DSS arrests ousted CBN Governor, Emefiele

DSS arrests ousted CBN Governor, Emefiele

Kingsley Nwezeh, Sunday Aborisade, Gabriel Emameh in Abuja and Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

Condemnations have trailed yesterday’s arrest of the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, by the Department of State Services (DSS), despite a subsisting court order issued in December 2022 by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) barring his arrest.
Following the suspension of Emefiele on Friday by President Bola Tinubu, the DSS yesterday took him into custody.

Reacting to the arrest, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), expressed deep shock at the arrest, stressing that the job of the DSS is to ensure internal security.

“The suspension of the Governor of the CBN from office is not a surprise as his action was way beyond monetary policy. But confirmation by DSS that Governor Emefiele is in its custody comes as a shock. The statutory role of DSS is internal security and I shudder to think what role DSS will play in this matter. The rule of law says it all- can the relevant agency responsible for Governor Emefiele step forward but this excludes the DSS, unless this has security implications,” Agbakoba said.

On his part, a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr. Mike Ozekhome, also condemned the arrest, describing it as illegal, unconstitutional and wrongful.
According to him, the president has overall superintendency over the CBN in terms of its governance, coinage and minting of new currency.
He also added that the president has the power to suspend the apex bank governor.

“But he has no power to order the arrest of Emefiele or any Nigerian citizen just like that. Such arrest must conform to the laws of the land. For instance, there must be an arrest warrant issued directly by a competent court of law.
“The president cannot simply because he is president whimsically, arbitrarily, and capriciously order Emefiele’s arrest and detention.
“Such will be illegal, unconstitutional, wrongful, unlawful, null, void and of no effect whatsoever,” Ozekhome explained.

In their reaction, lawyers under the aegis of United Lawyers for Rule of Law Defence, expressed outrage over what they described as the midnight siege on the Lagos residence of Emefiele, and his arrest by the DSS, describing the development as undemocratic.
In a press statement issued yesterday by their leader, Mr. Obe Albert, the lawyers argued that arresting Emefiele despite a subsisting court order barring his arrest was against the norms of the rule of law.

They subsequently called for his release out of respect for the court and the rule of law.
The statement read: “A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, in December 2022, barred the DSS and the Inspector General of Police from arresting and detaining the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, over allegations of terrorism and sundry offences against him.
“Also restrained by the court order are the Attorney General of the Federation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria, who were listed as the first, second and fifth defendants.

“Justice M. A. Hassan made the order while delivering judgment in a suit marked GAR/CV/41/2022, filed by the Incorporated Trustees of the Forum for Accountability and Good Leadership.
“In the suit filed on December 19, 2022, the applicant, among other reliefs, prayed the court for a declaration that the continuous harassments, intimidation, threats, restriction of free movement, abuse of the right of office, surreptitious moves to arrest, and humiliation of Emefiele by the respondents are vindictive, unwarranted and abrasive.

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“We urge President Tinubu to immediately call the DSS to order based on this subsisting court judgment.
“We believe strongly that Emefiele’s arrest has put a question mark on the rule of law mantra of the President.
 “It is too early in the day for this administration to begin to disobey court orders. We, therefore, call for Emefiele’s immediate release.”
Ohanaeze Ndigbo has also described the suspension of Emefiele, as a witch-hunt and a sign of ethnic cleansing.

The group stated this in a statement made available to journalists by the Director of National interest matters, Chima Uzor.
The organisation observed that Emefiele’s suspension did not follow due process.
“To say the least, this suspension is without due process and the arrest despite a court order against DSS from arresting him is provocative and well-meaning Nigerians must resist it and ensure that it does not stand,” he added.

“We view the development as clearly part of the new administration’s scheme of ethnic cleansing of the Igbos from public offices.
“This is nothing but a witch hunting directed at the Igbos for no other reason other than they dared to oppose the new administration in the last general elections.
“We are therefore asking President Bola Tinubu to beware of starting his administration with actions capable of driving an already shaking nation into chaos,” Ohanaeze said.

