By Esther Blankson
The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.
The threat was connected to his failure to appear in court to explain the circumstances surrounding the $53m judgment debt arising from the Paris Club refund.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, however, said he was minded to exercise restraint in the proceeding to allow the ex-CBN boss to explain himself on the next adjourned date.
Emefiele’s counsel, Audu Anuga, SAN, told the court that Emefiele, who was suspended as CBN governor, had been in detention.
He said all efforts to reach him to communicate the directive of the court to him were unsuccessful.
He prayed the court to grant another opportunity to his client as they have been unable to reach him since the last order, directing him to appear in court.
On October 20, 2022, Justice Ekwo ordered the CBN governor to appear in court on January 18 over his alleged refusal to obey the order of the court for the payment of the judgment debt in favour of a legal practitioner, Joe Agi, SAN.
Agi had dragged Linas International Ltd, Minister of Finance, CBN, and Emefiele to court as 1st to 4th judgment debtors respectively, following an application for garnishee made by him as judgment creditor in the case.
However, the matter was subsequently adjourned to March 20, before it was fixed for June 6 again as of January 18, proceedings could not go on as scheduled.
On June 6, the court ordered Emefiele to appear before it on July 19.
But President Bola Tinubu, on June 9, suspended him as CBN governor and he was directed to transfer his responsibilities to the deputy governor, operations directorate.
Hours after his suspension, the DSS announced his arrest and detention on June 10.
Upon resumed hearing on Wednesday, Ayodele Arotiowa, who appeared for Agi, was about to make a submission when Justice Ekwo asked Emefiele’s lawyer if he had complied with the order.
“We made an effort to see how we can communicate with the 4th respondent (Emefiele) but the 3rd respondent (CBN) was unable to communicate with the 4th respondent.
“We rely only on public communication that the 4th respondent is incarcerated and have been unable to communicate with him,” Anuga responded.
He said there was another development now as to whether Emefiele could act on behalf of the CBN.
However, the judge said that Emefiele was sued in his personal capacity.
Anuga said, “But the public information now is that he has been suspended. An opportunity has to be given to him to comply.”
But Justice Ekwo asked how long the court would wait for Emefiele since 2017 when the suit was filed.
He asked Anuga to tender a good reason why the court should not issue a warrant of arrest against Emefiele.
The senior lawyer said since his client was still in detention after his suspension despite an order mandating his release, “My lord, we are at the mercy of the court.”
“But there is an intervening event, as we have not had the privilege to see him.”
“The last opportunity my lord gave to the 4th respondent has not been communicated to him.”
“I feel opportunity should be given so that this can be communicated,” he pleaded.
Anuga said after this, if Emefiele failed to comply, the court can then take action.
The judge, consequently, adjourned the matter until October 31 for the CBN and Emefiele to show cause why an arrest warrant should not be issued against the former CBN governor.
The dispute stemmed from an alleged $70 million judgment against Linas International Ltd for the lawyer’s (Joe Agi) assistance with the Paris Club refund.
Emefiele was said to have only released $17 million, leaving an unpaid balance of $53 million.
The court had on January 23, 2020, ruled that Emefiele must appear “to be examined on oath.”