Agbakoba, Ozekhome condemn Emefiele’s arrest

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Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, speaks at the Nigeria Capital Markets and Banking Forum. Chris J Ratcliffe / Bloomberg

A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has expressed deep shock at the arrest of the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele.

Agbakoba stressed that the job of the DSS is to ensure internal security.

According to him: “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.

Also, a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr. Mike Ozekhome condemned the arrest, describing it as illegal, unconstitutional and wrongful.

Ozekhome said Bola Tinubu 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.

“We urge 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.”