Some elder statesmen, eminent Nigerians and government officials last night moved to resolve differences among some government agencies that have arisen following the redesigning of some denominations of the naira and the new cash withdrawal limits introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which becomes effective January 9, 2023.
The move by the elder statesmen and prominent Nigerians followed a Federal High Court, Abuja ruling, that declined request by the Department of State Service (DSS) to arrest and detain the Governor of CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele for terrorism charges, saying the agency required the authority of his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, before going ahead with such request.
Essentially, THISDAY gathered that since announcement of the naira redesign policies, the DSS has been making enquiries from the apex bank, which the regulatory authority felt was impugning its independence as the Service kept on inviting central bank officials over the process, currency printing and minting, among others. All these the central bank resisted and that resistance led to the DSS doubling down and decided to approach an order to arrest.
However, some elders and senior government officials have waded into the matter, with a view to making peace.
The new financial policies introduced by the CBN, appeared to have disrupted some political parties’ vote-buying strategies, leading to plans to fight back and circumvent the CBN newly introduced policy.
But some human right lawyers, chairmen of political parties, civil society organisations, ethnic youth leaders and Arewa youth consultative movement, under the auspices of Coalition of National Interest Defenders (CNID), yesterday, raised the alarm over secret plot to disrupt the CBN plan for a policy that could enhance the credibility of the electoral process.
According to them “part of the plan was to incriminate Emefiele and get him out of the way, at least, before next year’s general election.”
However, the plot against Emefiele blew into the open, when the CSOs addressed a press conference on the matter, sending shock waves across the country.
The CNID revealed that the suit filed by the DSS to implicate Emefiele, arrest and detain him for allegedly funding terrorism was declined by the Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court.
A Certified True Copy (CTC) of the ruling delivered on December 9, 2022, by Tsoho, and obtained by THISDAY yesterday, revealed that the motion ex parte was filed on behalf of the DSS by one US Gambarawa on December 7, 2022.
The CTC, which was dated December 13, and signed by a staff of the Court, one Mrs. N.A. Priscilla read: “Upon perusal of the documents that constitute the Applicant’s Motion Ex parte dated and filed on 7/12/2022, I am constrained to make the following vital observations.
“1, The entire affidavit depositions, especially, as per paragraph 4 of the supporting affidavit, 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.
“These are, no doubt, grave allegations, but which the Applicant has not presented any concrete evidence to support. The Applicant should have taken the court into confidence while seeking the exercise of its discretion in favour of granting the application.
“It is my respectful opinion that the ipse dixit of the application standing on its own, is not sufficient evidence upon which to deprive a person of his liberty.”
While the judge observed that the respondent in the application was named “Godwin Emefiele”, it stated that the applicant refused to disclose his status or position in the affidavit in support of the exparte, leave.
Tsoho explained that it was, therefore, left to speculation if the respondent mentioned by the applicant was the same person as the current serving CBN Governor.
“The Respondent in this application is named ‘Godwin Emefiele’ without disclosure of his status or position anywhere, not even in the affidavit. It is then left with speculation if the “Godwin Emefiele” is the same person as the serving Governor of the CBN.
“If it is, then, he is unarguably a high ranking public official in Nigeria and 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.
“I, however, do not find such evidence in this instant application, whereas it is a necessary in the observance of the rule of law,” the judge held.
According to the court, there was no evidence that the president was in the know of what the applicant was doing, because Emefiele was seen having an audience with President Muhammadu Buhari, noting also that, the DSS had a practice of arresting suspect before going to court for permission to detain such persons.
“It, therefore, seems that the applicant intends to use the court, as a cover for an irregular procedure, which is unacceptable. In the light of the forgoing reasons, I decline to grant this application exparte. If the applicant believes that the evidence available to it is so far sufficient, then, it can as well arrest and detain the respondent even without the order of this court.
“If, however, the applicant desires to still pursue this application, then, it should place the respondent on notice, considering the sensitive public office that he occupies. The application as presently constituted is refused,” the judge held.
But in reaction, the DSS, yesterday, explained that one of its roles was the investigation of matters of national security dimension, adding that it has always discharged the responsibility in the overall interest of Nigerians.
