Femi Falana, a Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist, has condemned in clear terms the public humiliation meted on the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, by the Department of the State Security Service. His opinion on the issue of a likely arrest of the head of the country’s apex bank was aired during his guest appearance on Channels TV’s Sunday Politics programme.
Falana was disgusted about the manner in which an agency of the Federal Government was conducting its business. He pointed out a similar situation that Emefiele’s predecessor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, experienced in 2014, where the same terrorism financing charge was levelled against him, a case that Sanusi won in court and was awarded reparation in the sum of N50 million.
Apparently, since the governor of the CBN stayed back in the USA to perhaps attend to his health, the DSS approached the Federal High Court in Abuja to grant permission for his arrest, an arrest that is based, according to the suit, on terrorism financing and other charges.
“I can say without any fear of contradiction that Mr. Godwin Emefiele is not in Nigeria. He hasn’t returned to the country because he has been quietly declared wanted by the Department of State Security Service,” Falana said. “Again, this can only happen in a banana republic, where the governor of the central bank of a country would be accused of a grave offence of terrorism financing. The details are not stipulated; the details are not outlined, and again, these guys play on our collective intelligence because they know that we are very forgetful.”
He went on to make reference to the exact template used in the case of Emefiele’s predecessor when the DSS hatched a plan to use terrorism financing as a reason to want to arrest him. “In 2014, his immediate predecessor, the former Emir of Kano, was equally accused of financing terrorism. In fact, in the same way, he also travelled out of the country to attend the meeting of the governors of the central banks in Niamey, Niger Republic.
“As soon as he landed in Lagos, he was arrested; his passport was seized. He challenged the government at the Federal High Court, and lo and behold, in the counter affidavit filed by the Department of State Security Service, it was alleged that he was being investigated for terrorism financing. He won the case according to the presiding justice, Mohammed Buba,” he added.
He accused the DSS of using a Gestapo approach of terrorism financing to divert justice. “The allegation of terrorism financing was an afterthought designed to divert the course of justice,” he explained further. “The court dismissed the allegation and upheld the decisions of the lawyers of Sanisu Lamido Sanisu. Incidentally, the team was clever; under the leadership of the current vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), the court awarded the sum of N50 million in reparation in favour of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. That was the end of the allegation.”
He condemned the approach of the DSS, saying that no country in the world treats the head of its central bank in such a manner, especially considering the implication its removal can have on the country.
“There is no country in the world, no modern state, where the governor of a central bank will be sent packing so ingloriously, chased out of the country,” he said.
“Has the government considered the enormous implications of the effects of a wanted governor of a central bank on the economy?” he asked.
“And I think the Federal High Court made a point in the case filed by the DSS against Mr. Godwin Emefiele, while the court struck out the case. You can’t ask me to give you an order to arrest a citizen. If you have evidence that he has committed the offence alleged, you don’t need a court order to arrest him, and that is the law. And by the way, no court in Nigeria or anywhere else can confer immunity on any citizen. If you are not one of the 74 people who are entitled to immunity in Nigeria, namely the president, the vice president, the governors, and the deputy governors, no other person can enjoy immunity.
“So you can say you can arrest a person if there is reasonable suspicion that he has committed an offense. So I expect the State Security Service to come out with the allegations, and if Mr. Emefiele is not going to return to the country, file a charge in the Federal High Court so that he can get his lawyers and prepare his defence,” he advised.
“The government must not engage in cheap blackmail. I am flabbergasted that the president of the country has not intervened, neither to call DSS to order nor to order Mr. Emefiele to return to the country or be fired. But we cannot go on like this as if we are operating in a banana republic. It’s so embarrassing.”