In a significant development, the Abuja High Court at Maitama has granted bail to Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), who had been in detention for 151 days. The ruling was delivered by Justice Olukayode Adeniyi on Wednesday, November 8, 2023, and it ordered Emefiele’s release to his legal representatives.
Justice Adeniyi emphasized the importance of ending detention without trial and noted that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had failed to comply with a court order issued on November 2, leading to this decision.
The court also stated that it could not allow Emefiele to remain in custody based on the claim by the Federal Government that he would be arraigned on a fresh charge on November 15, as this was considered speculative and unsupported by evidence.
Additionally, the court observed conflicting dates on a purported remand order presented by the FG’s lawyer, signed by an Abuja Chief Magistrate.
The judge took into account the crucial fact that Emefiele had been incarcerated for over 151 days without trial and invoked section 298(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which empowers the court to issue necessary orders even when there is a remand order against an applicant.
Consequently, the court directed that Emefiele should be released to a team of three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) who had represented him in the matter. These lawyers were tasked with producing him in court on November 15 for his planned arraignment or any other date required for his court appearance.
The court ordered Emefiele to surrender all his international documents to the most senior Registrar of the court pending his arraignment and adjourned further proceedings in the matter until November 17.
This ruling followed a fundamental right enforcement suit filed by Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who had been in detention for approximately five months. The respondents in the suit included the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the EFCC itself.
Emefiele was suspended from his position as CBN Governor on June 9 by President Bola Tinubu and later arrested at his Lagos residence by the Department of State Services (DSS). He faced legal challenges, including a two-count charge of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, and a 20-count corruption charge, which was put on hold as the parties explored a plea bargain deal with the Federal Government.
The former CBN Governor was subsequently transferred to the EFCC detention facility by the DSS. The FG opposed Emefiele’s request for bail, notifying the court of his scheduled arraignment on a fresh charge on November 15.
On November 2, Justice Adeniyi had ordered the EFCC to either release Mr. Emefiele unconditionally or produce him in court for a bail hearing, a directive that the EFCC complied with by bringing him to court for the hearing of his bail application.