The Federal Government’s failure to arraign the suspended Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele and his co-defendant at two consecutive hearings scheduled for them to take their pleas over alleged N6.9 billion procurement fraud has been attributed to security concerns.
Mr Emefiele, the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Sa’adatu Ramallan-Yaro were billed for arraignment over a N6.9 billion corruption charges at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Maitama.
But the Department of State Services (DSS) failed to bring Mr Emefiele and Ms Ramallan-Yaro to court. Both of the defendants have been in DSS custody.
Neither the prosecution headed by the DPP, Mr Abubakar, nor the defence teams were in court for the case scheduled to come up before Hamzat Muazu, a judge at the Maitama Division of the FCT High Court.
Mr Emefiele’s lawyer, Akinlolu Kehinde, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and Ms Ramallan-Yaro’s counsel, Abdulhakeem Labi-lawal, were absent.
Earlier on 17 August, Mr Emefiele was brought to court but Ms Ramallan-Yaro was absent due to ill health, a development that compelled the judge to reschedule the pair’s arraignment.
Mr Emefiele was charged alongside Mrs Ramalan-Yaro, and her company, April 1616 Investment Limited.
Mr Emefiele and Mrs Ramalan-Yaro, a CBN staff member, were accused of conspiracy and corruption involving procurement of vehicles worth as much as N6.9 billion for the CBN.
The charges alleged that Mr Emefiele conferred corrupt advantages on Ms Ramalan-Yaro, using her firm, April 1616 Investment Limited, to execute a series of procurement contracts spanning years.
The failure of the arraignment to take place on two consecutive occasions had fuelled speculations about ongoing plea bargain talks between the defence and the prosecution. It was reported that Mr Emefiele opted for the plea bargain.
A plea bargain is a legal process that allows a defendant charged with an offence in court, usually before trial begins or gets to an advanced stage, to plead guilty to a lesser crime in order to get softer sentence.
But speaking with Premium Times on Thursday in Abuja, Mohammed Abubakar, the DPP, says the government couldn’t arraign Emefiele and his co-defendant on corruption charges on Wednesday because there were safety concerns around the court.
“You remember at the last sitting, some angry persons mobilised to the court threatening to lynch him (Mr Emefiele),” Mr Abubakar said.
“We were ready to bring the defendants to court for arraignment on Wednesday, but we received an intelligence report that some people were out to foment trouble. So, we had to shelve the arraignment.”
Contrary to media reports that Mr Emefiele had struck a plea bargain deal with the government, Mr Abubakar said nothing like that has come up in the case.
He said neither Mr Emefiele, his co-defendant, nor the prosecution had made any suggestion for a plea agreement.
“As far as we are concerned, there is no such application for plea bargain before the Ministry of Justice,” Mr Abubakar said.
He, however, added that the law provides for plea bargain, and if “there is any such request it would be considered.”