Emefiele Challenges Jurisdiction of Lagos Court to Hear Case

Funke Olaode

The embattled former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has challenged the jurisdiction of the Lagos high court to hear the charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Counsel to Emefiele, Olalekan Ojo, argued yesterday, that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the charges filed against the ex-CBN boss.

Ojo urged the court to strike out counts one to four because the offences relating to abuse of office are unknown to law as required by section 36(12) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).

Emefiele had pleaded not guilty to a 26-count charge.

On the first count, the former CBN governor was accused of abuse of office between 2022 and 2023, in Lagos, an offence punishable under “Section 73 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011”.

Emefiele was also accused of arbitrarily allocating foreign exchange in the “aggregate sum of $2,136,391,737.33 without bids, which act is prejudicial to the rights of Nigerians”.

At the hearing yesterday, Emefiele’s counsel asked the court to strike out counts 8 to 26 because the court does not have the jurisdiction to try the former CBN governor.

Ojo, asked the court to determine the issue pertaining to jurisdiction before proceeding with the trial.

“This calls for caution. This court is not hungry for jurisdiction. This court is a busy court. It is a court governed by the rule of law,” Emefiele’s counsel said.

“We need to determine whether this court has jurisdiction to embark on this trial. We must toe the path of legality and constitutionality to resolve this issue.”

However, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, asked the court not to defer or prevent the trial on the basis of the objection raised by the defence.

Oyedepo said the application to prevent the trial was unconstitutional and unlawful.

Meanwhile, a former Director of Information Technology at the CBN, Mr. John Ayoh, yesterday, told the Ikeja Special Offences Court presided over by Justice Rahman Oshodi,  how he allegedly received the sum of $600, 000 for gratification  of contract on behalf of Emefiele.

Ayoh, while being led in evidence by Oyedepo, told the court that he had spent  eight years in CBN  and that he received a letter from EFCC concerning two transactions which he facilitated through Emefiele.

 The witness who was Head of Procurement and Support Services (PSS) Department, vested with powers to receive applications for award of contract to select successful bidders told the court  how he received the alleged ‘money’.

Giving further evidence, the witness said the first leg of the transaction was at his residence in Lekki Phase 1, Lagos with an envelope containing $400,000 while he received the second envelope containing $200,000 at the Tinubu Head Office of the Apex Bank located on Lagos Island.

Narrating how the whole process transpired, he said: “The man sent to deliver the second transactions came to my office in Lagos and I informed the governor but he said he did not want to see a third party that I should bring the envelop myself.

 “I complied with the instruction and went to his office and delivered it.

 And for the first transaction, “Mr. John Adeola was the one I sent my address to and he came to my house.

 “He is the governor’s assistant and the total  money I received on his behalf was $400,000  and $200,000, respectively.”

 The witness further informed the court that the vendors who brought the alleged envelopes containing money were in charge of the implementation of Netapp Storage Architectural and Infrastructural Services.

 While under cross-examination by the first defence counsel, Mr Olalekan Ojo,  the witness director told the court that his schedule of duties did not include running errands for Emefiele as  he  initially  worked directly under the then Deputy Governor of the CBN now Minister of Power, Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, who was appointed in 2014 but left a year before the expiration of his tenure in 2018.

“After Adelabu left, and during intervening period, I was working with him (Emefiele) until another deputy governor was appointed.”

 Ayoh confirmed to the court that  Emefiele was a  not  a member of procurement and support services  but he was a member of  Major Contract Tender Committee (MCTC).

 He added that he had never facilitated the alleged gratification.

 Ojo asked if the witness wrote in his statement that he was forced to aid or abet the commission of accepting gratification.

 The witness said: “I do not remember the exact word that I used and I did not write in my statement that I opened the two envelopes on the two occasions to check the total sum of money.

“I wrote a statement and it implied that the money in the envelops were given to me to influence the award of contract.

 “I did not take part in the decision of MCTC but I recommended that the award  be given and I was not bribed. I was invited by EFCC on February 17, I was not arrested but I returned home on administrative bail.”

The witness further informed the court that he operated under duress while he received the two envelopes from the contractors.

 “On your honour, did you indicate in your   statement that you were acting under duress while running errands for the first defendant,” the learned silk asked.

The prosecution, however, objected to the question and argued that the statement of the witness was not before the court.

The first defence counsel, thereafter sought that the statement of the defendant be admitted into evidence.

Justice Oshodi thereafter admitted the statement of the witness, (three pages) into evidence, following arguments and counter augments of the counsel.

 The Senior Advocate reiterated that the witness showed to the court where it was written in his statement that he acted under duress.

The witness told the court that the instructions from Emefiele indicated that  he bent rules.  The judge thereafter adjourned the case until May 3 for continuation of cross-examination.

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