The Federal High Court in Abuja issued a warning on Wednesday, stating that it may issue an arrest warrant for Godwin Emefiele, the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The court’s threat comes as a result of Emefiele’s failure to appear in court and provide an explanation regarding the $53 million judgment debt related to the Paris Club refund. Justice Inyang Ekwo, however, expressed a willingness to exercise restraint and allow Emefiele to present his case on the next adjourned date.
Emefiele’s lawyer, Audu Anuga, informed the court that his client, who had been suspended as CBN governor, was detained and they were unable to contact him to relay the court’s directive. Anuga requested another opportunity for Emefiele to appear, as all attempts to reach him since the last court order had been unsuccessful.
Previously, on October 20, 2022, Justice Ekwo had ordered Emefiele to appear in court by January 18 due to his alleged refusal to comply with the court’s order to pay the judgment debt to legal practitioner Joe Agi, SAN. Agi had filed a lawsuit against Linas International Ltd, the Minister of Finance, CBN, and Emefiele as the 1st to 4th judgment debtors respectively, following an application for garnishee made by Agi as the judgment creditor in the case.
The case was adjourned to March 20, and then further rescheduled to June 6, as the proceedings could not take place as originally scheduled on January 18. On June 6, the court ordered Emefiele to appear before it on July 19. However, President Bola Tinubu suspended Emefiele as CBN governor on June 9 and instructed him to transfer his responsibilities to the deputy governor of the operations directorate. The Department of State Services (DSS) announced Emefiele’s arrest and detention on June 10.
During the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Ayodele Arotiowa, representing Agi, was about to make a submission when Justice Ekwo inquired if Emefiele’s lawyer had complied with the order. Anuga responded that they had been unable to communicate with Emefiele since he was incarcerated and relied solely on public information. The judge emphasized that Emefiele was being sued in his personal capacity, and Anuga mentioned the recent development of Emefiele’s suspension and the need to grant him an opportunity to comply.
Justice Ekwo questioned the duration of the court’s wait for Emefiele since the lawsuit was filed in 2017. He asked Anuga to present a valid reason why the court should not issue an arrest warrant against Emefiele. Anuga stated that his client was still in detention despite an order for his release and pleaded for an opportunity to communicate the court’s instructions. Anuga proposed that if Emefiele failed to comply after this opportunity, the court could then take action.
Consequently, the judge adjourned the matter until October 31, allowing the CBN and Emefiele time to demonstrate why an arrest warrant should not be issued against the former CBN governor. The dispute revolves around an alleged $70 million judgment against Linas International Ltd, with Emefiele only releasing $17 million and leaving an outstanding balance of $53 million. On January 23, 2020, the court had ruled that Emefiele must appear for questioning under oath.
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