Detained former overnor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday arrived his Abuja home, after being released on bail by an Abuja High Court. He has spent 151 days in the custody of security agencies.
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, sitting at Maitama, has ordered his release from detention, despite objections from both the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The court, in the ruling delivered by Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, directed that the embattled former CBN governor be released to his lawyers, though it ordered him to surrender all his international travelling documents.
“There must be an end to detention without trial” the judge held, noting that the court had in an earlier ruling it delivered on November 2, ordered the anti-graft agency to either release the Applicant unconditionally or produce him for his bail request to be considered.
According to Justice Adeniyi, it was owing to EFCC’s refusal to comply with the first leg of the order that led to the production of Emefiele before the court on Wednesday.
The court said it could not allow the Applicant to remain in custody based on the claim by the Federal Government that he was already scheduled for arraignment before another court on November 15.
It held that the claim was speculative as there was nothing to establish that the planned arraignment would hold as scheduled.
More so, the court noted that a purported remand order that FG’s lawyer, Mr. Oyin Koleoso, tendered before it, signed by an Abuja Chief Magistrate, which gave the permission for Emefiele to be remanded for a period of 14 days, bore conflicting dates- April 26 and October 27, 2023.
“A very crucial fact that this court cannot overlook is the Applicant’s claim that he has been incarcerated for a period of upward of 151 days without trial,” Justice Adeniyi added.
He held that section 298(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, empowered the court to make necessary orders, even when there is a remand order against an Applicant.
“The order of this court made on November 2 is already very clear. The exercise today is due to the 3rd and 4th Respondents’ refusal to abide by the order of this court to release the Applicant unconditionally,” the judge held.
Consequently, he directed that Emefiele should be released to a team of three Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, that represented him in the matter, adding that they should produce him in court on the day of his planned arraignment or at any other date that he is required to appear in court.
Justice Adeniyi directed Emefiele to surrender all his international documents to the most senior Registrar of the court, pending his arraignment. He subsequently adjourned further proceedings in the case till November 17.
The ruling followed a fundamental right enforcement suit that the erstwhile CBN boss, who has been in detention for about five months, filed through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Matthew Burkaa, SAN.
Cited as Respondents in the suit marked: FCT/HC/CV/040/2023, are; the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as well as the anti-graft agency itself.
Meanwhile, Emefiele, who was brought before the high court on Wednesday by armed security operatives attached to the EFCC, had in the course of the proceeding, told the court that he had yet to receive a copy of the fresh charge against him.
His lawyer, Burkaa, SAN, had while urging he court not to deny him bail on the basis of the preliminary objection and affidavit of fact that was filed by the AGF, maintained that they were yet to receive a copy of the charge.
“My lord, even as at this moment, they have not served my client with the charge they claimed has been filed against him.
“The submission that his release on bail will impede his arraignment is highly speculative. There is nothing suggesting that the Applicant is a flight risk or that he had at any time made himself unavailable for trial.”
“My lord, let the Applicant breath! The fact is that the state loses nothing by releasing the Applicant to bail,”he pleaded.
Turning to Emefiele who was sitting in the gallery, Justice Adeniyi said: “Let us hear from the Applicant if he has been served. Applicant, have you been served,” the judge queried Emefiele.
Responding, the frail-looking ex-CBN governor, said: “My lord, I don’t have any charge.”
Amid fears that he would be re-arrested by security operatives, Emefiele left the court premises in a Jeep brought by one of his lawyers, shortly after the proceeding ended.
It will be recalled that President Bola Tinubu had on June 9, suspended Emefiele from office as the head of the apex bank.
He was later arrested at his Lagos residence by the Department of State Services, DSS.
Emefiele had since then, faced a two-count charge of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition before the Federal High Court in Lagos, as well as a 20-count corruption charge the federal government entered against him and two others before an Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama.
However, proceedings in both cases were put on hold, following the decision of the Defendants to explore a plea bargain deal with FG.
The former CBN boss was later transferred to the EFCC detention facility on October 26 by the DSS.