The suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, has commenced moves to regain his freedom from the custody of the Department of State Services pending when a final decision will be made about him.
On Friday, the embattled apex bank boss secured the order of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, which directed the Director-General of the DSS, Yusuf Bichi, to allow him access to his lawyers and family members.
Emefiele was arrested by the DSS on Saturday, a day after his suspension by President Bola Tinubu.
He is currently undergoing interrogation at the secret police’s headquarters in Abuja for alleged terrorism financing, economic sabotage, mismanagement of forex and the naira redesign policy, among others.
Justice Hamza Muazu of the FCT High Court made the order on Friday, stating that access to his lawyers and family members was Emefiele’s constitutional right.
The enrolled order dated Friday, June 16, 2023, read in part, “The lawyers of the applicant shall have access to the applicant immediately and regularly at reasonable time, pending the determination of the application.”
The order followed an application filed by Emefiele’s counsel, J. B. Daudu, SAN, who told the court that the DSS had failed to respond to letters requesting access to the suspended apex bank boss.
The respondents in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation, the DG DSS and the DSS as a body.
Counsel for the second and third respondents, I. Awo, asserted that the DSS was not known to reject such requests in the past and that the denial of access was inappropriate.
Awo was certain that the security service would abide by the court order and allow the listed lawyers and family members to visit Emefiele.
The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation did not oppose the application.
Meanwhile, counsel for the DSS and the AGF office requested an extension of time to file their responses to the originating motion.
The court granted the request and adjourned to Tuesday, June 19, 2023, for hearing of the substantive suit.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the secret police had earlier obtained an ex parte order from the court to detain Emefiele beyond 48 hours stipulated in Section 35 of the Constitution.
The DSS also obtained a similar order to extend the detention of the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, sources privy to the development told one of our correspondents.
The embattled Emefiele has spent seven nights in detention and has not been charged to.
Speaking to one of our correspondents, a government source said the move by the DSS was to deter the suspect from filing lawsuits to enforce his fundamental human rights.
The source said, “The DSS obtained an ex parte order from the court during the week to continue the detention of Emefiele beyond 48 hours so that his lawyers would not file a lawsuit claiming that his fundamental rights are being trampled upon. You know he’s not supposed to be detained beyond 48 hours according to the constitution.
“The Service also got a similar order on Thursday concerning Bawa’s detention to enable it to conclude interrogation and investigation over the allegations levelled against him.”
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the DSS, Dr Peter Afunaya, declined comments on the development following an inquiry by Saturday PUNCH.
“I have no comments on this, please,” Afunaya simply said.
Meanwhile, Emefiele’s passport has been confiscated, while his home and office may be searched by operatives during the week, sources revealed.
“The suspended CBN governor is yet to be arraigned by the service as he’s still detained and being interrogated. It’s not certain whether or not he’d be arraigned this week,” a source had told The PUNCH earlier in the week.
Another source stated, “If the service had wanted to hurriedly charged him to court, it wouldn’t have arrested him during the weekend and he would have be arraigned since Tuesday,”
Saturday PUNCH reports that following Emefiele’s suspension last Friday as a result of the ongoing investigation of his office and the planned reforms in the financial sector, the DSS arrested him in Lagos and flew him to Abuja in a private jet last Saturday.
Afunanya had confirmed in a statement that Emefiele was taken into custody and was under investigation.
However, a source in the DSS told one of our correspondents that it was standard procedure for his travel document to be seized pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation.
The source added that the office and residence of the suspended apex bank governor would be searched.
“Emefiele’s travel document will be confiscated as part of the standard process pending the conclusion of our investigation. Also, as part of the investigation, his house and office will be searched for documents that can aid the ongoing investigation on his management of the CBN,” the source said.
Our correspondents had reported that other top directors of the CBN might also be arrested or invited for questioning over their roles in the administration of the apex bank.
It was learnt that the DSS might revisit the criminal charges it earlier filed against Emefiele, which bordered on terrorism financing and fraud.
The secret police similarly accused Emefiele of mismanaging the CBN subsidiary, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, and the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
Meanwhile, indications have emerged that the suspended Chairman of the EFCC, Bawa, is being investigated by the DSS for alleged misappropriation of proceeds of assets seized by the anti-graft agency from suspects, among other issues.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that Bawa was arrested and detained by the anti-graft agency in 2019 for allegedly selling at least 244 trucks worth between N20m and N30m each to his cronies at the cost of N100,000 per unit, hence depriving the country of about N4.8bn in potential loot recovery.
Sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed that the forfeiture proceedings of most of the trucks were yet to be concluded when Bawa allegedly disposed of them.
The source said, “In 2019, Bawa was arrested and questioned over the sale of about 244 trucks that were seized by our Port Harcourt zonal office, where he worked then as zonal head. That case is one of the major reasons why he was suspended and is being investigated.
“He sold the trucks worth between N20m and N30m each to his proxies at N100,000 per unit, depriving the country of about N4.8bn in potential loot recovery.
“This prompted the former EFCC Secretary, Ola Olukoyede, to confront the EFCC boss in 2019, as he was said to have received complaints that Bawa was tampering with assets undergoing forfeiture proceedings.
“But when Bawa was queried about what happened to the trucks, he claimed that he was acting on the instructions of the former Chairman, Magu, but he never wrote that in his statement.”
Another source privy to the matter revealed that the allegation by former governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, of a demand for $2m bribe by Bawa was one of the reasons for the ongoing investigation against him.
The source also noted that the suspended EFCC chairman allegedly collaborated with the suspended CBN governor, Emefiele, to carry out fraudulent deals with Bureau De Change operators.
Last month, Matawalle accused Bawa of demanding a $2m bribe from him.
Matawale made the allegation during an interview with BBC Hausa amid ongoing rift between the governor and the anti-graft agency.
The source said, “You’re very much aware that Matawale also accused the chairman of demanding a $2m bribe from him. That’s also part of the allegations levelled against him that led to his suspension.
“Also, there’s an allegation that Bawa collaborated with the suspended CBN governor, Emefiele, in some fraudulent dealings with Bureau De Change operators.”