The move by the Department of State Services (DSS) to arrest and detain the Central Bank governor Godwin Emefiele has been thwarted by a federal high court.
An Abuja high court declined to grant the application by the DSS over lack of evidence. The secret service had filed an application marked FHC/ABJ/CS/2255/2022 to arrest and detain Emefiele over allegation that he is involved in terrorism financing and other economic crimes.
But Justice JT Tsoho, the presiding judge, ruled in declining the motion ex parte, that the secret police did not provide any concrete evidence to substantiate its claims that the CBN governor was in any way involved in terrorism financing and economic crimes.
“In the light of the foregoing reasons, I decline to grant this application ex parte. If the applicant believes that the evidence available to it so far is sufficient, then it can as well arrest and detain the applicant, even without the order of the court. If however the applicant desires to still pursue this application, then it should place the respondent on notice considering the sensitive public office that he occupies,” the judge held.
Furthermore, Justice JT Tsoho had declined to approve the application because of the governor’s arrest will have on Nigeria’s economy.
“The honorable judge also wondered why the name of the respondent was given simply as ‘Godwin Emefiele’ without a material disclosure that he is the same person as the CBN governor, a high ranking public official who occupies an extremely sensitive position,” a source quoted by TheCable said.
According to the court, arresting and detaining Emefiele will have grave consequences for Nigeria’s fragile economy given his status. The court added that the DSS’ application should have been sanctioned by the president.
Although the secret service said in its application that the central bank governor has been involved in terrorism financing, many believe that the move to arrest him is political.
A coalition of rights activists, Arewa Youth Consultative Movement and public interest lawyers, operating under the aegis of Coalition of National Interest Defenders, had raised alarm on Monday that there is a plot by the DSS to arrest and detain Emefiele for allegedly financing terrorism.
The coalition said the move has been orchestrated by politicians who are not happy with the new naira redesign and withdrawal policy announced by the CBN. They said the new CBN policy, which makes vote-buying difficult as Nigeria approaches 2023 general elections, has irked many politicians.
But in response, the DSS has issued a statement, warning the public not to allow themselves to be used to undermine its investigations. A statement issued on Monday by Peter Afunanya, the DSS spokesperson, said the service will not succumb to blackmail or be distracted by those seeking to use propaganda to undermine its lawful investigations.
According to the spokesman, the DSS’ sole responsibility is to investigate matters of national security concern in the overall interest of Nigerian citizens.
“As such, the Service will continue to disseminate actionable intelligence to the relevant authorities devoid of any sentiment.
“While professionally discharging its mandate, the DSS pledges to remain focused and unbiased. It will not, by any means, succumb to propaganda, intimidation and the desperation of hirelings to undermine it.
“It will also not give room to the use of falsehood and deceit to misdirect public understanding and perceptions of issues of national importance,” Afunanya said.
However, it is not clear who is telling the truth at this point as both institutions of the government have been repeatedly caught being partisan.
In December last year, the Inter-governmental Action Group on Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), a taskforce set up by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), reported that the terror group, Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) moved a whooping N18 billion annual revenue through the Nigerian financial system to fund its activities.
Based on this report, which earned the Nigerian government criticism as it exposed its failure to track terrorism financing through the Nigerian financial industry, many believe that the central bank governor may actually have a case to answer.