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Nigeria: Co-Defendant’s Absence Stalls Emefiele’s Arraignment On Alleged Procurement Fraud

Abuja — The arraignment of the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT) was on Thursday stalled due to the absence of his co-defendant, one Mrs Sa’adatu Yaro.

The duo, alongside a company, April 1616 Investment Limited, purported to belong to Mrs Yaro were to be arraigned before Justice Hamza Muazu on a fresh 20-count charge bordering on alleged breach of procurement laws.

However, when the matter was called on Thursday, Emefiele, who was in court and entered the dock, could however not take his pleas because of the absence of Yaro, who was reported to have taken ill Thursday morning.

Consequently, the court adjourned till August 23, for the arraignment of the defendants.

The Federal Government had on Tuesday withdrawn the two-count charge of alleged illegal possession of firearms filed at a Lagos Federal High Court.

In the fresh charge, the Federal Government is accusing the suspended CBN governor of conferring corrupt advantages on Yaro through the award of contracts to April 1616 Investment Limited, up to the tune of N99.9 million for the supply of cars.

The said transaction was said to have occurred between 2018 and 2020 and is said to have contravened Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.

If found guilty, he could spend up to five years in jail.

“Any public officer who uses his office or position to gratify or confer any corrupt or unfair advantage upon himself or any relation or associate of the public officer or any other public officer shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for five years without an option of fine,” the law stipulates.

According to the charges, Emefiele and Yaro were alleged to have purchased a fleet of about 100 posh vehicles and armoured buses worth about N6.9 billion.

In December 2022, the Directorate of State Services (DSS) filed a warrant of arrest before the Federal High Court in Abuja, where it accused Emefiele of egregious financial and terrorism-related crimes.

However, the court declined to grant the request, citing the service’s failure to place any evidence before it to substantiate the application.

In count one, Emefiele was said to have “sometime in 2018 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did use your position as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to confer a corrupt advantage on Sa’adatu Ramallan Yaro, a staff member of the Central Bank of Nigeria, by awarding a contract for the supply of 37 (Nos.) Toyota Hilux Vehicles at the cost of N854,700,000 only to April 1616 Investment Ltd, a company in which she is a director and thereby committed an offence”.

In another count, the suspended CBN chief, Yaro and her company “sometime in 2019 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did conspire amongst yourselves to use the office of Mr. Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to confer a corrupt advantage on Sa’adatu Ramallan Yaro, a staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria, by awarding a contract for the supply of 1 (No.) Toyota Landcruiser V8 at the cost of N73,800,000 only to April 1616 Investment Ltd”.

According to count 10, “Ms Yaro, sometime in 2018 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court while being employed at the CBN knowingly held directly a private interest as director in April1616 Investment Ltd., in a contract awarded to the said company, for the supply of 47 Toyota Hilux vehicles at the cost of N1,085, 700,000 and thereby committed an offence.”

Count 11 says: “That you, Sa’adatu Rammala Yaro, female, adult, sometime in 2018 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court while being employed at the CBN knowingly held directly a private interest as director in April1616 Investment Ltd., in a contract awarded to the said company, emanating from the CBN where you are employed, for the supply of 10 Mercedes Benz armoured buses at the cost of N2,222, 500,00 and thereby committed an offence.”

President Bola Tinubu had shortly after assumption of office suspended Emefiele as CBN governor over alleged infractions and breach of trust.

Emefiele was then arrested on June 10, and later arraigned a month after on a two-count charge of alleged unlawful possession of firearms.

Although, he pleaded not guilty to the charge and was admitted to bail, the DSS refused to recognize the bail claiming that Emefiele still have other charges to answer to.

He has been in custody since June 10, when he was arrested despite the order for his release.

Justice Muazu had in July ordered the government to arraign him within seven days or release him immediately.

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