By Nnanke Harry Willie
Some events in Nigeria simply reduce our dear nation to a theatre of the absurd. If the current saga of CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele was not so dangerous, it would have provided a rich avenue for comic relief even as it is being spear-headed by a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Gudaji Kazaure.
Kazaure, representing the Kazaure, Roni, Gwiwa, Yankwashi Constituency of Jigawa State is seen in a trending video as a guest of a popular programme Berekete Family saying that Emefiele refused to open a stamp-duty central account even after President Buhari had instructed him to do so since 2017. He claimed that instead, “They are scattering the money…based on that violation, I directed the DG (Director-General) DSS (Directorate of State Security) to detain him”
Apparently, based on his directive, Kazaure implied in his story that Emefiele was invited and “When he sit six hours, he start (sic) panicking…shaking “Am I under detention? Am I under detained (sic)? Am I detained?… He is asking (sic). He goes on to regale his audience with how Emefiele eventually complained of ill health and that the DG had to let him go home so as to avoid his untimely death in their facility.
The above is the fallout of accusations by Kazaure that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, could not account for about N89.1 trillion the CBN collected as Stamp Duty charges. This charge has since been dismissed by Garba Shehu, the president’s Senior Special Assistant on media and publicity who described the Kazaure’s Committee as illegal, saying the committee was dissolved on the directive of Buhari.
According to a report on brandpowerng, published on December 12, 2022 Shehu was reported to have said in an official statement that read in part: ”In the first instance, the committee on the alleged loss of stamp duty funds he is talking about is an illegal committee, it was dissolved on the directive of the president.
”Anyone familiar with our constitution will find it curious that a member of the Parliament is the Secretary of an Executive Committee.
”It suffices to say that the entire net worth of the nation’s financial sector, the assets of the banking sector put together are not worth N50 trillion, not to talk of the kind of money he is talking about.
”CBN assures that there is absolutely no problem, whatsoever, with money from Stamp Duties.
”There is a committee duly set up by the president in June 2020 chaired by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and the Secretary is the Chairman of the Federal Internal Revenue Service, FIRS that is currently reconciling the stamp duty accounts.”
Shehu said that the job had not finished, adding, ”as it is, there is nothing to give credence to wild accusations made against the administration.”
The presidential aide further revealed that earlier investigations carried out by government departments and anti-corruption agencies on the stamp duty accounts indicated that nothing sensational had been discovered by them.
He said: “Following speculation and the many allegations, earlier investigations were commissioned by government departments and agencies.
”These included the Ministry of Finance, the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Service, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation and nothing sensational had been discovered by them. Issues of reconciliation are being handled.
In saner climes, this would have put paid to the shenanigans of Gudaji Kazaure and his team but shockingly they doubled down. The DSS was reported to have sought a court order to arrest Emefiele who they accused of ‘Financing terrorism’.
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court Abuja, Justice John Tsoho, rejected the suit filed by the Department of State Services to arrest the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele over terrorism charges.
According to reports, the Chief judge described the suit as an illegal operation and plot to deceive the court into granting a frivolous order to help them arrest and deprive an innocent man of his personal liberty.
In his ruling on suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/2255/2022 between State Security Service (applicant) and Godwin Emefiele (respondent), Justice Tsoho said the entire affidavit depositions, especially as per paragraph 4 of the supporting affidavit, which purport that preliminary investigation has revealed various acts of terrorism financing, fraudulent activities perpetrated by the respondent and his involvement in economic crimes of national security dimension.
Noting that these were no doubt, grave allegations, the Chief Judge however ruled that the applicant had not presented any concrete evidence to support them and the applicant should have taken the court into confidence while seeking the exercise of its discretion in favour of granting its application.
The Judge further ruled that, “It is my respectful opinion that the ipse dixit of the Applicant standing on its own, is not sufficient evidence upon which to deprive a person of his liberty. The Respondent in this application is named as ‘Godwin Emefiele’ without disclosure of his status or position anywhere; not even in the affidavit. It is left to speculation if the ‘Godwin Emefiele’ is the same person as the serving Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
“If it is, then he is unarguably a high-ranking public official In Nigeria and indeed occupies a sensitive position as one of the key drivers of the Nation’s Economy. Therefore, an application of this kind should have evidence of the approval of the Respondent’s boss, that such measures are authorised to be taken, however, do not find such evidence in this instant application, whereas It Is a necessary procedure in the observance of the Rule of Law.”
