By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Joseph Daudu (SAN), human rights lawyers and a rights advocacy group, the Centre for Social Justice and Accountability (CSJA) on Saturday urged the Federal Government to strictly adhere to the principle of the rule of law, fairness and justice in the handling of the case of the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele.
Many Nigerians are still not sympathetic to the banker’s plight because of the Naira design policy that caused pain, untold hardship and deaths, and the way he was allegedly used as a tool to punish Nigerians. The social media is replete with arguments for and against his detention, with others wondering why he is being made a scapegoat for the sins of former President Muhammadu Buhari and others around him.
One of the prominent Nigerians who complained about Emefiele’s Naira design policy then was President Bola Tinubu, who openly complained that the policy was directed at his political ambition, and not a few see his action of suspending Emefiele as retaliation.
While Daudu expressed optimism that President Bola Tinubu, with his background as a democracy advocate, will not support arbitrariness; Maxwell Opara, Abdulazeez Tijani and Anthony Akpua of the CSJA said the way the Federal Government handles the case will shape the way the international business community and related interests will view the new administration in Nigeria.
Recall that though a court in Abuja ordered Emefiele’s release and nullified his arrest and detention, a change sheet was raised against at a Federal High Court in Lagos by the government.
In a two-count charge marked: FHC/L/437/2023, filed on July 13 at the Federal High Court in Lagos, by the DSS, Emefiele is to be subjected to trial for unlawful possession one single barrel shot gun (Jojeff Magnum 8371) without licence, which is said to constitutes an offence under Section 4 of the Firearms Laws of the Federation 2004 and punishable under Section 27 (1) (b) (i) of the same act.
The suspended CBN Governor is equally accused of having, in his possession, 123 rounds of live ammunition (catridges) without licence, which items were said to have been unlawfully kept at No.3B Iru Close, Ikoyi, Lagos “on or about the 15th June, 2023.”
Emefiele was arrested on June 10, 2023, a day after he was suspended by President Tinubu, and he is still being held in the custody of the DSS.
They spoke on Saturday in reaction to the various court pronouncements on the government’s continued detention of Emefiele and his planned arraignment by the Department of State Services (DSS) on a charge filed before the Federal High Court in Lagos.
Daudu said: “”I do not think that the President, who is a newly minted President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, will like to start his administration with the organizations under him disobeying court orders.
“He (Tinubu) was in the forefront as a NADECO man to chastise military governments for disobeying court orders.
“Now that power is in his hand, we will see whether he himself will obey court orders,” the ex-NBA President said in reaction to Thursday’s judgment by Justice Hamza Muazu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Justice Muazu, who gave the DSS seven days within which to either charge Emefiele to court or release him, noted in the judgment that the alleged offences for which he was being held were bailable because they were not capital in nature, adding that he was not accused of killing anybody.
On his part, Opara noted that from his experience, the DSS was creating the impression that it is above the law of the country.
He said he was not surprised about how the Emefiele’s case was being handled by DSS, “because the secret police has made disrespect to rule of law part of its life.
“Talking about the rule of law or tendering court’s judgment before the DSS irritates the management of the agency,” he said and urged the President to ovehaul the agency.
Tijani said President Tinubu must prove and establish that he is a true democrat and not a semi- democrat like some of his predecessors.
He argued that Emefiele was not charged to court for known criminal offences within the time allowed by law.
“For more than four months, the DSS had sought to arrest Emefiele. Between that time and now, it ought to have completed its investigation. DSS cannot hide under Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 to hold a Nigerian citizen till eternity because ACJA is inferior to the 1999 Constitution,” he said.
“The 1999 is so specific and categorical on how long a Nigerian citizen should be held. It gave maximum of 48 hours. That is the Supreme Law on the fundermrntal rights of the citizens and must be obeyed to the letter.
“That aspect of the Constitution does not permit and arm the security agency to hold a Nigerian citizen down and unlawfully begin to fish for evidence, as in the instant matter, to charge him to court. That is not our law”, he said.
Tijani urged President Tinubu to take steps and establish that he is not taking side with any security agency that is disrespecting the rule of law.
“Tinubu, as a true democrat, who had used the larger part of his life to fight for human rights, must use his new position to compel institutions, especially security agencies, to operate within the ambit of law.
“Arbitrariness must be eradicated. It is safer to respect the rule of law and use the instrument of law to checkmate criminality without breaching the rule of law.
“Emefiele’s case will be a big test to President Tinubu in his avowed commitment to the rule of law. Emefiele’s rights must be respected until the law court says otherwise,” Tijani said.
Akpua noted that the whole world is watching the way the Federal Government was handling the Emefiele case, with its capacity to shape the way the country is viewed by international investors in the area of respect of the rule of law.
Emefiele was arrested on June 10, 2023, a day after he was suspended by President Tinubu, and he is still being held in the custody of the DSS