the two agencies would have averted the global embarrassment the scuffles are capable of exposing the country to. Moreover, it calls into question whether our democracy is deepening or atrophying.”
In his reaction, Abeny Mohammed (SAN), said the DSS was lawless in their conduct, which “amounted to a reckless assault on rule of law and the judiciary.”
He said, “Having charged Emefiele before a competent court, they are bound by the ruling transferring the accused to a correctional facility by the court. If DSS are dissatisfied with the ruling, the only option open to them is to appeal the ruling and not to resort to self-help, gangsterism and lay siege to the court. It is another sad day for the judiciary and rule of law in the country.”
It’s height of irresponsibility -CISLAC, CHRICED
Speaking on the matter, the Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said that the clash was unfortunate and the height of irresponsibility.
“The NCS was clearly granted possession of Emefiele, according to media reports. The fact that the DSS is battling over his custody indicates that there is more than meets the eye. Could there be something unique in Emefiele’s custody that only the DSS knows about?
“I believe it is time to call the DSS to order. The fight between the two security agencies, which occurred just about a month after the DSS invaded the office of EFCC in Lagos, another security organisation, casts a negative light on the nation and portrays the DSS as being above the law,” Zikirullahi said.
On his part, Executive Director Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), Malam Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said that the extent of the violations of law and order in the country was condemnable.
He said that Nigeria could not have a strong and reliable society guided by the principles of democracy and human rights when the government and its institutions deliberately reject the decisions of courts.
“The clash between the DSS and the prison officials is rather unfortunate and uncalled for because the court order has been given for prison service to take the defendant into their custody. It is important for all government institutions to remember that we operate a democratic system in Nigeria and court orders when given, it is binding upon all institutions of government to abide by the judgement of such courts.
“Unfortunately some agencies of government believe that they are more powerful than our courts, that they can flout court orders without any repercussions. This tells you the extent of the violation of the rule of law we have in Nigeria. The government must allow courts to do their job as enshrined in the constitution and every institution that violates such directives must be held accountable.
“We cannot allow our courts to be openly disrespected because this is a flagrant disregard for the courts’ jurisdictions. Worse is the behaviour that was displayed in the eyes of the world by two respected government agencies fighting each other, this is really sad and unfortunate.
“I must say that our democracy must be defended and protected by allowing the rule of law to take its course as opposed to individuals and some groups using their power to abuse our institutions by outrightly rejecting what our courts of laws have decided,” Rafsanjani said.
Also, former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, condemned the arraignment of Emefiele, over the alleged possession of a firearm and ammunition. Ezekwesili, in a post shared on her Twitter handle, condemned the DSS over the treatment melted to Emefiele.
She urged the security agency to stop embarrassing themselves and tell Nigerians the truth about the case of Emefiele.
“The DG of @OfficialDSSNG who without decorum publicly advertises that he is a close friend of @officialABAT, obviously thinks the average IQ of sensible Nigerians is as low as that of the politicians he has reduced that Agency of @NigeriaGov to serve.
“Stop embarrassing yourselves and tell us the truth of the Emefiele matter jooo. Be guided @OfficialDSSNG must immediately apologize to Nigerians for daring to take citizens for a ride on this Emefiele’s court case.
“Imagine. So after all the monetary policy damage his boss @MBuhari and the former @cenbank committed against the Nigerian economy and people, it is for “illegal possession of firearms” that State Security charged him to court? Nonsense,” she wrote.
Emefiele’s battle with DSS
Emefiele, who has spent six weeks in custody of the secret police, was charged by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation under the Ministry of Justice on a two count charge bordering on possession of a single barrel shotgun, as well as possession of 123 rounds of live ammunition without licences.
61-year-old Emefiele, who has been in DSS custody since June 10, a day after he was suspended by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
After his plea, defence counsel, Joseph Daudu (SAN), who led four other senior advocates, informed the court of a bail application filed on behalf of the defendant.
His lawyer, Daudu, who led four other senior advocates, urged the court to grant bail on self-recognisance or on other liberal terms, pending the hearing and determination of the trial.
He argued that Emefiele is not a flight risk.
“There is no counter affidavit from the federal government opposing bail. Also, the defendant is a renowned banker and can only stay at his house, he can’t travel anywhere,” he said.
However, counsel to the federal government, Nkiru Jones-Nebo, in an oral submission, opposed the bail application, insisting that the prosecution had not been given time to respond in line with the provisions of fair hearing enshrined in the constitution.
“As the governor of the CBN, he is a powerful man and can intimidate the witnesses. Granting him bail will intimidate the prosecution witnesses who have come forward to give evidence. He can evade trial based on his antecedents. We urge the court to dismiss the bail application,” she argued.
While overruling the argument by the FG, Justice Oweibo ordered that Emefiele be held at the Ikoyi Correctional Centre, pending the perfection of his bail as against the request of the prosecution that the defendant should be remanded in DSS custody for further investigation on another matter that may soon be filed in court.
In his ruling on the bail application, Justice Oweibo said, “I find and hold that the prosecution has failed to establish why the defendant should not be granted bail.
“Consequently the defendant is admitted to bail in the sum of 20 million naira with one surety in like sum.
“The surety must be an owner of a landed property within the jurisdiction of the court who must not be less than Level 16 in the Nigerian Civil Service.
“The defendant must deposit his international passport to the court.
“Case is adjourned to the 14th of November for trial.”
From Adelanwa Bamgboye (Lagos), Kamarudeen Ogundele, Abbas Jimoh, John C. Azu & Idowu Isamotu (Abuja)