The summary of the judgement is that due process had not been followed by the DSS to obtain the court order to arrest and detain Emefiele. A major aspect of the due process is to obtain the approval of Emefiele’s boss, President Muhammadu Buhari who happens to also be the boss of the DG of the DSS.
Clearly, something is amiss here, and as Garba Shehu has declared something illegal is going on. Indeed, he has been corroborated by Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
After a meeting with President Buhari, Gbajabiamila told reporters that “When it (the issue of the Stamp Duties) came up, we had asked members of the executive, they said they were not aware of any mandate, or such mandate has been withdrawn. He further disowned Kazaure when he said, “I don’t want to get into it, except to the extent that he attempts to impugn on the integrity of members of the House and that’s a no-no. We have nothing to do with this.”
This week, Nigerians suddenly saw a rash of pro-DSS versus pro-Emefiele demonstrations ventilating their support for and against the arrest of Emefiele, thus making it crystal clear that forces outside the DSS are responsible for these ugly developments.
Meanwhile, Vanguard reports that former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, and the Coalition of National Civil Society Organisations, CNCSOS, have tasked the Federal Government on a thorough investigation of alleged plots to frame-up Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, as terrorism financier by the Department of State Service, DSS.
Saraki in a statement advised the security agencies in the country to be wary and avoid being manipulated by politicians ahead of the 2023 polls. Also, the Centre for Financial Surveillance and Illicit Transaction Tracking Group (CSITT) raised the alarm of looming consequences of sanctions from Egmont Group owing to the DSS unprovoked attack on the apex bank Governor.
The CSITT, in a statement by the Director, John Dimu said “Egmont Group, a 164 countries membership forum that provides financial units with a platform to securely exchange expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing among others, would have suspended Nigeria if DSS had arrested Emefiele.”
Dimu said Nigeria risks being blacklisted by global financial bodies due to DSS allegations, adding that the suspension of Nigeria from the group, if it happens will be embarrassing given that the country has been suspended in 2017 over lack of a legal framework and autonomy.
“The allegation that the DSS embarked on this plot to remove the CBN Governor for political and pecuniary reasons, is not only a huge shame but against the ethics of the Egmont group, which Nigeria is a member of. Recall that the group had suspended NFIU, an arm of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, after its plenary in Macao, China, on July 2, 2017. The group suspended Nigeria as a result of its lack of a legal framework and autonomy. It’s quite shocking that DSS could be found being part of this illegal move. We advise DSS to focus on its mandate rather than becoming lapdogs for politicians.”
Emefiele’s travails has also been noticed at the global stage as Lord Hannan, the Baron of Kingsclere, who is a member of the Board of Trade and Conservative peer, and who raised a question in the House of Lords in the British parliament on Wednesday, said: “The rule of law, due process and the independence of public officials: these values matter. They bind us together as Commonwealth nations.
Lord Hannan said “I am not Nigerian. It is not for me to say whether it was time for a redesign of naira notes, or whether such a change will make elections cleaner. But I do feel that friends of Nigeria, and friends of Nigerian democracy, should defend the rule of law there.
“At a time when democracy is in retreat globally, we all have a stake in Nigeria’s success. The country is Africa’s greatest economy, Africa’s greatest population and Africa’s greatest hope.
Emefiele’s travails bring back painful memories of Justice Walter Onnoghen who served as Chief Justice of Nigeria from 2017 to 2019 and was dramatically removed from office over spurious charges and Ibrahim Magu, a Nigerian police officer who served as acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC from 9 November 2015, until his dramatic suspension on 7 July 2020. Magu was recently cleared of all charges brought against him by the same DSS.
Clearly, it is a travesty that Godwin Emefiele could be so harangued, impugned and threatened for trying to deliver on his mandate as Central Bank Governor. A man who should be receiving garlands is being pelted with stones by those who should know better.
This joke has gone too far. The President should call his men to order. Allegations against Emefiele should be diligently and discreetly investigated and then necessary steps taken based on the unimpeachable findings of the investigations. Until then, let the drama end.