THE Federal High Court in Lagos has granted bail to the suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele in his alleged gun possession trial.
Justice Nicholas Oweibo released Emefiele on a N20 million bail bond, with one surety in the like sum.
The accused person was arraigned on two counts of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
Emefiele was brought to the court by the Department of State Services’ (DSS) officials at 09:21am.
Count one of the two charges read, ‘That you, Godwin Emefiele, male, of No. 8, Colorado Street, Maitama, Abuja, on or about June 15, 2023, at No. 3b, Iru Close, Ikoyi, Eti Osa Local Government, Lagos State, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, had in your possession one (1) single barrel shotgun (JOJEFF MAGNUM 8371) without a licence. You thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 4 of the Firearms Act, Cap. F28 Laws of the Federation 2004, and punishable under Section 27 (1b) of the same Act.
Count two read, ‘That you, Godwin Emefiele, male, of No. 8, Colorado Street, Maitama, Abuja, on or about June 15, 2023, at No. 3b, Iru Close, Ikoyi, Eti Osa Local Government, Lagos State, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, had in your possession One Hundred and Twenty-Three (123) Rounds of live ammunition (Cartridges) without a licence. You thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 8 of the Firearms Act Cap F28 Laws of the Federation 2004 and punishable under Section 27 (1)(b)(il) of the same Act.’
Emefiele was arraigned before the vacation judge, Justice Nicholas Oweibo.
A former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president Joseph Daudu led other lawyers in Emefiele’s defence.
The suspended Central Bank chief pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him.
After the plea, Daudu, a senior advocate, told the court that his client had been in detention for weeks.
Daudu also told Justice Oweibo that the bail application was filed and served on the prosecution.
Dauda requested that Emefiele be released on bail on self-recognition, stating that his client had satisfied all requirements for the application to be ready for hearing.
He said the court’s file contained the proof of service authorised by the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Dauda pleaded with the court to consider the bail request and put an end to what he regarded as the DSS’ abuse of his client.
A lawyer to the Federal government, who is the Deputy Director of Prosecution (DDP), told the judge that she had “not been given the bail application,” adding, “as I stand here, I have not set eyes on it.”
The judge rejected the Federal government’s argument that Emefiele posed a flight risk, saying the government had not presented any evidence to support its assertion.
The bail requirement included producing a surety with landed property within the court’s Ikoyi, Lagos, jurisdiction, Emefiele’s deposit of his passport, and the production of a civil servant with a level 16 or higher to complete bail.
A High Court in Abuja on July 14 had nullified the arrest, detention and interrogation of Emefiele by the DSS.
The court, presided by Bello Kawu, ordered Emefiele’s release and described his arrest and detention as illegal.
Emefiele had filed a motion against his arrest and detention, with the Incorporated Trustees of Forum for Accountability and Good Leadership, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Inspector-General of Police, State Security Service (SSS), and the Central Bank of Nigeria as respondents.
Kawu, delivering judgment, held that the arrest, detention and interrogation of the former CBN governor violated the subsisting decision and orders of Justice M. A. Hassan in Suit No. FCT/HC/GAR/CV/41/2022.
The court also granted an injunction restraining the security agencies, particularly the DSS, from interfering with his personal liberty and freedom of movement or taking other steps against him.
The judgment came barely 24 hours after another High Court in Abuja had ordered the release of the suspended CBN governor.
The ICIR had reported that the Abuja High Court ordered the DSS to file charges against Emefiele or release him within one week.
DSS files charges against Emefiele
The DSS on Thursday, July 13 said it had filed charges against Emefiele.
This came more than a month after the secret service took Emefiele into custody on June 10.
The DSS disclosed this in a statement by its spokesman, Peter Afunanya.
Afunanya said Emefiele was charged to court in compliance with an order issued by a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court on Thursday.
However, the DSS spokesman did not immediately disclose the identity of the court where Emefiele was charged and the specific charges levelled against him.
The ICIR reported that the DSS confirmed the arrest of Emefiele, whom President Bola Tinubu had suspended on June 9.
The ICIR also reported that Tinubu suspended Emefiele with immediate effect and directed him to hand over the affairs of the CBN to the deputy governor, operations directorate, Folashodun Shonubi.
Emefiele’s suspension was announced in a statement released on June 9 by Willie Bassey, director of information, Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
The DSS did not state or give any reason for Emefiele’s arrest.
However, it may not be unconnected with the allegations the agency had levelled against him.
The DSS, in 2022, attempted to arrest Emefiele, accusing him of financing terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorism, and committing other economic crimes.
Tinubu gives reason for suspending Emefiele
President Tinubu told Nigerians residing in France at an interactive session on June 24 that Emefiele was suspended due to corrupt activities connected with him in the financial sector.
The President stated that the country’s financial system was “rotten” under Emefiele.
He said many Nigerians living outside the country could not send money to their parents and relatives due to the multiple exchange rates while Emefiele was governor of the apex governor.