The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos Tuesday granted bail to the suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele in his alleged gun possession trial.
Justice Nicholas Oweibo released Emefiele on a N20million bail bond with one surety in the like sum.
He adjourned till November 14 for commencement of trial.
The judge made the order following the banker’s arraignment and “not guilty” plea to a two-count charge filed against him by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
He rejected the argument by a Deputy Director of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Nkiru Jones-Nebo that Emefiele should not be released because he was a flight risk.
The judge ruled that the government failed to provide any fact to support its claim.
Emefiele, 61, had filed the application through his team of counsel led by Chief Joseph Daudu, SAN, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The application opposed the allegation that Emefiele was found in possessing of a single-barrel shotgun (JOJEFF MAGNUM 8371) without a licence on June 15 at No. 3b Ibru Close, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The Federal Government maintained that the offence was contrary to Section 4 of the Firearms Act, 2004, and punishable under Section 27 (1b) of the same Act.
In the second count, the CBN Governor was accused of having in his possession 123 rounds of live ammunition (Cartridges) without a licence, which was contrary to Section 8 of the Firearms Act 2004 and punishable under Section 27 (1)(b)(il) of the same Act.
But Emefiele denied the charge.
“My Lord, I am not guilty,” he said.
Dauda’s prayer for Emefiele’s bail application to be heard was opposed by Jones-Nebo, who claimed among others that she had “not been given the bail application.”
“As I stand here, I have not set eyes on it,” she said, praying for time to respond to the application.
But the judge, in a bench ruling, rejected Jones-Nebo’s claim.
The judge upheld Dauda’s contention that the Federal Government had been served and the proof of service to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF)’s office was in the court’s file, clearing the way for the bail application to be heard.
Dauda had also urged the court to end the oppression of his client by the Department of State Security (DSS) which arrested him and hear the bail application.
“There should be an end to oppression,” he said, noting that Emefiele had been in DSS custody for 46 days.
Arguing the bail request, Dauda prayed the court to relaser Emefiele on self-recognizance or on other reasonable terms.
But Nebo opposed the bail saying, among others, that the defendant could evade trial or use his power as CBN boss to intimidate his colleagues and prevent the trial from going on.
Justice Oweibo discountenanced the government’s argument. The judge agreed with Dauda that, among others, the Prosecution placed nothing before the court in proof of its claims.
He held: “I find and hold that the prosecution has failed to establish why the defendant should not be granted bail.
“Consequently the defendant is admitted to bail in the sum of N20 million with one surety in the like sum
“The surety must be the owner of landed property within the jurisdiction of the court, who must not be less than level 16 in the Nigerian civil service
“The defendant must deposit his international passport with the court.
“Case adjourned to 14th of November for trial
The judge remanded the defendant in prison custody as against the request of the prosecution that the defendant should be remanded in DSS custody for further investigation on another matter that may soon by filed in court
On June 9, President Bola Tinubu suspended Emefiele and asked him to transfer his responsibilities to Folashodun Adebisi Shonubi, deputy governor, operations directorate.
The day after, the DSS announced that Emefiele was in its custody for “some investigative reasons”.