Nigeria: Court Rejects SSS’ Request for Arrest Warrant Against CBN Governor Emefiele

The judge criticised the SSS for attempting to use the court as a cover for an irregular move to arrest the CBN governor Emefiele

The Federal High Court in Abuja has thrown out a request by the State Security Services (SSS) to order the arrest of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele.

The secret police had filed an ex parte application for an order for the arrest of the CBN governor over alleged “acts of financing terrorism, fraudulent activities and economic crimes of national security dimension.”

The SSS filed the application marked FHC/ABJ/CS/2255/2022 at the court on 7 December, suing Mr Emefiele as the sole respondent in the ex parte application.

But the judge, John Tsoho, who is the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, in a ruling on 9 December, rejected the application on the grounds that the secret police failed to provide sufficient evidence to warrant the issuance of an arrest warrant against Mr Emefiele.

The judge said the depositions in the affidavit filed by the SSS in support of its application “purport that preliminary investigation has revealed various acts of terrorism financing, fraudulent activities perpetrated by the respondent and his involvement in economic crimes of national security dimension.”

But rejecting the application, the judge said: “These are no doubt grave allegations, but which the applicant has not presented any concrete evidence to support.”

He also said the SSS failed to clearly identify the person against whom the arrest warrant was sought. He said it remained speculation whether the person was the same Godwin Emefiele serving as the CBN governor.

If the targeted person was the incumbent CBN governor, the judge said there was the need to obtain the approval of his boss, presumably referring to President Muhammadu Buhari, for his arrest given the crucial roles he plays in driving the economy.

He said there was no evidence in SSS’ application that such approval was obtained.

“The respondent in this application is named as ‘Godwin Emefiele’ without disclosure of his status or position anywhere; not even in the affidavit.

“It is left to speculation if the ‘Godwin Emefiele’ is the same person as the serving Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. If it is, then he is unarguably a high-ranking public official in Nigeria and indeed occupies a sensitive position as one of the key drivers of the nation’s economy.

“Therefore, an application of this kind should have evidence of the approval of the respondent’s boss, that such measures are authorised to be taken.”

With or without a court order, the judge said SSS had the power to arrest Mr Emefiele based on reasonable suspicion, but that the agency’s lack of concrete evidence must have driven it to seek the court’s arrest warrant to serve as a cover for an irregular procedure.

“It therefore seems that the applicant intends to use the court as a cover for an irregular procedure, which is unacceptable.

“In the light of the foregoing reasons, I decline to grant this application ex-parte,” Mr Tsoho said.

But giving the secret service another option to pursue its case, the judge added: “If however, the applicant desires to still pursue this application, then it should place the respondent on notice considering the sensitive public office that he occupies.”

‘Emefiele targeted for his economic policies’

The ruling came to public knowledge after a protest by a civic coalition, comprising the Arewa Youth Consultative Movement and public interest lawyers, in Abuja on Monday, against what they called a plot by the SSS to arrest Mr Emefiele for allegedly financing terrorism.

Speaking at a press conference, Tochukwu Ohazuruike, the convener of the group referred to as the Coalition of National Interest Defenders, said the move against the CBN governor was a plot by politicians uncomfortable with the economic reform policy of the bank, especially the re-designation of the naira.

The coalition accused the spy agency of not informing President Buhari of its findings against the CBN governor.

Challenging the veracity of the secret service’s claims, the group said if truly the SSS had concrete issues, it would not have allowed Mr Emefiele to travel with Mr Buhari to the United States.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that Mr Buhari travelled to Washington on Sunday, 11 December, to join other African leaders at the United States-Africa Leaders Summit.

The president had Mr Emefiele in his entourage to Washington.

The group called on Mr Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to suspend, arrest, investigate and prosecute the Director-General of SSS, Yusuf Bichi.

It accused Mr Bichi of being used by politicians to truncate the CBN’s new cashless policy.


Mr Emefiele has faced criticisms for the CBN’s recent policies of redesigning the country’s highest currencies and limiting cash withdrawals to N20,000 per day and N100,000 per week.

Although yet to be independently confirmed by PREMIUM TIMES, many have said the move to arrest Mr Emefiele by the SSS is a plot scripted by politicians who are uncomfortable with the new CBN policies in the lead-up to the 2023 general elections.

The cash withdrawal limits and the currency redesignation will undercut the amount of cash politicians can stockpile for illicit activities such as voter inducement and bribery of security personnel and other relevant officials during the elections which are holding in about two months.

Mr Emefiele, since 2014 when he was appointed to office, has also faced severe criticisms over controversial policies and handling of the economy.

On his watch, the naira has suffered an unprecedented fall with the currency now exchanging for over N740 to a dollar in the parallel market.

Earlier this year, Mr Emefiele covertly, yet intensely, pursued a presidential ambition as a sitting CBN governor.

The CBN governor’s unprecedented move of participating in partisan politics drew public outrage and was widely condemned by several thought leaders, including a PREMIUM TIMES editorial.

He was also criticised after the CBN obtained a court order to freeze the bank accounts of some #EndSARS protesters in 2020.

The bank only backtracked by withdrawing its court application leading to the lifting of the freezing order on the bank accounts after much criticism from the public.

SSS reacts

Reacting to the pro-Mr Emefiele group criticising the SSS’ move to arrest the CBN governor on Monday, the agency warned Nigerians against being used to “undermine” its investigations.

The SSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, said in a statement on Monday that the agency would not be distracted by “propaganda” aimed at undermining its lawful investigations.

Mr Afunanya said SSS had the duty to investigate “matters of national security dimension” and had “always discharged this responsibility in the overall interest of Nigerian citizens”.

He urged Nigerians to “avoid being used to thwart or undermine the Service and its lawful investigations as those who wish to act in the breach will be dealt with in accordance with the law”.

His statement further read:

“As such, the Service will continue to disseminate actionable intelligence to the relevant authorities devoid of any sentiment,” the statement reads.

“While professionally discharging its mandate, the DSS pledges to remain focused and unbiased. It will not, by any means, succumb to propaganda, intimidation and the desperation of hirelings to undermine it.

“It will also not give room to the use of falsehood and deceit to misdirect public understanding and perceptions of issues of national importance.

“Given not to join issues, the Service warns those on a wild goose chase to be mindful of their actions. Similarly, it urges members of the public to disregard the vituperations and rantings of misguided elements and not allow themselves to be used as instruments of destabilisation.

“Notably, these elements should remember the famous axiom that ‘you will only deceive some people, some of the time, but not all people, all the time’.

“To put it succinctly, the Service will not be distracted by persons and/or groups from carrying out its duties to the Nation, citizens, and, President and Commander-in-Chief.”


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