A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has given former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, until January 25 to appear in court to explain circumstances surrounding the 53 million dollar-judgment debt arising from the Paris Club refund.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a short ruling on Tuesday, gave Emefiele another opportunity to appear in court in person or an arrest warrant issued against the ex-CBN governor.
The development followed a plea by Emefiele and CBN’s counsel, Audu Anuga, SAN, that all efforts to ensure that his client appeared in person on the order of the court were unsuccessful as he was still in custody.
Anuga informed the court that an affidavit to show cause on why an arrest warrant should not be issued against Emefiele was filed on October 30.
Justice Ekwo then asked I.A. Nnana, the lawyer who represented Joe Agi, SAN, the judgment creditor/applicant in the suit, if he had been served with the affidavit
Nnana responded that they were served on Monday, almost at the close of work and that they would like to react.
The judge, who cautioned Anuga against late filing of processes, reminded that the matter came up on July 19.
The senior lawyer, however, explained that all efforts were made until Friday (October 27) to ensure that Emefiele was released on order of the court but the order was not complied with, which necessitated the filing of the affidavit.
Anuga, however, told the court that since parties had been exploring settlement before and the CBN had a new governor, they should be allowed to explore settlement options.
But Justice Ekwo insisted that Emefiele must appear in the next adjourned day.
“As for the 4th respondent (Emefiele), I have always said, contempt proceedings follow a person whether the person Is still there or not.
“In this case, I have given this particular person so much liberty, so much leniency and the situation does not seem to change.
“I will adjourn the matter because the other side says they want to react to the process so there is not much talk.
“Order of court must be complied with and even if no one complies with the order of the court, the court must comply with its order.
“I will give you sufficient time,” he said
The judge, consequently, adjourned the matter until January 25 for Emefiele to show cause why arrest warrant should not be issued against him.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that in the affidavit deposed to on Emefiele’s behalf by Jeremiah Utaan, a legal officer in the Legal Department of CBN, he said Emefiele was willing to appear before the court as directed but for his continued detention by the Department of State Service (DSS).
He said the information was of public knowledge from June 10 till date that had made it impossible for Emefiele to physically appear before the court on July 19, the last adjourned date.
Utaan, in the affidavit, averred that Emefiele’s absence at the proceedings was not out of disrespect to the court but rather due to circumstances beyond his control.
“I verily believe that the cause of justice will not be served should the Honourable Court proceed to issue a Warrant for the arrest of Godwin Emefiele,” he said.
The judge had, on July 19, threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against Emefiele over his failure to appear in court.
He said he was minded to exercise restraint in the proceeding to give the ex-CBN boss an opportunity to explain himself.
NAN reports that Justice Ekwo had, on October 20, 2022, ordered the CBN governor to appear in court on January 18 over his alleged refusal to obey the order of the court for the payment of the judgment debt in favour of a legal practitioner, Joe Agi, SAN.
Agi had dragged Linas International Ltd, Minister of Finance, CBN and Emefiele to court as 1st to 4th judgment debtors respectively, following an application for garnishee made by him as judgment creditor in the case.
However, on January 18, proceedings could not go on as scheduled when the matter was called, prompting the court to subsequently adjourn the case until March 20, before it was fixed for June 6 again.
NAN reports that the judge, on June 6, ordered Emefiele to appear before it on July 19.
But President Bola Tinubu, on June 9, suspended him as CBN governor and he was directed to transfer his responsibilities to the deputy governor, operations directorate.
No sooner had Emefiele been suspended than the DSS, on June 10, announced his arrest and detention.
It was also reported that Emefiele was arrested and detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on October 26 less than an hour after the DSS released him.
The EFCC was said to be probing him over alleged impropriety during his term as the head of the apex bank.
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