A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joseph Daudu, says the case of the suspended and detained Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, will serve as test of President Bola Tinubu’s respect for the rule of law.
Daudu, who is counsel for Emefiele, stated this on Thursday, shortly after the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja gave the Department of State Services a seven-day ultimatum to either release Emefiele, who has been in detention since June 10, or arraign him in court if they have a case against him.
Justice Hamza Muazu gave the order while ruling on a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by Emefiele, through Daudu, to challenge his arrest and continued detention by the DSS.
Justice Muazu held that though the DSS has constitutional power to arrest, detain and prevent internal crime, the power must be exercised within the ambit of the law.
Consequently, the judge held that the continued detention of Emefiele by the secret police without trial amounted to a gross violation of his fundamental human rights.
“Detention, no matter how small, can amount to a breach of fundamental rights,” the judge said.
He said since the allegations against Emefiele were bailable offences, the DSS ought to have granted him administrative bail, pending his prosecution.
However, the court dismissed Daudu’s argument that Emefiele’s detention was illegal, noting that the detention was backed by a lawful order of a magistrate’s court.
The judge said there was evidence before the court that there was an order from an Abuja Chief Magistrates’ Court that granting permission to the DSS to detain Emefiele for 14 days to enable it to conclude its investigations.
Justice Muazu said, “Though I am in sympathy with the applicant, my sentiment will not go far to deliver judgment by granting all the reliefs sought by the applicant.
“The applicant has not shown that his arrest, detention and investigation were unlawful.
“However, I am concerned that the application is not without merit. The applicant is entitled to a fair hearing.
“At this point, the continued detention of the applicant cannot be justified in the absence of any charge against him.
“At the very least, justice demands that the applicant should be released on administrative bail.
“Consequently, I hereby make an order, directing the respondents to, within one week, charge the applicant to court or release him on administrative bail,” the judge held.
Addressing journalists after the proceedings, Emefiele’s lawyer lauded the court for its courageous pronouncement.
He added that he expected the DSS to obey the order, calling on the President to demonstrate to Nigerians that under his watch, government agencies would not be disobedient to lawful court orders.
Daudu said, “Seven days has been given to the DSS to either charge him (Emefiele) to court or release him on administrative bail.
“We expect him to be released on administrative bail today (Thursday) as we speak in obedience to the court order.
“I don’t think that the President would like to start his administration with organisations under him disobeying court orders.
“He was at the forefront to chastise the military government for disobeying court orders. Now, power is in his hands, we will see if he will obey court orders.”
Meanwhile, the DSS has said the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, had been charged to court.
Reacting in a statement by its spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, the DSS said it had in 2022 applied for a court order to detain Emefiele but he got another order stopping the DSS from arresting him.
Afunanya explained that the suspended CBN governor was arrested for “criminal infractions” for which he was being prosecuted for.
The statement read, “The Department of State Services hereby confirms that Mr Godwin Emefiele has been charged to court in compliance with the Order.
“The public may recall that the Service had, in 2022, applied for a Court Order to detain him in respect of a criminal investigation. Though he obtained a restraining order from an FCT High Court, the Service, however, arrested him in June 2023. This was on the strength of suspected fresh criminal infractions/information, one of which forms the basis for his current prosecution.”
“The Service assures the public of professionalism, justice, and fairness in handling this matter and indeed the discharge of its duties within the confines of the law. “