The Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja has declared the prolonged detention of the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, without trial as a flagrant violation of his fundamental rights.
The court slammed a total of N100m fine against the Federal Government and the Economic Financial Crime Commission and barred them from rearresting or detaining the ex-CBN afresh without a valid court order.
But the EFCC expressed its dissatisfaction with the judgment, vowing to go on appeal.
The judgment was given in a fundamental human rights suit filed by the former CBN governor following his prolonged detention in the custody of the Department of State Services.
Though he was taken before the Federal High Court in Lagos on July 25, 2023, arraigned on illegal firearms charges and granted bail, the DSS re-arrested him on the court premises amid a clash with warders from the Ikoyi Correctional Centre.
The embattled ex-CBN gov was not released by the secret police until October 26, 2023, after nearly five months in custody.
Upon his release by the DSS on October 26, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission immediately picked him up and took him into custody.
He further remained in the EFCC custody until November 8 when he was taken to court for arraignment on procurement fraud charges.
In the suit, Emefile also asked the court to order the respondents to pay him N1bn damages and to restrain them from further arresting and or detaining him.
Listed as defendants in the suit were the Federal Government, the Attorney General of the Federation; the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and its chairman, Ola Olukoyede.
Delivering judgment in the case on Monday, Justice Olukayode Adeniyi said, “It is hereby declared that the actions of the first and fourth respondents and its agents incarcerating the applicants from June 13, 2023, to October 26, 2023, when he was transferred to the custody of the fourth respondent and his further detention by the third and fourth respondents without arraignment in the court of law for the commission of any offence up until November 8, 2023, when by the order of this court, the applicant was released on bail to his senior learned counsel, constitutes a flagrant violation of the applicant’s fundamental rights to personal liberty preserved by the provision of Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 and Article 6 of the African charter on human and peoples right.
Also, a sum of N100m only is herby awarded in favour of the applicant against the first and fourth respondents jointly as damages for the unlawful violation of his fundamental right to his personal liberty.
“Without prejudice to the powers of the court with respect to the criminal trial, the applicant is currently facing at the High Court of the FCT, the respondents are hereby restrained either by themselves, their officers, agents, or any person acting on their behalf from further re-arresting or detaining the applicants without an order of a court of competent jurisdiction.”
During his ruling, Adeniyi said he found the remand warrant obtained by the third and fourth respondents were questionable.
“The third and fourth respondents referred to remand warrants obtained from the chief magistrate of the FCT in Wuse. I examined the said orders from the two magistrate courts and my finding is that the credibility is questionable, “ he said.
He noted that the practice of arresting suspects before investigation by security agencies must stop.
Adeniyi said, “Time has come to put an end to the unwholesome culture and practices of arresting and keeping a suspect in detention before the investigation of the suspect alleged of an offence.
A suspect must be allowed to have his day in court if indeed there is evidence of a commission of the crime against him.”
Reacting to the development in a statement on Monday, the EFCC said it would approach the Court of Appeal to set the judgement aside.
The anti-graft agency said, “The decision failed to take cognizance of the fact that the former CBN boss was held with a valid order of court. Consequently, the commission will approach the Court of Appeal to set it aside.”