Emefiele’s arraignment in alleged N6.9 billion fraud stalled as FG withdraws arm charge

The planned arraignment of Godwin Emefiele, the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on charges of procurement of N6.9 billion procurement fraud at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja on Thursday, has been postponed.

The postponement followed the absence of the second accused Sa’adatu Ramalan-Yaro in court. She was alleged to be absent from court because of ill health. The other accused is April 1616 Investment Limited, Ramalan-Yaro’s company. Mrs Ramalan-Yaro is a staff of CBN.

When the case involving 20 counts of conspiracy and procurement fraud came up before Justice Hamzat Muazu, of the Maitama Division of the FCT High Court, and Emefiele mounted the defendant’s box, Mohammed Abubakar, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), informed the court that Mrs Ramallan-Yaro “is indisposed to be in court”. He said he was informed of the woman’s condition Thursday morning.

Abubakar asked for an adjournment to enable the prosecution to present the defendants for arraignment.

Akinlolu Kehinde, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Emefiele’s lawyer, then requested to have a brief audience with Emefiele, which was not opposed by the DPP.

“I must commend the DPP for his professional handling of this matter so far,” Mr Kehinde told the judge.

Abdulhakeem Labi-Lawal, Ramalan-Yaro’s lawyer, also consented to the request for an adjournment as he informed the court of a pending bail application for Ramalan-Yaro.

Justice Muazu said the bail application would be taken after the defendant’s arraignment.

The court adjourned the suit until 23 August for arraignment.

The 20-count charges alleged that Mr Emefiele conferred corrupt advantages on Ramalan-Yaro, using her company, April 1616 Investment Limited in the award of contracts to the company for the supply of about 100 posh vehicles and armoured buses worth about N6.9 billion. The alleged corrupt transactions took place between 2018 and 2020, according to the charges.

President Bola Tinubu suspended Mr Emefiele as the CBN governor on 9 June. The next day, 10 June, the SSS picked him up in Lagos and flew him to its headquarters in Abuja for interrogation. He has since remained in SSS custody. His co-defendant in the fresh case, Mrs Ramalan-Yaro, who was arrested alongside her husband, Aminu Yaro, on 12 July, is also still in custody.

Meanwhile, a Federal High Court in Lagos has struck out the two-court charge of “illegal possession” of firearms and live ammunition against Emefiele.

This followed the application on Tuesday by Mohammed Abubakar, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) of the Ministry of Justice, to withdraw the case. Abubakar relied on Section 108 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.

However, Joseph Daodu, Emefiele’s lead Counsel, argued that the prosecution could not withdraw the charge unless the government first purges itself of its disobedience to the court’s July 25 order granting Emefiele N20 million bail.

The presiding judge, Justice Nicholas Oweibo who later dismissed the case for lack of diligent prosecution, condemned the government’s conduct in the case.

“The conduct of the prosecution has shown that it doesn’t respect the rule of law.

“Of what benefit will it be to keep the file in the court’s docket when the prosecution has shown disrespect to the court?

“Accordingly this charge is hereby struck out for lack of diligent prosecution.”

Earlier on July 25 at the arraignment of Emefiele on the firearms charges, Oweibo had granted him N20m bail and ordered his remand at the Ikoyi Correctional Centre, pending the fulfilment of his bail conditions. But the DSS rearrested the bank chief after fighting off NCoS officials on the court’s premises.

Following proceedings on August 10, the court fixed Tuesday last week to hear two pending applications filed by either party.

The first application – filed by the Ministry of Justice on August 3 – sought leave to appeal against the N20m bail.

The second – filed by Emefiele on August 8 – asked the court to stop the Federal Government from further prosecuting him on the charge of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition or any other charge.

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