The Nation Newspaper
Looking frail and older, Emefiele walked away unhindered from the building housing the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama on Wednesday afternoon.
Emefiele, dressed in light green native attire and a cap, was brought to the court about two hours earlier by a group of operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), some of whom were armed.
But, following a ruling by Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, granting him bail and handing him to his lawyers, the EFCC operatives retreated, leaving him to his lawyers and relatives who led him from the courtroom into a black sport utility vehicle (SUV) stationed by the court’s main entrance.
At the mention of the case – a fundamental rights enforcement suit by Emefiele – his lawyer, Matthew Burkaa (SAN) told the court that the EFCC has produced his client in court in compliance with the court’s November 2 order.
Justice Adeniyi then asked Emefiele, who was seated in the courtroom, to stand up to be sighted, which he (Emefiele) did.
Satisfied, Justice Adeniyi commended the EFCC and its lawyer, Farouk Abdullah for producing Emefiele in court in compliance with the order made by the court on November 2.
The judge then took arguments from lawyers to parties on how they thought the court should proceed, following which lawyer to Emefiele, Burkaa prayed the court to grant his client bail.
Burkaa argued that it was wrong for the Federal Government to keep Emefiele for 151 days , about five months, in custody without being charged for any offence.
He urged the court to exercise its powers under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) to grant Emefiele bail.
Burkaa added that the Fed Govt and the EFCC have not shown that Emefiele was a flight risk who will not attended court when granted bail.
On their part, lawyers to the respondents – the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Chairman of the EFCC and the EFCC- Oyin Koleosho and Abdullah prayed the court not to grant bail to Emefiele.
They noted that a charge was pending against Emefiele for which his arraignment has been scheduled for November 15.
Ruling, Justice Adeniyi noted the order was made pursuant to the provision of Order 4 Rule 4(C)(i) of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement (Procedure) Rules, which were made pursuant to the provision of Section 46(2) of the Constitution
He noted that from the documents filed by the respondents in the case – a fundamental rights enforcement suit by Emefiele – two issue stood out.
The first, he noted, was that a charge was pending against Emefiele before another judge of the court, in which arraignment has been scheduled for November 15.
The second, the judge said, was that the EFCC also brought to the court’s attention a copy of a remand order it claimed to have obtained from a Magistrate Court in Abuja.
He said despite the identified issues, the fact that Emefiele was kept in state’s custody for about 151 days without being arraigned before a court in relation to any criminal offence, was of utmost concern to the court.
Justice Adeniyi added: “Even where a remand order subsists, the court is empowered under Section 298(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) to make any orders it considers necessary during the remand period.
“I must emphasize that the essence of the exercise today is not for counsel on both sides to argue or debate on whether or not the court should admit the applicant (Emefiele) to bail. The order of the court of November 2, 2023 is already clear on that.
“The exercise today only becomes necessary for the refusal of the 3rd and 4th respondents to abide by the first option given by the court in its order of November 11, which is to release the applicant unconditionally.
“He said although the court has been informed that Emefiele would be arraigned on November 15, which is not a certainty, cannot preclude his court from admitting him to bail in the interim.
“There must be an end to detention without trial. There are no compelling facts placed before this court that if the court admits the applicant to bail, he shall not attend the arraignment as scheduled.
“Without any further ado, I hereby order that the applicant be released on bail to his learned senior counsel – Matthew Burkaa (SAN), J. J. Usman (SAN) and Magaji Mato Ibrahim (SAN) – who are hereby charged with the responsibility of producing him in court on the 15/11/2023, the date scheduled for his arraignment or any such other date as the case may be.
“In addition, the applicant shall transmit and deposit all his international traveling documents with the Senior Registrar of this court pending his formal arraignment or pending the hearing and determination of the applicant’s substantive motion on notice filed before this court, whichever is earlier in time,” the judge said.
But for the fact the Emefiele was shielded by his lawyers, he would have been attacked by some angry individuals, who witnessed the court’s proceedings and were unhappy that the ex-CBN Governor was granted bail.
Emefiele, who looked troubled, was overheard asking his lawyers if they were sure the EFCC operatives will not come back for him.
As he walked from the third floor (where the courtroom is located) to the ground floor and into the waiting car, some of the angry individuals were shouting thief, thief, as they made effort to reach him.
His lawyers and some family members around promptly assisted him into the waiting car owned by one of the lawyers, and it immediately exited the court’s premises.