Metro

July 26, 2023

DSS men, Prisons officials in free-for-all over Emefiele

DSS men, Prisons officials in free-for-all over Emefiele

By Innocent Anaba, Henry Ojelu, Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo & Fortune Eromosele, LAGOS

46 days after he was arrested by the Department of State Services, DSS and two weeks after a Federal High Court in Abuja gave an order for his release or arraignment for any offence he might have allegedly committed, suspended Central Bank Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, was yesterday arraigned for illegal possession of firearms and granted bail by a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

Emefiele’s arraignment was, however, enmeshed in drama, following a scuffle between DSS operatives and officials of the Nigerian Prisons Service, over which of the agencies should take custody of Emefiele after he was granted bail in the sum of N20million by Justice Nicholas Oweibo.

The scuffle between the two agencies later culminated in a free-for-all as the Armed Squad Commander of the NPS, Williams Udom, who had come to give tactical support to the prison officials in the court premises, was manhandled, with his service uniform torn.

It took the intervention of a senior female DSS official, who arrived at the scene hours after the standoff and had a brief chat with NCoS officials and her operatives to douse the tension.

This paved way for the DSS to re-arrest Emefiele immediately after he stepped out of the courtroom.

The charge

In a two-count charge filed before the court, the Federal Government alleged that Mr Emefiele was found in possession of a single-barrel shotgun (Jojeff Magnum 8371) without a license on June 15, 2023, at No.3b Ibru Close, Ikoyi, Lagos.

In the second count, the suspended CBN governor was accused of having in his possession 123 rounds of live ammunition (cartridges) without a license, which is contrary to Section 8 of the Firearms Act 2004 and punishable under Section 27 (1)(b)(il) of the same Act.

The government maintained that the offence was contrary to Section 4 of the Firearms Act, 2004, and punishable under Section 27 (1b).

After the charges were read to him, Emefiele insisted on his innocence and pleaded not guilty to the allegation.

Bail

After the arraignment, Emefiele’s counsel and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Chief Joseph Daudu, SAN, drew the attention of the court to his application for bail which had earlier been filed and urged the court to grant his client bail on self-recognition or on any other reasonable terms.

Daudu told the court that his client had been in the DSS custody for over 46 days and prayed to the court to end the oppression of his client.

“There should be an end to oppression,” he said,
Daudu’s bail application was, however, opposed by a Deputy Director of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Nkiru Jones-Nebo, who prayed the court that Emefiele should not be released because he is a flight risk.

Jones-Nebo, who claimed among others that she had “not been given the bail application,” argued among others, that the defendant can evade trial or use his power as CBN boss to intimidate his colleagues and prevent the trial from going on.

“As I stand here, I have not seen it,” she said, praying for time to respond to the application.


Ruling

In a bench ruling, after hearing arguments of parties in the matter, Justice Oweibo rejected Jones-Nebo’s claim, insisting that the government failed to provide any fact to support its claim.

He held: “I find and hold that the prosecution has failed to establish why the defendant should not be granted bail.

“Consequently, the defendant is admitted to bail in the sum of N20 million with one surety in the like sum

“The surety must be the owner of landed property within the jurisdiction of the court, who must not be less than level 16 in the Nigerian civil service. The defendant must deposit his international passport with the court.

The judge remanded the defendant in prison custody, against the request of the prosecution that the defendant be remanded in DSS custody for further investigation on another matter that might soon be filed in court and adjourned the matter till November 14, 2023, for trial.

Daudu, SAN raises alarm

A few minutes after the matter was adjourned, Daudu raised the alarm that the DSS is bent on re-arresting his client, despite bail granted him by the court.

Addressing the court, Daudu said with the development, he would want to perfect the bail conditions so that his client would be allowed to go free.

But the judge, still in doubt on what further steps he could take in the circumstances, told Daudu to allow him dispose of other matters before the court and get back to him.

