THE Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), some senior lawyers and human rights groups have called on the Federal Government to uphold the principles of the rule of law, fairness, and justice in the case against the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele.
They also described the charges filed against Emefiele by the Department of State Services (DSS) as politically motivated.
Emefiele was arrested on June 10 over allegations bordering on economic sabotage and threat to national security amongst others and has since remained in the custody of the DSS.
He was arrested and detained shortly after his suspension by President Bola Tinubu on June 9, to pave the way for an investigation into criminal offences he was alleged to have committed as CBN governor.
Shortly after the court issued the one-week ultimatum, the DSS announced that charges have been filed against Emefiele.
Emefiele was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a single-barrel shotgun and ammunition without a license under the Firearms Laws of the Federation 2004. The DSS claimed to have found the items during a search of Emefiele’s Ikoyi residence.
However, in separate reactions to the development, the NBA, human rights activists and some civil society organisations (CSOs) have criticised the DSS for arresting and detaining Emefiele for nearly a month.
They argued that the recent charge of gun and ammunition possession was politically motivated.
They called on the Federal Government to respect the decisions of the courts regarding Emefiele’s arrest and detention, and to ensure that his trial follows legal procedures.
They groups also dismissed the charges filed against Emefiele as lacking substance and a distraction from more pressing issues.
The groups equally urged the DSS to focus on resolving pressing security issues affecting the country, and to uphold the rule of law and respect individual rights.
The former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Joseph Daudu, emphasised the importance of respecting court decisions regarding Emefiele’s arrest and detention.
He expressed his expectation that Tinubu, as the newly appointed head of state, would not allow the organisations under his purview to disobey court orders. Daudu insisted that Emefiele’s trial should adhere to established legal procedures.
“I do not think that the President, Bola Tinubu, who is a newly minted President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, will like to start his administration with the organisations under him disobeying court orders,” Vanguard newspaper quoted him as saying.
An Abuja-based human rights activist Abdulazeez Tijani faulted the prolonged detention of Emefiele while the DSS was still investigating his case.
Tijani pointed out that the DSS had been trying to arrest Emefiele for more than four months, and they should have concluded their investigation by now.
“The DSS cannot hide under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, to hold a Nigerian citizen till eternity because ACJA is inferior to the 1999 Constitution.”
The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Public Interest and Development Law, Monday Ubani, also described the charges against Emefiele as false and misleading.
“I think these people are taking us for granted. They believed we are all fools. Did they not tell us that Emefiele was involved in financing terrorists? What has happened to that allegation? What has happened to the allegation of misappropriation of the money for printing new currency?
“What has happened to the allegation of stamp duty money allegedly squandered by Emefiele? What has happened to the allegation of manipulating our foreign exchange with Buhari cabals? What has happened to the allegation of operating several secret accounts not known to the Federal Republic of Nigeria?”
Constitutional lawyer and Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Chima Williams, believed that the charge against Emefiele was politically motivated.
“Some of us see his travail as political more than any other thing. I had predicted that Emefiele will be in trouble if Tinubu becomes the President of Nigeria and there are no two ways about it, and I am not disappointed because what we thought will happen is happening.
“If we are going to move our nation forward we should look beyond the individuals and look at the laws because that is what would guarantee freedom, safety and people’s respect for institutions.”
The Chair of the Board of Trustees for Amnesty International (Nigeria), Auwal Rafsanjani, also dismissed the charges against Emefiele as lacking substance and serving as a distraction from more critical issues.
He criticised the DSS for prioritising frivolous allegations while the country grappled with severe challenges such as insecurity, economic instability, and social unrest. Rafsanjani called on the DSS to focus on resolving these pressing issues instead.