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Court remands Emefiele in EFCC custody as ex-CBN Gov pleads not guilty to $4.5 bn, N2.8bn alleged fraud

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ARINZE NWAFOR, Lagos

 

Former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele has pleaded not guilty to a 23-count charge bordering on abuse of office and fraud to the tune of $4.5 billion and N2.8 billion brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The EFCC arraigned Emefiele alongside a second defendant, Henry Omoile on April 8 before Justice Rahman Oshodi of a  Lagos State Special Offences Court for alleged abuse of office.

The prosecution, led by Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, informed the court that the EFCC brought amended charges against the first defendant.

The charges brought against Emefiele bordered on abuse of office during his time as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, accepting gratification, accepting gifts through agents, corruption, and fraudulent property receipt.

The EFCC also alleged that Emefiele conferred corrupt advantage on his associates contrary to the Corrupt Practices Act of 2000.

In one of the counts, the EFCC alleged that Emefiele committed an abuse of office between 2022 and 2023, in Lagos, an offence punishable under Section 73 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.

The commission also alleged that Emefiele acted arbitrarily and in prejudice to the rights of Nigerians by directing an allocation of foreign exchange in the aggregate sum of $2.2 billion without bids.

In another count, the commission alleged that Emefiele abused his office by allocating foreign exchange in the aggregate sum of $291 million without bids.

The EFCC brought a three-count charge against the second defendant, Omoile.

The commission alleged that Omiole acted as an agent and accepted a total sum of $110,000 from one Raja Punjab through one Monday Osazuwa, as gifts for the former CBN governor who allocated foreign exchange by the Central Bank of Nigeria in favour of Raja Punjab’s employer.

The first defendant, Emefiele and the second defendant, Omiole, pleaded not guilty to all the charges proffered against them.

The EFCC prosecutor, Buhari, asked for a trial date and for the matter to be attended with dispatch.

Oyedepo said he wanted to call about 6 people from the 33 witnesses the EFCC had listed in the matter.

He also requested the court to allow for a closed session during testimony and protection for some of the scared witnesses.

The defence led by Abdulhakeem Labi-Lawal, informed the court of a bail application for the first defendant that he filed and is before the court.

Labi-Lawal told the court that the first defendant is seeking bail based on self-recognizance and as an alternative, seeks bail on liberal terms.

The defence counsel gave reasons for the first defendant’s application for bail and said, “It [charge against Emefiele] is a bailable offence and not a capital offence.

“There is no evidence that the first defendant has a criminal record,” Labi-Lawal added.

The Judge, Oshodi, told the defence counsel that his reasons were all traditional reasons for bail application and demanded a unique case for the granting of the first defendant’s bail application.

In response, Labi-Lawal touted the behaviour of his client as having been good and that Emefiele has been punctual and never missed a court proceeding since his arrest on June 9, 2023.

The defence counsel also told the court that the first defendant needs to be on bail to present himself in court as he is on trial before Justice Hamza Muazu of the Federal Capital Territory High Court.

The prosecutor, Oyedepo, did not contest the bail application but asked the court to use its discretion.

Oshodi adjourned the matter to April 11, 2024, for ruling on the first defendant’s bail application and commencement of trial.

He ordered that Emefiele be remanded in EFCC custody and that the second defendant be returned to the Ikoyi Custodial Centre from where he was produced.

 

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