…There must be an end to detention without trial, says judge
BY ANDREW OROLUA
The fresh air of freedom caressed the face of thoroughly embattled immediate past Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday as his status changed from being a detainee, on the orders of Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court.
It has taken five months for this to happen.
The Court sitting at Maitama admitted Mr. Emefiele to bail on self-recognition.
Justice Adeniyi ordered that Emefiele be released to his lawyers.
Ruling on his bail application that had dragged for some time because a security agency failed to produce him in court before now, the Court said: “There must be an end to detention without trial.”
Justice Adeniyi stressed that it was the refusal of Economic and Financial and Crimes Commission (EFCC) to comply with the order of the court made on November 2, that led to yesterday’s ruling.
He said besides, the court would not allow Emefiele to remain in custody as requested by the Federal Government (FG) on ground that the suspect would on November 1, be arraigned on a fresh charge.
The court 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 tendered before it, which was signed by an Abuja Chief Magistrate, bore conflicting dates.
“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 noted 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.
Consequently, the court directed that Emefiele be released to a team of three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) that represented him in the matter.
It held that the lawyers should produce him in court on November 15 for 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.
Subsequent upon the ruling, Justice Adeniyi adjourned further proceedings in the matter till November 17.
The ruling arose from a fundamental right enforcement suit that the former CBN boss filed through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Matthew Burkaa (SAN).
The embattled ex-CBN boss, who resigned his appointment while in detention, had in the suit marked:
FCT/HC/CV/040/2023 listed the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Chairman of EFCC, and EFCC itself as the 1,2,3,4, respondents respectively.
It would be recalled that the Department of State Services (DSS) had arrested Emefiele from his residence in Lagos after President Bola Tinubu suspended him from office as CBN Gov. on June 9, 2023.
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Initially, the DSS had said Emefiele was being investigated for allegedly sponsoring Boko Haram terrorists in the country.
But surprisingly, no terrorism charge was brought against him, rather he was made to face a two-count charge of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition before the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The government also filed a 20-count corruption charge against him and two other CBN officials before an Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama.
Both trials, however, were put on hold, following the decision of the defendants to explore a plea bargain deal with FG.