Godwin Emefiele, the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), will on Thursday face legal action along with his associates for their alleged involvement in the ₦6.9 billion procurement fraud.
The arraignment is scheduled to take place at the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Maitama, Abuja.
The charges stem from accusations of corrupt advantages granted to Emefiele’s associates, including a CBN employee, Sa’adatu Yaro, and her company, April1616 Investment Limited.
Emefiele’s detention since his suspension on June 9 by President Bola Tinubu has attracted a lot of attention.
If found guilty of the charge of corrupt enrichment, the suspended CBN governor could be sentenced to five years imprisonment without the option of a fine. This is according to Section 19 of the Corrupt Practises and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
The section read, “Any public officer who uses his office or position to gratify or confer any corrupt or unfair advantage upon himself or any relation or associate of the public officer or any other public officer shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for five years without an option of fine.”
According to the charges filed by the Director of Public Prosecutions at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mohammed Abubakar, Deputy Director of Public Prosecution, N Jones-Nebo, and eight other ministry officials, the trio facing allegations is accused of procuring an array of 98 luxury vehicles and armoured buses, with an estimated total value of around ₦6.9 billion.
The purchases, which took place from 2018 to 2020, encompassed a variety of vehicles, including 84 Toyota Hilux vehicles, 10 armoured Mercedes Benz buses, three Toyota Landcruisers, and one Toyota Avalon car.
Count one of the charges read, “That you, Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, male, adult, sometime in 2018 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did use your position as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to confer a corrupt advantage on Sa’adatu Ramallan Yaro, a staff member of the Central Bank of Nigeria, by awarding a contract for the supply of 37 Toyota Hilux Vehicles at the cost of N854,700,000 only to April 1616 Investment Ltd, a company in which she is a director, and thereby committed an offence.
“Statement of the offence: Conferring corrupt advantage contrary to Section 19 of the Corrupt Practises and Other Related Offences Act 2000.”
The Federal Government further accused Emefiele, “That you, Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, male, adult, Sa’adatu Ramallan Yaro, female, adult, and April 1616 Investment Ltd, sometime in 2019 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to use the office of Mr. Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to confer a corrupt advantage on Sa’adatu Ramallan Yaro, a staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria, by awarding a contract for the supply of 1 (No.) Toyota Landcruiser V8 at the cost of N73,800,000 only to April 1616 Investment Ltd.
Additionally, it is alleged that Emefiele provided Yaro with a corrupt advantage by granting a contract for the procurement of a Toyota Avalon, valued at N99.9 million, to her company, April1616 Investment Ltd., in 2019.
Moreover, the suspended governor faces accusations of sanctioning a contract for the provision of another Toyota Landcruiser V8, priced at N77.050 million, to the third defendant in 2018.
Read also: Godwin Emefiele and matters arising
Emefiele’s accomplice: Sa’adatu Rammala Yaro
Allegedly, the former CBN governor engaged in a conspiracy with Yaro to grant corrupt advantages to her. This involved granting a contract for the delivery of two Toyota Hilux Shell-spec vehicles, valued at N44.2 million, sometime in 2020.
Emefiele is also accused of awarding another contract to Yaro and her company for the procurement of a Toyota Landcruiser VXR worth N96 million in 2020.
Similarly, Yaro faces allegations of obtaining property through fraudulent means, as she secured a contract from the CBN for the supply of 47 Toyota Hilux vehicles at a cost of N1,085,700,000, thereby committing an offence subject to punishment.
Count 10 read, “That you, Sa’adatu Rammala Yaro, female, adult, sometime in 2018 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court while being employed at the CBN, knowingly held directly a private interest as director in April1616 Investment Ltd., in a contract awarded to the said company, for the supply of 47 Toyota Hilux vehicles at the cost of N1,085,700,000 and thereby committed an offence.”
Count 11, “That you, Sa’adatu Rammala Yaro, female, adult, sometime in 2018 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court while being employed at the CBN, knowingly held directly a private interest as director in April1616 Investment Ltd., in a contract awarded to the said company, emanating from the CBN where you are employed, for the supply of 10 Mercedes Benz armoured buses at the cost of N2,222,500,00 and thereby committed an offence.
The prosecution’s list of witnesses against the accused includes individuals such as Stanley Alvan, the CBN Director of Procurement, Mike Agboro, the CBN Head of Procurement; Tahir Jafar; and David Usman. Additionally, there may be more witnesses provided in the supplementary evidence.
Meanwhile, a ruling regarding the application to withdraw the charges of illegal possession of firearms against Emefiele has been scheduled for Thursday by a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Justice Nicholas Oweibo decided on the new date after considering the arguments presented by the DPP, Abubakar, and Joseph Daudu SAN, the legal counsel for Emefiele. During the previous adjourned session, the hearing was set for pending applications, including one requesting a halt to the bail execution and another compelling compliance with court orders.
However, during the recent session on Tuesday, the DPP made an impromptu request to the court to withdraw the charges against Emefiele. He explained that emerging facts and circumstances required further investigation, urging the court to approve the application. Abubakar indicated that the application was in accordance with sections 174 (1) (c) (2) and 108 (2) (4).
Read also: From FFK with love to Godwin Emefiele
Conversely, the defence counsel disagreed with the prosecution’s verbal plea, arguing that since the government had defied the court’s order granting Emefiele bail, their application shouldn’t be considered.
He said, “There is no application before the court; there is no doubt, and I am not disputing the facts that the state can withdraw any charge before the court against any person.”
Daudu additionally pointed out that previously, the contention revolved around the absence of an Attorney General of the Federation capable of overseeing the case.
He referenced Section 174(3) of the Constitution, which underscores that the AGF possesses authority that can be delegated to any of its representatives.
He said, “We have an application that the AGF has flouted the court order, which says the respondent or defendant should be remanded at the Nigeria Correctional Service, but they are not obeying the order.
“The court granted an order of substituted service to be published in three national dailies, and after they brought an application for stay of execution of the bail, we say that unless they obey, that order, Section 174 (1), can only be by nolle prosequi (I do not want to prosecute).
“It must be in writing; I have never heard of the withdrawal of a case without a nolle prosequi; for the interest of justice, we need to prevent abuse of legal processes.’’
“Every application they brought against any citizen of this country under Section 174 is nolle prosequi; the government cannot come before the court orally for that. It’s to be by nolle prosequi. At this point in time, there is no application before the court.
“I urge the court to reject the application and order the learned DPP to go on with today’s business.”
While responding to the defence argument, Abubakar submitted that nolle prosequi was different from withdrawal and cited Section 108 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
The judge had on July 25 admitted Emefiele to N20 million in bail on a two-count charge of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and ordered his remand at the Ikoyi Correctional Centre, pending when he is able to perfect his bail conditions.
But the Department of State Security operatives rearrested the embattled bank chief after fighting off NCoS officials on the court’s premises.