Nigerians are already expressing their outrage over the plea bargain sought by Godwin Emiefele, the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, in the criminal suit filed against him by the federal government.
Social media is already agog with reactions from Nigerians who expressed their disappointment over the move by Emiefele to escape justice; they want the suspended Governor to be tried and face the full wrath of the law.
Emiefele, who is currently facing a 20-count charge before the Federal Capital Territory Court for alleged procurement fraud to the tune of N6.9 billion, conspiracy, and providing corrupt benefits to his accomplices
could be jailed for five years without the option of a fine if found guilty.
But, with the move to settle out of court, Emiefele may not face any custodial sentence.
The embattled Governor was scheduled to be arraigned in the FCT court on Wednesday alongside his co-defendant Sa’adatu Yaro and her business, April 1616 Investment Limited. But they were absent; all other parties were also missing. The case was neither listed in the cause list. The arraignment, initially scheduled for August 17, was stalled due to the absence of Yaro.
But, it was gathered that discussions are already on for a plea bargain between Emefiele, his co-defendant and the federal government.
A plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser offence or one of multiple charges in exchange for some concession by the prosecutor, usually a more lenient sentence or a dismissal of the other charges. It is contained in Section 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
Suleiman Yahaya, partner at AO Olori-aje &co terserly Chambers, explained that the law was crafted purposely for the defendants not to waste the court’s time and resources to go into full trial.
“The defendant then pleads guilty. The only penalty they can give the defendants is to forfeit the proceeds of the crime.
“In Emiefele’s case, all the money he allegedly embezzled, he will refund back to the government. In doing that, they won’t give him a custodial sentence; they will ask him to pay a fine instead of going to prison”, he said.
Reacting, citizens insist that Emiefele must be punished. Their frustration stems from the hardship they endured during the new naira policy introduced by the suspended Governor.
They described plea bargains as a game of the rich to escape justice, which continues to fuel corruption in the country.
“Oh no!! No plea bargain; he must go to jail. Perhaps that will serve as a deterrent to others,” @blessedpat2018 wrote.
@CharlesIboma tweeted, “The Federal government should not enter into a plea bargaining with Emefiele. Through the backing of his godfather, this feeble-minded man suffered the majority of Nigerians; businesses collapsed, and even some paid supreme prices. Enough of a plea bargain; sinners must pay for their sins.”
@Blaqprince13 also wrote, “That’s the order of the day now … Steal 5b, enter a plea bargain, negotiate and return 3b. These rich folks have mastered the game. The more they stole, the more chances they had to escape justice.
Another netizen, Tony Abolaji, said,
“No plea bargain of any sort. Emefiele broke all the rules, from using Nigeria’s monies to finance his Presidential ambition, weakening the entire country monetarily and then mismanaging our monies on a colossal scale. What plea bargain? He belongs in jail just like some others.”
@Avsuccess22 also wrote, “This man messed up with the economy, and naira let him face the music. What about people who died during the naira scarcity due to his policies? People walk naked begging for their own money to feed their families.”
According to Akorede Kabir, another Nigerian, “Plea Bargain Should Be Scrapped to make people face the consequence of their actions”.
@Nanjwan Karimi tweeted, “Please bargain is dubious; I don’t know how it was smuggled into our laws. To me, a plea agreement is a way of strengthening and institutionalising corruption.”
@Maazi Chukwudi wrote, “Out of court?
That means nobody will go down, all the atrocities will be covered, case closed! 9ja !
@sesu-josep thinks that “Emefiele has something about Tinubu and other APC criminals that may be exposed in the court, so FG wants to save face.”
@LawrenceChika23 also wrote, “They are hiding to tell us why the central bank governor can not mention his accomplice. We understand the game.”
A former attorney general and commissioner of justice, who preferred to remain anonymous, said:
“Our ruling elite have worked out that the bigger the amount stolen, the more likely you are to walk away with a good chunk of your loot after a “plea bargain”. A plea bargain means a lesser sentence or immunity from prosecution everywhere else. Here, it is a statutorily-sanctioned basis for negotiating how much-stolen money the thief will keep.
In this case, we can safely assume that Mr. Emefiele is probably making a “very strong” case for a “plea bargain”. He ran a racket, and every racketeer has a little notebook with names in it. The book is his calling card.”
The federal government had initially charged the embattled CBN governor for illegally possessing firearms but asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to withdraw the charges following its investigations.
The federal government then filed a fresh 20-count charge. The offence contradicts Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000m. If found guilty of the amount of corrupt enrichment, the suspended CBN governor could be sentenced to five years imprisonment without the option of a fine.
“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”, the section read.
In the charges signed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mohammed Abubakar; Deputy Director, Public Prosecution, Nkiru Jones-Nebo; and eight other ministry officials, the three accused persons were alleged to have bought a fleet of over 98 exotic vehicles and armoured buses valued at about N6.9bn.
“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 (Nos.) It stated that 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”.
It would be recalled that President Bola Tinubu ll on June 9 suspended the CBN governor from office to enable an investigation into allegations against him.
The court sitting in Lagos had, on July 25, admitted Emefiele to a N20million bail on a two-count charge of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and ordered his remand at the Ikoyi Correctional Centre, pending the fulfilment of his bail conditions.
But the Department of State Services rearrested the embattled Governor after fighting prison officials at the court premises.