The High Court in Abuja has granted bail to former Central Bank governor Godwin Emefiele after he spent nearly five months (151 days) in custody. The presiding judge, Olukayode Adeniyi, strongly criticised security agencies, emphasising the urgent need to put an end to detention without trial, a practice that has raised concerns among legal experts and human rights advocates.
Dr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani, former chairman of the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), provided insight into the situation during an interview with Arise News on Thursday. He revealed that Emefiele was initially arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) during Tinubu’s administration. Following public outcry, Emefiele was charged, and his lawyers applied for bail, which was granted by the court. However, the DSS rearrested him, leading to widespread speculation about the motives behind his prolonged detention.
Ubani expressed his concerns about the misuse of power by security agencies, highlighting the fundamental principle in criminal jurisprudence: the presumption of innocence until proven guilty stating, “It is better for nine persons who are criminally liable to go free than for one innocent person to be wrongly convicted.” He stressed that security agencies must gather sufficient evidence before accusing individuals of crimes, as violating this principle undermines the constitution and the rule of law.
Regarding the role of lawyers within security agencies in such cases, Ubani pointed out the challenges faced within state institutions. He noted that while some lawyers within these institutions may offer correct legal advice, their influence is often limited by leaders who do not heed their counsel, “Most of the time, some lawyers work in such conditions because they have no other job options, and they fear losing their current positions…However, if you have a leader who is receptive to listening, then your situation becomes more manageable. Unfortunately, more often than not, they are unwilling to listen.” Additionally, he acknowledged the presence of mischievous lawyers who might not provide accurate legal guidance.
Ubani expressed hope that President Tinubu’s government, equipped with a knowledgeable Attorney General, would prioritise respect for the rule of law and fundamental human rights. He emphasised, “We believe that the government will do the right thing in getting those who are criminals to be prosecuted and sent to correctional centres… But it must be done within the bounds of law.”
The case of Godwin Emefiele highlights the pressing need for reforms within the country’s legal and law enforcement systems, ensuring that the rights of individuals are protected, and justice is served in a fair and transparent manner.