The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Wednesday threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against the suspended governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, over his failure to appear in court to explain circumstances surrounding the $53 million judgment debt arising from the Paris Club refund.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, who ordered Mr Emefiele to appear on the next adjourned date, said he was minded to exercise restraint in the proceeding to allow the ex-CBN boss to explain himself.
The development occurred following an intervention by Mr Emefiele’s counsel, Audu Anuga, SAN, praying the court to give his client another opportunity because they had been unable to reach him since the last order, directing him to appear in court.
Mr Anuga told the court that Mr Emefiele, suspended as CBN governor, had been detained, and all efforts to communicate the court’s directive to him were unsuccessful.
Mr Ekwo had, on October 20, 2022, ordered the CBN governor to appear in court on January 18 over his alleged refusal to obey the court’s order to pay the judgment debt in favour of a legal practitioner, Joe Agi, SAN.
Mr Agi had dragged Linas International Ltd, Minister of Finance, CBN and Mr Emefiele to court as first to fourth judgment debtors, respectively, following an application for garnishee made by him as judgment creditor in the case
However, on January 18, proceedings could not go on as scheduled when the matter was called, prompting the court to adjourn the case till March 20 before it was fixed for June 6 again.
On June 6, the judge ordered Mr Emefiele to appear before it on July 19 (today).
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.
No sooner had Mr Emefiele been suspended than the State Security Service (SSS), on June 10, announced his arrest and detention.
Upon resumed hearing on Wednesday, Ayodele Arotiowa, who appeared for Mr Agi, was about to make a submission when Justice Ekwo asked Mr Emefiele’s lawyer if he had complied with the order.
“We rely only on public communication that the fourth respondent is incarcerated and have been unable to communicate with him,” Mr Anuga responded.
He said there was another development now as to whether Mr Emefiele could act on behalf of the CBN.
The judge, who said that CBN had no issue here, said Mr Emefiele was sued in his personal capacity.
Mr Anuga said: “But the public information now is that he has been suspended. An opportunity has to be given to him to comply.”
Mr Ekwo asked how long the court will wait for Mr Emefiele since 2017, when the suit was filed.
“I have given you enough opportunity, but you are taking it for granted,” the judge said while directing Mr Anuga to give a good reason why the court should not issue a warrant of arrest against Mr 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.”
The judge, consequently, adjourned the matter until October 31 for the CBN and Mr Emefiele to show cause why an arrest warrant should not be issued against the former CBN governor.