DSS lays ambush for Emefiele

Outside the court premises, skirmishes between the DSS and Nigerian Correctional Service, NCoS, officials led to a scuffle which almost snowballed into a free for all between the two agencies of government.

In preparation to re-arrest Emefiele, the DSS had positioned a pick-up van near the entrance of the courtroom where the trial was ongoing.

In a counter move, NPS officials who had parked their prisons pick-up van far from the entance, drove the van closer to the DSS van, also ready to take custody of Emefiele.
For over two hours, operatives of both agencies remained in combat position, raising tension of possible clash.

At some point in the imbroglio, NCoS brought in reinforcement from its armed squad to counter the huge number of heavily armed DSS operatives who took strategic positions in the court premises.


DSS men surround judge’s chamber

Sensing that there might be an attempt by Prisons officials to whisk Emefiele out of the court through the judge’s chambers, the DSS operatives surrounded Justice Oweibo’s chamber in readiness to foil the move.

Daudu addresses media

While the tension between the two agencies simmered, Daudu addressed the media and raised concerns over the action of the DSS, saying what was happening to his client was no longer prosecution but persecution.

“My client has been granted bail by this court and remanded in prison custody, pending when his bail is perfected. The DSS has, however, refused to allow my client to enjoy the privilege extended to him by the court. You all can see what is happening and it is dangerous for our democracy,’ he said.

Emefiele re-arrested

A few minutes after Daudu addressed the media and left the court premises, Emefiele was re-arrested by DSS operatives as he stepped out of court and whisked away in a white Hilux van.
Lawyers react:
FG should direct DSS to obey court orders— FALANA, SAN

Also reacting yesterday, human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, said: ”Notwithstanding the avowed commitment of the Bola Tinubu administration to operate under the rule of law, a team of State Security Service officials brazenly disobeyed the orders of the Federal High Court this morning (yesterday) at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi.

”The court had admitted Mr. Godwin Emefiele to bail in respect of the offence of illegal possession of firearms. For daring to comply with the orders of the Federal High Court, officials of the Prisons were attacked by gun-totting officers of the SSS.“”In view of the stern warning of President Tinubu that inter-agency physical attacks would not be permitted under his administration, the security officers who attacked officials of the Ikoyi Prisons ought to be fished out and sanctioned.

”The federal government should also ensure that the orders of the Federal High Court are obeyed forthwith.“”However, all public officers should draw the necessary lessons from the current travails of Mr. Emefiele. As governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, he recklessly displayed arrogance and impunity by disobeying the orders of several courts, including the Supreme Court of Nigeria!”

Action SHAMEFUL—PEDRO, SAN

Former Lagos State Solicitor-General, Mr. Lawal Pedro, SAN, described the action of the two agencies as shameful and said they should be working in synergy not fighting each other.

He said: “What has happened between the two agencies is very unfortunate. I want to believe that the DSS might have other cases against Emefiele but the prison’s authority also has a right to his custody as ordered by the court. I don’t think this matter should have generated any controversy. If the man has perfected his bail condition and is re-arrested, it would have ok if DSS then arrest him. This is just a matter of lack of communication. It is also about exercise of right of powers by these agencies when they should have been working together. They should have embarrassed the nation by this there shameful action in the public. Agencies of government should complement themselves not working against each other.”

DSS, NPS scuffle portends great danger—ERUGO, SAN

Also reacting, Law professor, Sam Erugo, SAN, said that what transpired in court between the DSS and Prisons officials portends great danger for democracy in the country.

He said:” What happened yesterday in court portend great danger for the country and is a sign of the extent to which the Nigeria government has gone abysmally low and the level of impunity that agencies of government act. The DSS clearly acted with impunity by descending on the prison official who was doing his job. What happened there is court yesterday was very unfortunate.”

It’s exhibition of impunity —UBANI

Former Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association Section of Public Interest and Development Law, NBA-SPIDEL, Dr Monday Ubani described the refusal by the DSS for the Prisons officials to take custody of Emefiele as ordered by court, as an exhibition of impunity of the highest level.

