Emefiele opts for plea bargain in alleged N6.69b fraud case
Weighed down by the rigours of investigation and the pangs of trial, the suspended Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has opted for plea bargain.
It was learnt that as part of the out-of-court settlement terms, Emefiele will forfeit any illicit funds and questionable assets traced to him. But, it cold not be confirmed if any illicit fund has been linked to him.
He will also step aside as the CBN governor to enable the government to appoint a substantive holder.
It was also gathered that Emefiele and his relations will withdraw all matters in court.
Yesterday, an Abuja Court struck out a suit filed by the embattled CBN governor challenging his detention.
His siblings – George and Okanta – withdrew the two suits they filed against the Department of State Service (DSS) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).
Some highly-placed Nigerians were said to have interceded for Emefiele to make government accept the plea bargain offer.
The turn of event on his trial was said to have both “legal and political tones to avoid anything which may have negative impacts on the economic agenda of the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
Emefiele is standing trial for alleged violation of the procurement law to the tune of N6.9 billion.
According to a top source, who spoke in confidence, Emefiele was worried about the likely dragging of his trial for years.
The source said the suspended CBN boss and members his family weighed all options and settled for plea bargain.
The source said the Federal Government legal team and Emefiele’s lawyers were perfecting the terms of settlement.
The source said: “Emefiele has considered all options and chose out- of-court settlement which may lead to his freedom if the terms are agreeable to both parties.
“He felt he may face multiple trials and he doesn’t want to go the whole hog of being in and out of court. For instance, since the time he was arrested, it has been difficult to verify his assets. So, he has a Code of Conduct case pending.
“But the plea bargain appeared the smartest option for him, according to our source.
“He is expected to forfeit any suspicious cash and assets traced to him by law enforcement and anti-graft agencies.”
The source added: “Emefiele will step aside as the CBN governor. He may either resign or be sent on compulsory retirement.
“This will enable the government to appoint a substantive CBN governor.
“The settlement will allow the government to avoid a repeat of the legal challenges associated with the removal of a former CBN governor, Mal. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi by the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.”
Emefiele’s scheduled arraignment by the Federal Government on a 20-count corruption charge failed to hold yesterday.
It was the second consecutive time that Emifiele’s arraignment would not hold.
The one planned for last Thursday before Justice Hamza Muazu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama, suffered a similar fate.
It was shifted to yesterday as a result of the non-appearance in court of his co-defendant, Ms. Sa’adatu Rammalan Yaro, who the prosecution claimed took ill in the wee hours of August 17.
A source at the FHC in Abuja told The Nation yesterday that Emefiele’s arraignment was shifted at the instance of the embattled suspended CBN governor.
His lawyer, Kehinde Akinlolu (SAN), confirmed the shift in the arraignment.
According to him, a new date may likely be issued by the Chief Judge, Justice Hussein Baba Yusuf.
Also yesterday, two siblings of the suspended CBN boss, – George and Okanta – withdrew the two suits they filed against the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).
They filed the two fundamental rights enforcement suits to restrain the DSS from arresting them.
When both cases were called yesterday, their lawyer, Grace Ehusani, informed the court about her clients’ applications to withdraw the suits.
Counsel to the DSS, Ibrahim Awo, and Maimuna Lami-Shiru, who represented the AGF, did not object to the withdrawal.
But they requested the court to dismiss the cases.
While Awo requested a substantial cost, Lami-Shiru, demanded N2 million.
Awo said he made it clear to the applicants at the commencement of the case that it would waste the court’s time but that they ignored him.
In his ruling, Justice Edward Okpe struck out the cases at no cost to the applicants.
Okpe noted that both respondents were government agencies who did not pay for what they filed in court and were not entitled to any cost.
Timeline of Emefiele’s travails
•On July 9, he was first arrested in Lagos and flown to Abuja the same day
•On July 13, Justice Hamza Muazu ordered his release or arraignment within a week
•On July 25, the DSS arraigned him before a Federal High Court in Lagos over alleged possession of firearms.
•He was granted bail the same day and ordered to be remanded in prison custody until he perfected the bail conditions. But he was re-arrested within the court premises by the DSS, which later filed a 20-count charge against him before the Abuja FHC.
•On August 17, Emefiele was to be arraigned but the hearing did not hold on the grounds that the second defendant, Yaro was absent in court.
•August 23, he was to be arraigned.