In a surprising turn of events, the federal government is making moves to withdraw the charges of illegal firearm possession filed against Godwin Emefiele, the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The government presented an oral application for the withdrawal of the charges at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Tuesday.
Abubakar Mohammed, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) at the Federal Ministry of Justice, informed Judge Nicholas Oweibo that the decision to withdraw the charges stemmed from new insights gained through additional investigations carried out by the government. Mohammed shared with journalists that there might be the prospect of introducing fresh charges against the suspended bank chief, possibly encompassing more counts.
Earlier, on July 25, Godwin Emefiele had been arraigned on charges of “illegal possession” of firearms and live ammunition, consisting of a two-count indictment. He was subsequently granted bail amounting to N20 million. However, a breach of the court’s order was observed when the State Security Service (SSS) rearrested Emefiele right after he exited the courtroom. This led to a confrontation between officials from the SSS and the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) over custody.
During the recent court session, the defense had raised arguments seeking the dismissal of the charges due to the prosecution’s non-compliance with the court’s bail directive. The prosecution sought permission to appeal the bail order. In the latest hearing, the prosecution clarified to the judge that the decision to withdraw the charges was prompted by new facts and aspects of the case that required a more thorough investigation.
Joseph Daudu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria representing the defense, responded by stating that an application under sections 174(1) and (3) of the Nigerian constitution ought to be formal and not made orally. Such an application must establish grounds of public interest, justice, and the prevention of legal process abuse.
The DPP invoked section 108 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015, which empowers prosecutors to withdraw charges against a defendant at any stage, asserting that this authority does not necessitate a written application. The judge adjourned the matter for a ruling on Thursday, expressing surprise at the unexpected development.
Abubakar Mohammed shared that there were pending charges against Emefiele at the FCT High Court, including counts related to unlawful advantage and potential violations of the ICPC Act. He reassured that Emefiele’s legal team had unrestricted access to him, as well as his relatives and friends. He also clarified that the delay in transferring Emefiele to the NCoS was due to administrative protocols that needed to be followed between different agencies.
This unfolding scenario brings about an uncertain outlook for the charges against the suspended Central Bank governor, leaving legal experts and the public curious about the direction the case will take in the coming days.