But owing to the allegation, human right lawyers, members of the opposition political parties, civil society organisations, ethnic youth leaders and the Arewa Youth Consultative movement, stormed major streets of Abuja, yesterday, to protest the alleged move by the DSS.
The aggrieved protesters under the auspices of the CNID alleged that the suit was filed by the DSS to implicate Emefiele for funding terrorism.
The protesters marched to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, where they submitted a petition against the action of the DSS, and a similar letter to the office of the president, that of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and the office of the Inspector General of Police, among others.
Armed with the posters containing various inscriptions, the protesters vowed to resist any attempt to implicate Emefiele.
Some of the inscriptions read: ‘We will resist those who want to destabilise Buhari’s economic and monetary policies’; ‘Supporters of Buhari’s economic agenda want DG DSS sacked for attempting to frame CBN Governor for terrorism’; ‘Shocking: DSS Court action to frame CBN Governor for terrorism uncovered. Suit No. FHC /ABJ/CS/2255/2022 Between State Security Service (Applicant) and Godwin Emefiele (Respondent).’
They alleged that the DSS embarked on the plot to remove the CBN governor for political reasons.
During the media briefing, the Convener also alleged that the DG DSS and his allies in the plot had already promised someone else, the office of CBN governor on the agreement that the cash withdrawal limit policy would be immediately suspended.
The protesters further claimed that the plot of labeling Emefiele a terrorist was to undermine the president, usurp his powers to hire and fire and remove Emefiele from office on the strength that they would get an order to detain him for at least 60 days to impose another person as the Central Bank Governor.
They specifically said the DSS had approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, in the secret suit under Section 66 of the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act, 2022 to demand a court order for Emefiele’s detention for 60 days in the first instance.
The group accused the DSS of not informing the President of the investigative report, which allegedly revealed that Emefiele was a terrorist.
The CNID also wondered why the DSS allowed Emefiele to travel out of the country with the president and have unrestricted access to him, when they claimed that they had a damning report against him.
It challenged the veracity of the claims of the DSS and noted that if truly Bichi believed his claims, he would not have allowed Emefiele anywhere near the president.
The group said by allowing Emefiele to travel with the president, it showed the DG DSS did not believe that the CBN boss was indeed a terrorist.
As a result of this, the CNID said the claims of the DSS in Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/2255/2022 between State Security Service and Godwin Emefiele was made with the sole purpose of forcefully and wrongfully removing the CBN Governor from office.
The group, therefore, called on President Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to set the process in motion to immediately suspend, arrest, investigate and prosecute the DG SSS.
Part of the speech read: “On the 7th December, 2022 just 24 hours after the CBN officially announced the cash withdrawal deposit policy, a barrage of coordinated actions were taken, all targeted at ensuring that the Mr. Godwin Emefiele was removed from office or ceased to be the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“These activities included activating the filing of cases against the Mr. Emefiele to ensure he ceases to be in office as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria latest by the end of the year as they resolved. We believe that the plot further included carrying out of activities, which would have put the life and person of Mr. Emefiele in grave danger.
“The coincidental travel of Mr. Emefiele to the United States of America with President Muhammadu Buhari may have stalled this aspect of the plan. It has taken us some time, diligent and careful monitoring and resources to discover that on the said December, 7, 2022, a Motion was filed in the FCT High Court with the major target of getting the CBN Governor out of office. The Motion had suit number M/294/2022.
“On the same 7th December, 2022 another Exparte application was secretly filed at the Federal High Court Abuja this time directly by the State Security Service. The suit is between the State Security Service v Godwin Emefiele. Our intelligence which discovered this shocking development showed the suit was filed at the court without disclosing the full identity of Mr. Emefiele to the Court.
“They are working on the premise that the court would grant an order for the Service to arrest and detain Mr. Emefiele for a minimum of 60 days hiding under section 66 of the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act 2022. The State Security Service, an agency of federal government, secretly approached the Federal High Court Abuja, and filed an ex parte application against Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, where they accused him of being a terrorist.
“It is utterly shocking and shameful for the SSS to fabricate such bogus charges only in a bid to force an innocent man out of office. We have with us the suit number which at this moment, I will read it out, so that Nigerians and Mr. President can send their people to rush to the Federal High Court to get their copies and see this evil with their own eyes, the suit number is FHC/ABJ/CS/2255/2022,” Ohazurike added.
