In a landmark judgment, the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja has declared the extended detention of former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, without trial as a blatant violation of his fundamental rights. The court imposed a N100 million fine on the Federal Government and the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), prohibiting them from rearresting or detaining Emefiele afresh without a valid court order.
The judgment, a result of a fundamental human rights suit filed by Emefiele against his prolonged detention by the Department of State Services (DSS), stated that the actions of the government and its agents constituted a flagrant violation of his fundamental rights to personal liberty.
Emefiele, who was arrested on June 10, shortly after his suspension by President Bola Tinubu, faced a series of detentions and court appearances. Despite being arraigned on illegal firearms charges on July 25, 2023, and granted bail, the DSS re-arrested him on the court premises, leading to nearly five months in custody.
Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, delivering the judgment on Monday, declared, “It is hereby declared that the actions of the first and fourth respondents and its agents incarcerating the applicants from June 13, 2023, to October 26, 2023, when he was transferred to the custody of the fourth respondent and his further detention by the third and fourth respondents without arraignment in the court of law… constitute a flagrant violation of the applicant’s fundamental rights to personal liberty.”
He further awarded N100 million in favor of Emefiele as damages for the unlawful violation of his fundamental right to personal liberty. The court restrained the government and the EFCC from further re-arresting or detaining Emefiele without a court order.
During the ruling, Justice Adeniyi questioned the credibility of the remand warrants obtained by the EFCC and stressed the need to halt the practice of arresting suspects before investigations. He emphasized that suspects should be allowed their day in court if there is evidence of a crime.
Reacting to the judgment, the EFCC expressed dissatisfaction and announced its intention to appeal the decision, citing the validity of the court order under which Emefiele was held. The agency stated, “The decision failed to take cognizance of the fact that the former CBN boss was held with a valid order of court. Consequently, the commission will approach the Court of Appeal to set it aside.”