The Labour Party (LP) has also described Emefiele’s suspension as vindictive and unconstitutional.
Acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, Obiora Ifoh, said in a statement in Abuja yesterday that the party was disturbed by the decision of President Tinubu to suspend the CBN governor “albeit unconstitutionally without seeking the permission of the National Assembly and we insist that the action was not in good taste and sounds punitive.

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“Drawing inspiration from what Femi Gbajabiamila, then Minority Leader, had said years ago (as quoted above) over a similar situation when President Goodluck Jonathan sacked former CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, wherein he questioned the powers of the President in sacking the CBN Governor.
“The opposition leader made it clear that the President lacks powers under the laws of the land to sack the CBN boss. One wonders what has changed between that time and now.

“Femi Gbajabiamila is the current Speaker of the House of Representatives and also holds the enviable portfolio as the Chief of Staff to President Tinubu.
“He had then argued that the law requires the President to seek the approval of two-thirds of the Senate to be able to sack the CBN Governor.
“But under Gbajabiamila’s watch, Emefiele was fired in a most unconstitutional and vindictive manner,” LP added.

“It is only in Nigeria that we find people that approbate and reprobate at the same time. People say one thing from one side of their mouth and another from the other side, especially when it favours them politically and otherwise,” LP said.
The party argued that “If indeed, there is any government agency that should be investigated with this utmost urgency, should it not be the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.”

On its part, a non-governmental organisation under the aegis of Niger Delta Rights Advocates (NDRA), has faulted Emefiele’s arrest.
The group led by its National Coordinator, Bright Ngolo, said the alleged arrest was an infraction on the rights of the CBN governor.
Speaking with journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday, the NDRA coordinator called on all government agencies to respect the rule of law and stop harassing Emefiele.

Ngolo argued that Emefiele could be invited for questioning at any time since no Nigerian is above the law.
“However, we are also concerned with the fact that there is a judgment by a competent court in suit no GAR/CV/41/2022 instituted by the Incorporated Trustees of the Forum for Accountability and Good Leadership wherein Justice M.A. Hassan barred the DSS, Attorney General of the Federation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria, who are listed as 1st, 2bd and 5th defendants from arresting Godwin Emefiele.

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“Our call for the authorities to respect the rule of law by challenging and setting aside Justice Hassan’s judgment has nothing to do with the propriety or otherwise of his removal from office as CBN Governor.”
THISDAY had reported that Emefiele, who was suspended by President Tinubu, was calm at home on Friday reviewing his handover notes, contrary to some reports claiming that he was arrested on Friday.

In an earlier tweet yesterday, DSS had clarified that the suspended CBN boss was not in its custody.
“Currently, Emefiele is not with the DSS,” the spokesman of the agency, Dr. Peter Afunanya, tweeted.
However, Afunanya later issued a statement saying that Emefiele was under investigation and in the custody of the agency.
“The Department of State Services (DSS) hereby confirms that Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is now in its custody for some investigative reasons.

“The public, particularly the media, is enjoined to apply utmost caution in the reportage and narratives concerning this,” it said.
THISDAY gathered that Emefelie was arrested by DSS operatives in Lagos and flown to the Murtala Muhammed Airport and flown to Abuja.
Ahead of the 2023 general election, Tinubu, who was then the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), had alleged that the naira redesign project and the cash withdrawal limits introduced by the Emefiele last October were introduced to derail his presidential bid.
But the CBN had responded then that the redesigning of the N1000, N500 and N200 banknotes was not targeted at any politician or political parties, but in the interest of the nation.

The Director of Finance at CBN, Benjamin Fakunle, had explained: “Let me put it on record that we are not targeting anybody. The last time that Nigeria redesigned notes was more than nine years ago and this is something that we normally do in a period of between five and seven years; so, nobody is being targeted.”

DSS had approached a Federal High Court in Abuja seeking a warrant to arrest him.
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice J.T Tsoho, however, refused to grant the application of the DSS on the grounds that it did not provide any concrete evidence to substantiate its claims.

The court said such an application should have been accompanied by presidential approval because of the grave implications for the Nigerian economy if the CBN governor is arrested and detained.


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