Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, says the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, has not returned to the country following allegations of terrorism financing levelled against him by the Department of State Services (DSS).
“I can say without any fear of contradiction that Mr Godwin Emefiele is not in Nigeria; he hasn’t returned to the country because he has been declared wanted by the state security services,” Falana said.
“If you have the evidence that he has committed the offence alleged, you don’t need a court order to arrest him and that is the law. And by the way, no court in Nigeria or anyway has the power to confer immunity on any citizen… If you are not one of the 74 people who are entitled to immunity in Nigeria; that is the President, the Vice President, the governors, and deputy governors, no other person can enjoy immunity.
“So, you can’t say don’t arrest a citizen if there is reasonable suspicion that he has committed an offence. So, I expect the State Security Service to come out with the allegations, and if Mr Emefiele is not going to return to the country, file a charge in the Federal High Court so that he can get his lawyers, and prepare his defence.
The secret police had approached an Abuja court to arrest Emefiele over alleged terrorism financing and economic crimes of national security but Justice Maryam Hassan of the Federal Capital Territory High Court Abuja quashed the move by the DSS.
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.
However, Falana on Sunday said the DSS does not need a court order to arrest the CBN governor if the Service has concrete evidence against him. He urged the DSS to proceed to arrest Emefiele upon his arrival in Nigeria, noting that the apex bank governor is not one of those constitutionally entitled to immunity in Nigeria.
Falana described as embarrassing the allegations against Emefiele by the DSS, saying this can only happen in a Banana Republic where the governor of the apex bank would be accused of a grave offence of terrorism financing.
“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, and his passport was seized,” Falana said.
The senior lawyer said Sanusi won the case and the court awarded N50m compensation in favour of Sanusi.
Falana stressed that the allegation of terrorism financing against Emefiele should not be dismissed.