THE TRAVAILS OF GODWIN EMEFIELE
The continuing harassment of the central bank governor questions the integrity of the secret police, writes Bolaji Adebiyi
By the time the week ends tomorrow, it would have been an interesting one that began with the dramatic return of Godwin Emefiele, the embattled governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, and was spiced by the dust raised by the All Progressives Congress presidential campaign over a confession of a former aide of Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, alleging corrupt practices against the main opposition party’s torchbearer.
For weeks after the legal misadventure of the Department of State Service to have Emefiele put in the cooler, no one could say with certainty the central banker’s whereabouts safe that he was said to be abroad on medical leave. As the curiosity of the weary public grew over the striking coincidence between the failed legal ambush and his medical vacation, speculations became rife that security agencies were waiting for him to be apprehended once he steps his foot on Nigerian soil.
But knowing that he could not stay away from his sensitive office indefinitely without attracting the accusation of abandoning his official duty, particularly as the year’s maiden meeting of the Monitory Policy Committee was due, Emefiele made a deft legal move to guarantee a safe passage back home. The incorporated trustees of Forum for Accountability and Good Leadership, a non-government organisation had approached the court of Justice A.A. Hassan of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, for an exparte order to stop the DSS and the Inspector-General of Police from arresting the central bank governor.
Again, like the earlier order of Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja that fenced the DSS from incarcerating Emefiele, it is curious that although Justice Hassan’s order was made on 19 December, it did not become public until eleven days after. But despite the order, speculations remained rife that the security agencies were waiting in the wings to take in the embattled banker from the airport. His arrival, therefore, was bound to generate some drama. Would the DSS or police defy the orders of the court forbidding his arrest?
That question was answered on Monday as Osita Nwanisobi, the bank’s director of communications, in a statement confirmed that Emefiele had resumed duty. How? Media reports had been agog that security agents were milling around the airport to pick him up. But it would later be reported that the central banker beat the arrest net with the aid of a service chief who deployed soldiers to help him evade the security cordon. Interesting. Next, Peter Afunaya, the spokesman of the nation’s secret service denied any attempt to take in Emefiele.
Meanwhile, the news wave would become inundated with reports of a police siege on Emefiele’s residence on Tuesday night. Although both Olumuyiwa Adejobi, force public relations officer; and Josephine Adeh, FCT command public relations officer, denied knowledge of the action, there were reports that the policemen at the central banker’s Abuja residence might have been there to compel him to answer a court summons scheduled for Wednesday over a $53million dollar suit. Another strange occurrence. Why would policemen, without the knowledge of the police hierarchy compel the appearance of a party to an essentially civil suit?
The entire Emefiele saga oozes a rotten smell, and without a doubt, a national embarrassment. That the governor of the central bank is accused of terrorism financing and economic sabotage, and several months after this weighty allegation, nothing concrete has happened to prove this accusation is not only unfortunate but extremely disgraceful. It questions not only the integrity of the nation’s secret service but also its capacity to secure the people it is instituted to protect.
When Justice Tsoho dismissed the exparte request of the DSS many weeks ago, he said if the secret service was sure of its claims, it should step forward with the evidence. Several weeks after the judicial challenge, the DSS has been groping in the dark, perhaps in search of non-existent evidence to nail a man they had sought to incarcerate for crimes against national security.
For years, the courts have told security and law enforcement agencies that the law is that investigation precedes arrest and prosecution. This constant recourse to putting the cart before the horse or fishing for evidence after an arrest is regrettable and ought to stop forthwith not because it involves a big man but because it is a common occurrence nationwide particularly as it affects the less privileged citizens.
In the meantime, President Muhammadu Buhari ought to end his aloofness on this embarrassing episode of his central banker being accused of the most heinous crime that has plagued the country in the last seven and a half years. The subtext of the ongoing show of shame is said to be the desire of some power centres at the highest level of government to see the back of Emefiele and replace him with a more pliant person that would do their bidding in the dying days of the outgoing administration and beyond. This would be a political move that would require more rigorous thinking to pull through given the stringent constitutional requirements for the removal of a central bank governor.
Pending when these power holders would come up with the appropriate strategy to achieve their essential political objective it is important that the central bank governor is allowed the peace of mind to pursue his task. Presently, he has on his hands a currency change policy that is being widely resisted, to implement. It threatens to be a difficult task as even the banks appear to be resisting the policy which is aimed at mopping excess cash in circulation as one of the strategies for taming inflation.
With politicians up in arms against the currency change and cash withdrawal policy close to what looks like the keenest presidential election ever, the central bank governor needs all the focus and concentration he can get to make a success of the new policy. Consequently, the DSS and other security agencies who have evidence of any maleficence against Emefiele should approach the court with it. Otherwise, they should leave him alone to do his job.
Adebiyi, the managing editor of THISDAY Newspapers, writes from firstname.lastname@example.org