He said: “What happened yesterday was a clearly exhibition of impunity of the highest level by the DSS. Emefiele had been with them for almost two month and they finally came up with a charge which is bailable; the court granted bail and said Emefiele should be handed over to the prison authorities pending when he perfects his bail. Why was the order difficult for DSS to obey? Why would they want to keep somebody who has not been convicted, in perpetual detention? I am personally getting frustrated being called a Nigerian because of these kinds of things. Why should people be treated as if we are in a banana republic? If President Tinubu does not intervene in this matter, I will take it that this is the highest dent on the image of his administration. He must condemn what happened yesterday.”

DSS/Prisons’ scuffle over Emefiele, unmitigated shame — HURIWA

Reacting to the development yesterday, civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, described the scuffle between the two federal agencies as an ‘unmitigated shame.
HURIWA in a statement by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in Abuja, said the open show of shame by the DSS and NCoS has revealed the decay in Nigeria, saying the country is becoming a “banana republic”.

Onwubiko, who urged the Federal Government to call the DSS to order, said this will restore professionalism and discipline in the security outfit.

He said: “The government must call the DSS to order and there has to be some kind of sanctions administratively for this open show of shame.

“There is also the threat this event of a very despicable kind has on Nigeria and this will scare away willing foreign direct investors who would now think Nigeria is in an autopilot position where the decisions of competent courts of law are treated with disdain by a statutory law enforcement body, such as the DSS.

“We ask the Federal Government to stop allowing security officials paid with taxpayers money to continuously act in ways that depict the country as a very lawless contraption.

“We urge the Federal Government to put an end to these cocktails of disgraceful public fights by officers of supposed law enforcement agencies. President Tinubu must restore professionalism and discipline in all the law enforcement and security institutions in the country.”


Respect court order over Emefiele, Sarkin Hausawa, Northern Forum tells DSS


Also reacting, the Concerned Northern Forum commended the efforts and courage of the judges in the Godwin Emefiele and Alhaji Aminu Yaro, Sarkin Hausawa, Lagos cases for their impartiality.

The group urged the DSS to respect court orders, hand over Emefiele to Nigerian Prisons Service officials and release Alhaji Aminu Yaro, Sarkin Hausawan Lagos and his wife immediately.

The group in a statement signed by the chairman, Mohammed Danlami, said: “This followed the arraignment of Mr Godwin Emefiele before His Lordship, Justice Nicholas Oweibo of the Federal High Court in Lagos, Alhaji Aminu Idris Yaro and Sa’adatu Ramalan Yaro before his Lordship, Justice E. Okpe in the High court of FCT, Abuja on July 25, 2023.

“In the case of the former, the Hon. Judge ordered that he should be granted bail and sent to the Prisons, pending perfection of his bail condition.

“Whereas in the case of the latter, the Hon. Judge ordered his immediate release and that of his wife and a restraining order that prevents the DSS from arresting them.

“To the surprise of Nigerians, DSS officials have refused to comply with this order to immediately release Alhaji Aminu Idris Yaro and his wife and have also, against the judgement of the court, moved to re-arrest Mr Godwin Emefiele after a shameful public show in front of the High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos.”

“DSS operatives were seen in physical and violent confrontations with the officials of the Nigerian Prisons Service, operatives of the DSS dragged the NCoS boss, tore his uniform and forcibly dragged him outside the courtroom as if he was not a uniformed man.

“On the strength of today’s shameful, unprofessional conduct by operatives of the DSS and for the continuous attack and disrespect on Judiciary and members of the general public, both the D-G and Lagos State Director of DSS should resign to save the reputation, dignity of the service and that of our country before the international community.

“We call for urgent setting up of a special panel of inquiry to look into the drama that took place between operatives of the DSS and officials of the NPS outside the court in Ikoyi and get to its root for decisive disciplinary action to be meted.’’