Suspended CBN Governor Emefiele Explores Plea Bargain as Arraignment Delayed Again

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Suspended CBN Governor Emefiele Explores Plea Bargain as Arraignment Delayed Again
Emefiele’s Arraignment Deferred Again Amid Talks of Plea Bargain

In a recent turn of events, indications have surfaced suggesting that Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), might be considering a plea bargain arrangement with the Federal Government (FG). This revelation comes as his planned re-arraignment before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), situated in Maitama, faced another setback yesterday.

During the proceedings, neither Godwin Emefiele nor his co-defendant in the 20-count corruption case, Mrs. Saadat Yaro, were present in court. While Justice Hamza Muazu, presiding as the vacation judge, was in attendance, Emefiele’s case was conspicuously absent from the court’s cause-list.

A court official, who chose to remain anonymous, disclosed to Vanguard that the arraignment could not proceed as scheduled due to “fresh developments in the matter.” The official stated, “Because of the developments, my lord had to suspend the arraignment. A new return date will be communicated to all the parties.”

Furthermore, an attorney representing one of the defendants hinted at the possibility of a plea bargain to the media, stating that the move towards an out-of-court settlement was initiated by the former CBN governor himself. The lawyer remarked, “The parties are in talks and hopefully the matter will not proceed to trial. We are exploring a plea bargain arrangement. We have asked the court to give us at least two weeks.”

Although Emefiele’s lawyer, Mr. Kehinde Akinlolu, confirmed the postponement of his client’s arraignment, he remained silent regarding the plea bargain discussions. He anticipated that the new trial date would likely be provided by the Chief Judge of the high court, Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf.

A plea bargain is a negotiated settlement term in criminal cases where a defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence or the dismissal of certain charges. Such agreements, regulated by Section 270(1) & (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, are subject to the approval of the trial court.

Recalling the events, Emefiele’s arraignment was previously delayed on August 17 due to the absence of the co-defendant, Mrs. Yaro, who is an employee of the central bank. The prosecution alleges that Emefiele, during his tenure as CBN governor, awarded contracts to April 1616 Investment Limited, a company where Mrs. Yaro serves as Director. The charges encompass conspiracy, procurement fraud, and allegations of conferring corrupt advantages on himself and associates.

The prosecution claims that these contracts included the procurement of over 98 high-value vehicles and armored buses worth approximately N6.9 billion between 2018 and 2020. The listed witnesses in the case include key figures from the CBN’s procurement department and other bank officials.

Emefiele’s arrest by the Department of State Services (DSS) occurred shortly after his suspension by President Bola Tinubu. He was initially charged with illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition. Despite being granted bail, the DSS re-arrested him within the court premises, leading to further legal proceedings.

In a related development, Justice E Okpe of the FCT high court dismissed two separate cases filed by Emefiele’s siblings against the DSS. These cases aimed to prevent the agency from engaging them in relation to their brother’s case. The cases were eventually withdrawn by the applicants, and while the DSS didn’t oppose the withdrawal, it requested substantial costs. The court ruled to dismiss the cases without imposing costs on the applicants.

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