Six Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), including a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Adetokunbo Kayode, have warned the federal government against planned moves by the Department of State Service (DSS) to arrest and frame the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele on terrorism charges in flagrant disobedience of order of court.
Equally speaking on the issue, was human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), who described the allegations against Emefiele by the DSS as embarrassing, adding that it can only happen in a Banana Republic.
The Department of State Services (DSS) had secretly approached a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja to arrest Emefiele over alleged terrorism financing and economic crimes of national security,
But Justice Maryam Hassan quashed the move.
The judge thereafter barred the DSS from arresting, inviting, or detaining Emefiele declaring the terrorism allegations against the CBN governor by the DSS as vindictive, callous, oppressive, void and of no effect.
But the senior lawyers in a letter to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, condemned the planned arrest of the CBN, stating that anything done without regard to the rule of law would affect negatively Nigeria’s image internationally, as well as the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Besides Kayode, who doubles as a former Minister of Defence, the other SANs who signed the letter dated January 6, 2023, are Oba Maduabuchi, Emeka Ozoani, M.M Nurudeen, Abdul Mohammed, and Dr. Emeka Obegolu.
A copy of the letter received by the office of the AGF on January 11, which was sighted by THISDAY, was titled: ‘Emefiele: Let the Rule of Law Prevail.’
The SANs claimed that they have observed moves by the DSS to still proceed, sidetrack and disobey the court decisions and unduly and unlawfully interfere with Emefiele’s fundamental rights.
They therefore urged the Attorney General of the Federation to use his good offices to guarantee and ensure that the government, especially the security agencies, observe the rule of law as a foundation of a democratic society by complying with court decisions.
The letter read in part, “We are pleased to present our respect and best wishes to you. We are certain that you have followed with keen interest the events of the last few weeks which climaxed with the dismissal by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of the application of the DSS to arrest and detain the Governor of the CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, under the terrorism finance laws, etc., pursuant to unsubstantiated allegations of terrorism financing and other economic crimes with national security implications. We also note the judgment of the High Court of the FCT, coram Hassan J., which in the main, pronounced on and validated the fundamental rights of Mr. Godwin Emefiele. In spite of these two categorical judicial decisions, we observe moves to still proceed and sidetrack and disobey the court decisions and unduly and unlawfully interfere with Mr. Emefiele’s fundamental rights.
”In the circumstance, we wish to urge the Hon AGF to use his good offices to guarantee and ensure that the government, especially the security agencies, observe the rule of law as a foundation of a democratic society by complying with court decisions. The court, as the last hope of the citizen, has made a pronouncement on the legal rights and obligations of citizen Godwin Emefiele, it behoves on all agencies of government to obey the order of the court, until such order is set aside by an appellate court.
”The constitutional role of the judiciary as the third arm of government includes to serve as a bulwark against oppression and intimidation. The judiciary remains available to both the government and the citizens, in the ventilation of perceived grievances. Consequently, we respectfully urge the Hon. Attorney General, as Chief Law Officer of the Federation, to ensure adherence to the rule of law and advise the security agencies, especially the DSS to comply with the order of the court and not do anything that will cast this government in a very negative light in this circumstance. This is very important as it will signal to Nigerians and the international community that the government is committed to the rule of law as we proceed into this transition era.”
Also, Falana described the allegations against Emefiele by the DSS as embarrassing, saying it can only happen in a Banana Republic where the governor of the apex bank would be accused of a grave offence of terrorism financing.
Falana, who spoke during a live television programme in Lagos, wondered if the federal government had considered the enormous implication of the effect of arresting a central bank governor on the economy.
He said he was surprised that President Muhammadu Buhari has not intervened in the matter by calling the DSS to order.
“Has the government considered the enormous implication of the effect of a wanted governor of the central bank on the economy?
“I am completely flabbergasted that the President of the country has not intervened; either to call the state security to order or to call Mr. Emefiele to return to the country or be fired,” the senior lawyer said.
He recalled that Emefiele’s predecessor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was also accused of terrorism financing in 2014 but won the case.“These guys play on our collective intelligence because they know we are very forgetful. In 2014, his (Emefiele’s) immediate predecessor, former Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was equally accused of terrorism financing.
“In the same way, he (Sanusi) also travelled out of the country to attend a meeting with the governors of the central banks of West Africa in Niamey, Niger Republic.
“As soon as he landed in Lagos, he was arrested, his passport was seized,” Falana said.
The senior lawyer said Sanusi won the case and the court awarded 50 million compensation in favour of Sanusi