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DSS charges Emefiele with illegal possession of firearms, ammunition

The Nigerian government has charged the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

 

The case consisting of two counts of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition was filed against Mr Emefiele at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Premium Times reports.

 

A copy of the charges shared on the television’s website showed the case was filed on Thursday (13 July), the same day a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja gave the Department of State Security (DSS) one-week ultimatum to either charge him in court or release him.

 

The DSS had held Mr Emefiele, who was arrested on 10 June, for over a month without charge until Thursday’s ruling.

 

In the newly filed case, the agency accused Mr Emefiele of possessing a single-barrel shotgun (JOJEFF MAGNUM 8371) without a licence; an offence said to be contrary to Section 4 of the Firearms Act, and punishable under Section 27 (1b) of the same Act.

 

In the second count, the DSS charged him with illegally possessing 23 rounds of live ammunition (cartridges) without a licence. The offence is also said to be contrary to Section 8 of the Firearms and punishable under Section 27 (1)(b)(il) of the same Act.

 

The case has not been assigned to a judge.

 

Federal High Court Headquarters, Abuja

Illegal possession of firearms vs terrorism financing

 

The charge is a downgrade of much weightier allegations of terrorism financing and economic sabotage the SSS earlier levelled against the suspended CBN governor.

 

In a desperate move to obtain an order for his arrest, the DSS had stated on oath in December 2022 that Mr Emefiele was sponsoring the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

 

In a slew of weighty allegations, the SSS accused him of sabotaging President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, financing terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorism, and committing other economic crimes to undermine Nigeria’s national security.

 

The agency also accused Mr Emefiele of mismanaging the CBN subsidiary, NISRAL, and the central bank’s Anchor Borrowers Programme.

 

The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, John Tsoho, who heard the SSS’ application for an arrest order against Mr Emefiele, had dismissed the request on the grounds of improper procedure.

 

The agency took no further action until after Mr Emefiele was suspended on 9 June by the new President, Bola Tinubu.

 

The SSS filed the lighter charges after over one month of holding Mr Emefiele in custody. But it is unclear if the agency plans to file additional charges against him.

 

Lawyer criticises DSS

A human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, is among Nigerians disappointed by SSS’s charges.

 

Mr Effiong said the allegation of illegal firearms possession “is a crime for the police.”

 

“The DSS is essentially a political tool in the hands of every occupant of Aso Rock. They are notorious for bungling cases and creating needless political tensions. The DSS needs to rethink its involvement in cases. It is becoming very embarrassing,” Mr Effiong said on his Facebook page on Saturday.

 

The lawyer argued that the CBN’s currency redesign policy under Mr Emefiele’s watch was not a crime.

 

“The Naira redesign policy is not a crime, and it is immaterial whether it was properly implemented. It seems the suspension and arrest of Emefiele were not propelled by any interest in holding him accountable for the mismanagement of public resources, but a political vendetta.”

 

Mr Effiong queried, “Where are the charges on terrorism financing? Why is Mr Tinubu handling this case like this?”

 

He noted that many Nigerians applauded Mr Emefiele’s suspension owing to the hardships the naira redesign policy occasioned on them.

 

Mr Effiong, however, criticised the handling of Mr Emefiele’s arrest and detention for over a month without trial.

 

“The SSS has taken Nigerians for granted again. I am upset about the two-count charge filed against the suspended CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele.”

 

Arrest, detention, suits and judgements

The DSS had arrested Mr Emefiele at his home in Lagos on 10 June and immediately flew him to Abuja to face interrogations.

 

Worried about DSS’ denial of access to him in custody, his lawyers and family members had launched a fundamental human rights enforcement suit on his behalf at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja.

 

On 16 June, the court ordered the Director General of DSS, Yusuf Bichi, to grant lawyers access to the suspended CBN governor in custody. The court issued the order based on a request by the detainee’s lawyer, Joseph Daudu.

 

In his final judgement on Thursday’s case, the judge, Hamza Muazu, ordered the SSS to release or charge the suspended CBN governor in court within one week.

 

He held that the Nigerian constitution is rooted in the rule of law and presupposes that all actions must be done according to the law.

 

“Detention, no matter how small, can amount to a breach of fundamental rights,” Mr Muazu said.

 

He noted that since allegations against the suspended CBN governor were ordinarily bailable offences, SSS should grant him administrative bail pending trial.

 

Mr Muazu held that Mr Emefiele’s continued detention without trial amounted to a gross violation of his fundamental human rights.

 

But the court referenced an order from an Abuja Chief Magistrate Court permitting the SSS to detain Mr Emefiele for a period of 14 days to enable it to conclude its investigations.

 

With this, the judge held that Mr Emefiele could not prove his arrest, detention, and investigation were unlawful since it was based on a valid court order.

 

He described DSS as a reputable institution mandated to guarantee the country’s internal security.

 

Therefore, the judge said the agency must conduct its operations with strict adherence to the provisions of the Constitution.

 

“At this point, the continued detention of the applicant cannot be justified without any charge against him.

 

“At the very least, justice demands that the applicant be released on administrative bail.

 

“Consequently, I hereby make an order, directing the respondents to, within one week, charge the applicant to court or release him on administrative bail,” the court held.

 

Meanwhile, another judge of the FCT High Court in Abuja on Friday declared the arrest and detention of Mr Emefiele by the SSS as illegal.

 

The judge, Bello Kawu, held that the arrest, detention, and interrogation of Mr Emefiele breached a subsisting judgement and orders of another judge, M. A. Hassan.

 

Mr Kawu agreed with Mr Emefiele’s lawyer, Peter Abang, that the action taken against him by the SSS was illegal and amounted to a nullity in view of the subsisting judgment by the other judge delivered on 29 December 2022.

 

The judge went on to set aside any warrant of arrest obtained or procured by the SSS for the arrest of Mr Emefiele in connection with the allegations of terrorism financing, fraudulent practices, money laundering, and threat to national security before any court.

 

READ ALSO: Senate amends sanctions for illegal importation, sale of firearms

During the Buhari administration, Mr Emefiele pursued an unpopular naira redesign policy that brought untold hardship to many Nigerians.

 

The policy put him on the line of verbal attacks from President Tinubu, who was then campaigning for office ahead of the last presidential election in February.

 

Since coming to office, Mr Tinubu had attacked Mr Emefiele, accusing him of destroying Nigeria’s financial system.

 

Charges in full

Count one:

 

That you, Godwin Emefiele, Male, of No. 8 Colorado Street Maitama Abuja, on or about the 15th of June 2023, at No. 3b Iru Close, Ikoyi, Eti Osa Local Government, Lagos State, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, had in your possession one (1) Single Barrel shotgun (JOJEFF MAGNUM 8371) without a licence. You thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 4 of the Firearms Act, Cap. F28 Laws of the Federation 2004, and punishable under Section 27 (1b) of the same Act.

 

Count two:

 

That you, Godwin Emefiele, Male, of No. 8 Colorado Street Maitama Abuja, on or about June 15, 2023, at No. 3b Iru Close, Ikoyi, Eti Osa Local Government, Lagos State, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, had in your possession One Hundred and Twenty-Three (123) Rounds of live ammunition (Cartridges) without a licence You thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 8 of the Firearms Act Cap F28 Laws of the Federation 2004 and punishable under Section 27 (1)(b)(il) of the same Act.

 

 

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