Indications emerged yesterday that the embattled suspended governor of the Central bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, may be exploring a plea bargain deal with FG.
This is even as his scheduled fresh arraignment before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, sitting at Maitama, was again, stalled yesterday.
Neither Emefiele nor his co-defendant in the 20-count corruption charge the Federal Government entered before the court, Mrs. Saadat Yaro, were present for the proceeding.
Though trial Justice Hamza Muazu, who is sitting as the vacation judge, was on seat, Emefiele’s case was, however, not listed on the court’s cause-list.
An official of the court who spoke to Vanguard but pleaded not to be named, said the case could not proceed as planned, “due to fresh developments in the matter.”
“Because of the developments, my lord had to suspend the arraignment. A new return date will be communicated to all the parties,” the official added.
Meanwhile, one of the defence lawyers in the matter, who dropped hint of the plea bargain to newsmen, said the move to settle the case out-of-court was at the instance of the erstwhile CBN boss.
“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,” the lawyer added.
Whereas Emefiele’s lawyer, Mr. Kehinde Akinlolu, SAN, confirmed that the scheduled arraignment of his client would not go on, he was however silent on the plea bargain issue.
He said the new trial date may likely be issued by the Chief Judge of the high court, Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf.
A plea bargain is a negotiated term of settlement in criminal trials that allows a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser offence or reduced charge, in exchange for a reduction in sentence or dismissal of the charges.
The terms of agreement between the prosecution and the defendant are subsequently accepted by the trial court which adopts same as its judgement in the matter.
Such arrangement is allowed under section 270(1) & (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015.
It will be recalled that Emefiele’s arraignment was equally stalled on August 17, following the absence of the 2nd defendant, Mrs. Yaro, who is a staff of the apex bank.
The Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation, DPPF, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, who is prosecuting the case for the Federal Government, had informed the court that Mrs. Yaro took ill.
A company, April 1616 Investment Limited, was cited as the 3rd defendant in the charge which borders on conspiracy, procurement fraud and an allegation that suspended CBN governor conferred corrupt advantages on himself and his associates.
Specifically, FG, alleged that Emefiele had while he held sway as head of the apex bank, awarded contracts to the company which had Mrs. Yaro, a staff of the bank, as its Director.
It alleged that the contract included the purchase of over 98 exotic vehicles and armoured buses that were valued at about N6.9billion.
The prosecution told the court that some of the items the defendants bought between 2018 and 2020, included 84 Toyota Hilux vehicles, 10 armoured Mercedes Benz buses, three Toyota Landcruisers and one Toyota Avalon car.
Among those listed to testify in the matter, included the Director of Procurement at the CBN, Stanley Alvan, Head of Procurement at the bank, Mike Agboro, Tahir Jafar, David Usman, as well as bank officials.
The defendants were said to have acted in breach of various provisions of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
Operatives of the DSS arrested Emefiele at his Ikoyi residence in Lagos a day after he was suspended as the governor of the CBN by President Bola Tinubu.
He was subsequently arraigned before the Federal High Court in Lagos on July 25, on a two-count charge of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Though the court granted Emefiele bail to the tune of N20million with one surety in the like sum, however, he could not regain his freedom as the DSS re-arrested him within the court premises, in an operation that led its agents to violently manhandle a senior prison official.
Emefiele was later flown to Abuja to face the instant case, after the former charge against him was withdrawn and struck out.
Meantime, in a related development, Justice E Okpe of the FCT high court, on Tuesday, struck out two separate cases that Emefiele’s siblings, George and Okanta, filed against the Department of State Services, DSS.
The duo had approached the court for an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the security agency from inviting, intimidating, harassing, arresting or detaining them in relation to the case against their brother.
At the resumed proceedings in the matter, counsel for the Applicants, Ms. Grace Ehusani, told the court that his clients filed notice to discontinue the case.
Though the DSS, through its lawyer, Mr. Ibrahim Awo, did not oppose the Applicants’ request, it, however, urged the court to dismiss the suits with substantial cost.
Likewise, counsel to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Maimuma Lami-Sheru, equally demanded for N2m cost to be awarded against the Applicants.
In his ruling, Justice Okpe dismissed the case, though he declined to award cost against them, the vacation judge, dismissed the cases and ordered no cost should be paid by the Applicants.