JUST IN: Court gives DSS ultimatum to sue Emefiele or release him
A Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja on Thursday gave the Department of States Services, DSS, seven days to charge the suspended Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, to court or release him from detention.
It could be recalled that the embattled governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria had sued the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Department of State Services, DSS for arresting and detaining him in a commando style, alleging the agencies were carrying out a political witch-hunt against him due to his “people-oriented financial policies which several political actors are not comfortable with and are now looking for any means to scandalize and smear his image and reputation.”
Emefiele sought for his release from the DSS facility through his fundamental rights application filed on his behalf by his lead counsel, J.B. Daudu SAN.
He urged the court to make a declaration that the arrest of suspended CBN governor without any charge against him or any order of court for his arrest constitutes violation of his fundamental rights.
He equally prayed for a declaration that the applicant is entitled to his liberty and freedom of movement as well as an order directing the immediate and unconditional release of Emefiele or in the alternative, grant him bail.
He also sought an order restraining the defendants from further detaining the applicant on the guise of committing any offense, adding that a N5 billion cost should be awarded against the defendants.
Recall that President Bola Tinubu had on June 9 suspended the CBN governor from office, paving way for investigation into his tenure at the apex financial institution.
The CBN Deputy Governor, Operations, Folashodun Adebisi Shonubi, was subsequently directed by the president to step in, in acting capacity.
About 24 hours after his suspension, the DSS apprehended him at the Lagos airport and transferred him to its headquarters in Abuja.
But the AGF and DSS had raised preliminary objections to Emefiele’s applications and affidavit in support of it.
In its counter affidavit filed by its counsel, I. Awo, the DSS denied the allegation of a political witchhunt, saying “the applicant was arrested upon reasonable suspicion of committing acts which constitute a criminal breach of trust, incitement to violence, criminal misappropriation of public funds, economic sabotage, economic crimes of national security dimensions, and undermining the security of Nigeria.”
Awo further contended that upon the arrest of the applicant, a detention order was obtained from a Magistrate court to enable the agency to keep him in lawful custody for 14 days having discovered that investigations into his office will take a little while to conclude.
He said Emefiele was flown to Abuja through a private jet and not in a commando style.
He urged the court not to grant Emefiele’s request, alleging he plans to flee the country.
On its part, the OAGF’s legal team urged the court to decline jurisdiction on Emefiele’s request for release, adding that only the Federal High Court can determine it.
The OAGF added that Emefiele having been suspended, was not immune to arrest or investigation as ordered by the president.
In his verdict on Thursday, Justice H. Muazu held that it is his view that the FCT High court has original jurisdiction to preside over issues bordering on fundamental human rights.
He dismissed the respondents preliminary objection on jurisdiction,
saying it is lacking in merit and the court has jurisdiction to entertain the case.
On the main suit by Emefiele, the judge held that the respondents complied with relevant laws by obtaining an order from the Magistrate court before arresting Emefiele.
He added that a subsisting order of the court cited by Emefiele does not grant the applicant immunity from any arrest, adding he has not shown that his arrest and detention was unlawful.
However, he said the applicant is entitled to right to fair hearing and the continued detention of the suspended CBN cannot continue when there is no formal charge against him.
“Justice demands that the applicant be released on administrative bail,” he said.
“I hereby make an order that the respondents within one week charge the applicant to court or release him on bail,” the judge held.
The embattled governor had been detained for 34 days since June 10.