Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, yesterday, ordered the immediate and unconditional release of the detained former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele.
Adeniyi, who made the order while ruling in a bail application by Emefiele, stressed that “there must be an end to detention without trial”.
Wednesday, November 8, made it exactly 151 days since the former CBN boss was detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The court said although the federal government had stated that Emefiele would appear in court next week over a pending arraignment, there was no evidence before it to assure that he would be arraigned on the said date.
Adeniyi pointed out that “the issue is not that the court should admit the applicant to bail”, but the enforcement of the court’s order of unconditional release made November 2.
Besides, the court observed that releasing Emefiele would not stop his arraignment by the federal government.
The judge subsequently ordered the federal government to release Emefiele to his team of lawyers, led by Mathew Burkaa, SAN, who must produce him in court for arraignment on November 15, or any other date.
Adeniyi also ordered that Emefiele should transmit and deposit his travel documents to the court’s registrar pending the hearing of the motion on notice or his arraignment before Justice Hamza Muazu of the same FCT High Court.
Emefiele had on October 31 filed an enforcement of fundamental human rights suit against the federal government, Attorney General of the Federation, EFCC and its chairman, as first to fourth respondents, respectively.
The suit was sequel to his continued detention by the federal government.
Recal that the DSS had on October 26 transferred Emefiele from its custody, after over four months, to the EFCC. Miffed by the DSS’ action, Emefiele approached the court to challenge his continued detention. Besides, he had brought an ex parte application praying the court for his unconditional release pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
After listening to the submissions in the ex parte application marked: M/122/2023 in a Motion on Notice with the number, FCT/HC/CV/040/2023, Adeniyi, on November 2, ordered the EFCC to immediately release Emefiele or produce him in court on November 6.
However, at Monday’s proceedings, Emefiele was not produced in court, prompting the court to reiterate its order and adjourned to yesterday, for the federal government to comply with the order.
As promised on Monday by EFCC’s lawyer, Farouk Abdallah, the commission produced Emefiele in court yesterday.
The former CBN governor, who wore a gold colour kaftan and a brown cap, was brought into the court at 12.45pm.
When the matter was called, his lawyer, Mathew Burkaa, urged the court to admit him to bail, and said his continued detention was in breach of his fundamental human rights as well as the constitution.
Burkaa argued that the federal government had no reason to keep Emefiele in custody, adding that all agencies of the government have concluded their investigations and have already filed charges against him.
Both the federal government and EFCC lawyers opposed the granting of the bail, stating that releasing Emefiele would jeopardise his arraignment next week on criminal charges.
Besides, the federal government and EFCC lawyers argued that they had obtained an order of a Magistrate Court in Wuse, Abuja, to detain Emefiele till November 10. They, therefore, asked the court to refuse the bail application pending Emefiele’s arraignment next week.
But Adeniyi disagreed with the respondents, pointing out that “there must be an end to detention without trial”. He ordered the immediate release of Emefiele to his lawyers.
Emefiele had been in the custody of the federal government since June 10, when he was first arrested in Lagos and then transferred to Abuja. The DSS, which initially arrested him, refused to release him on bail, despite the order of court. He was later arraigned on alleged unlawful possession of firearms in Lagos, and alleged corruption charges in Abuja, before he was handed over to the EFCC two weeks ago.
He was arrested shortly after his suspension from office by President Bola Tinubu and had been in custody since then, despite a court order.