Justice M. A. Hassan of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has restrained the State Security Service (SSS) also known as the Department of State Services (DSS) and four others from arresting or detaining the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele over alleged trumped up charges bordering on terrorism financing.
Justice Hassan made the order on Thursday, while delivering judgment in a suit marked FCT/HC/CV/GAR/41/2022, filed by the Incorporated Trustees of Forum for Accountability and Good Leadership.
The judge held that the DSS, “acted wrongfully and illegally in instigating President Muhammadu Buhari against Mr. Godwin Emefiele in respect of the exercise of his statutory duty relating to the issuance of monetary policies and directives in the interest of the National Security and economy.”
Justice Hassan further declared that in view of the ruling of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho in SSS Vs Mr. Godwin Emefiele in suit no FHC/ ABJ/CS/ 2255/2022 delivered on December 15, 2022, any continuous harassment, intimidation, threats, restriction and free movement, abuse of right of office, surreptitious moves to arrest, and humiliation of Mr. Godwin Emefiele over trumped up allegations of terrorism financing and fraudulent practices etc, by the 2nd, 3rd and 4th respondents and their offices were “vindictive, unwarranted, abrasive, oppressive and same constitute a flagrant breach of his rights to personal liberty, dignity and human person and illegal and unconstitutional.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 2nd, 3rd and 4th respondents, their agents, servants and all officers under their command from instigating the arrest or arresting, interrogating and detaining Mr. Godwin Emefiele in respect of any matter or policy decision on the economy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or any connected purposes.”
Before Thursday judgment, Justice Hassan had on December 23, granted an ex parte application restraining the defendants from arresting and detaining the CBN governor.
The application with motion number: GAR/M/92/2022 had the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Inspector General ( IG) of Police, State Security Service (SSS) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as 1st, 2nd, 3rd,4th and 5th respondents respectively.
The court in its ruling agreed with applicant’s lawyer, Mr. Emeka Ozoani, SAN, that the continued harassment of Emefiele over trumped up allegations of terrorism and sundry offenses was illegal and constitutes a breach of his fundamental rights, rules of African charter, Constitution amongst others.
It subsequently issued a restraining order against the 4th respondent (SSS) particularly, from any continued harassment, arrest etc over any trumped up allegations, unless an order of a superior court is first obtained.
The Court held that Exhibit A, submitted by the SSS which was the Affidavit also submitted to Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, did not substantiate or provide any material fact of terrorism, adding that the SSS acts are obvious attempts to interfere with the rights of Emefiele.
The court aligned with the 5th respondent’s position that there was a process for the removal of a CBN Governor, noting that the continued harassment and interference by the 4th respondent particularly was embarrassing in the light of statutory provisions.
In an affidavit in response to the ex parte, the EFCC stated that it has no case against the governor and that Emefiele was not under its investigation.
The anti-graft agency accordingly asked that they be discharged from the matter being unnecessary parties.
However, the court held that obviously, all other respondents except the SSS were nominal parties as no case was really made against them.
Although, the judge held that the applicant had shown sufficient locus standi to initiate the suit in line with the Fundamental Human Right Rules, Justice Hassan stated that it would not award damages as the suit was not taken out by Emefiele himself.
“Upon hearing Emeka Ozoani, SAN, of counsel for the applicant move in terms of the motion.
“The application is granted as follows. It is hereby ordered: That the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants / respondents are hereby restrained in the interim, whether by themselves, their officers, agents, servants, privies or acting through any person or persons howsoever, from inviting, arresting and / or detaining the Governor of Central Bank, Mr. Emefiele with particular allegations of acts of terrorism financing, fraudulent activities, or in any other manner whatsoever that may interfere with his right to freedom of movement, personal liberty, human dignity or in any way interfere with the performance and discharge of his Official functions and duties as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice,” the judge held.
While refusing to make an order setting down the substantive Originating Summons for hearing and determination on a day-to-day basis until the final determination of the suit, Justice Hassan, however granted request for an accelerated hearing.
“That the time within which the respondents are to file counter affidavit to the motion on notice and the substantive Originating Summons is hereby abridged to two days.
“That the applicant time is hereby abridged to one day within which the applicant shall file further affidavit to the respondents”, the court ruled.
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho had on December 9, declined to grant the request of the DSS seeking to arrest, detained and interrogate Emefiele over alleged financing of terrorism.
Justice Tsoho had turned down the request of the security agency on the grounds that it failed to provide evidence of the allegations against the CBN governor.
It was learnt that there were jubilations among workers at the headquarters of the central bank and the banking industry generally when the news of the judgment became public knowledge.
Similarly, human rights lawyers hailed the judgment. They described it as victory for the protection of human rights and the rule of law. They urged the DSS to obey the judgment without further delay.
Alex Enumah and Sunday Aborisade in Abuja