Continuing, he said, “The entire purpose of this dastardly plot is for political and financial benefits. The people in the plot are mighty, they are very, very strong people and they are indeed high and mighty in our government and in our country.
“Apart from the already mentioned director-general of the State Security Service, our intelligence alleges that the head of one of the chambers of the National Assembly is also part of the plot. A presidential candidate of a major political party is on the plot as well.
“Also some ministers in the cabinet, a top shot of the Financial Reporting Council, a member of the leadership of one of the anti-corruption agencies, some serving and former members of parliament, including the one that is currently bandying figures that he doesn’t know against the bank, one top official in the villa, some few desperate officials in the CBN, who have been promised they would be made heads of departments, including one of the two newly re-nominated deputy governors, who has been promised the top job as the new CBN governor.
“We shall call for investigation to know how far these officials are determined to go in their plot.”
Meanwhile, the DSS, in a statement by its Public Relations Officer, Peter Afunanya, has said one of its roles was the investigation of matters of national security dimension.
Afunanya, without denying or confirming the allegation, stated that the DSS has always discharged its responsibility in the overall interest of Nigerians.
“As such, the Service will continue to disseminate actionable intelligence to the relevant authorities devoid of any sentiment. While professionally discharging its mandate, the DSS pledges to remain focused and unbiased.
“It will not, by any means, succumb to propaganda, intimidation and the desperation of hirelings to undermine it. It will also not give room to the use of falsehood and deceit to misdirect public understanding and perceptions of issues of national importance.
“Given not to joining issues, the service warns those on a wild goose chase to be mindful of their actions. Similarly, it urges members of the public to disregard the vituperations and rantings of misguided elements and not allow themselves to be used as instruments of destabilisation.
“Notably, these elements should remember the famous axiom that, ‘you will only deceive some people, some of the time, but not all people, all the time’. To put it succinctly, the Service will not be distracted by persons and/or groups from carrying out its duties to the nation, citizens, President and Commander-in-Chief.
“Citizens are, therefore, urged to avoid being used to thwart or undermine the service and its lawful investigations as those who wish to act in the breach will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” it added.
Since October 26, when Emefiele announced plan to redesign N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes, politicians with vested interest have been working to scuttle the initiative. Despite securing the backing of Buhari on the policies, politicians have been making frantic efforts for the president to suspend them, with some making spurious allegations against Emefiele.
For instance, few days after the announcement, a member of the House of Representatives, Gudaji Kazaure, alleged that N89.09 trillion purportedly realised from deductions by banks as stamp duty charges had been diverted by Emefiele. The lawmaker had also alleged that the CBN Governor kept another $171 billion in the bank’s private investors’ account as proceeds of stamp duty.
But the presidency immediately reacted and had dismissed the allegations of misappropriation of Stamp Duty funds.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had described the claim as a figment of the imagination of Kazaure. The CBN had also debunked the allegations, saying they were unfounded.
CBN spokesman, Osita Nwanisobi had said: “We have been hearing these allegations, but they said N89 trillion stamp duty accumulated and the total assets for Nigerian banks is about N63 trillion and someone is claiming that fifty kobo accumulated to N89 trillion, how possible is it?
“If there is any committee in charge, that has nothing to do with us (CBN). The committee can do their work but has nothing to do with the CBN. Our most concern is the N89 trillion because the total assets of all the banks in Nigeria are not up to that amount.”
Furthermore, debate on the naira redesign policy threw the Senate in a rowdy session such that both the upper chamber and the House of Representatives had to invite Emefiele and the deputy CBN governors for questioning over the policy.
The hostility continued with the announcement of cash withdrawal limits, which many analysts saw a move to curb vote-buying and financial inducement ahead of the 2023 elections.
The Senate and House of Representatives once more expressed concerns over the new cash withdrawal policy. The lawmakers also summoned CBN Governor in accordance with the provisions of the Central Bank Act to brief them on several policies of the bank, particularly the new currency and the withdrawal limit policy.
The angry lawmakers took turns to condemn the new cash withdrawal policy, while contributing to a motion of urgent national importance sponsored by the Chairman of the House Committee on Power, Hon. Magaji Da’u Aliyu.
Similarly, State Governors such as Godwin Obaseki of Edo State had openly criticised the policies, describing them as a political move.