The Emefiele game goes on

By Kalu Igwe Kalu

Even before friends and family could shout Hallelujah over his eventual release from the custody of the Department of State Security (DSS), Godwin Emefiele, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor till the entry of President Bola Tinubu, was quickly nabbed and clamped into detention again by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Before the purported release of Emefiele by the DSS, it had been rumoured that the government was working out a plea bargain with him. When Emefieele was unceremoniously booted out of the CBN and replaced with a substantive governor, observers thought that it must be part of the plea bargain, and their man would soon be out. The government was in no hurry, but the DSS eventually announced that it had released the captive. It turned out to be a choreographed handover to its sister agency, the EFCC.

I'm sure that Emefiele's people are getting to understand it now. Both the DSS and EFCC were hived off the Nigeria Police Force to serve special functions for the government. If a plea bargain was worked out as suspected, it will not be surprising for this government with its wonderful moral baggage, to keep a straight face that it has done its bit releasing the captive. The DSS had released him, as supposedly promised, and if the EFCC picked him up, it didn't mean the government had reneged. 

After the EFCC must have gotten what it wants, one needs no imagination to know that the mother force, Nigeria Police Force (NPF) would have its turn. And after the police, the civil defence, boys scout, neighbourhood vigilante etc will all have their turns in the good old game of shakedown before the captive gets home. 

Or would this government for once surprise Nigerians?

When Muhammadu Buhari became president in 2015, the All Progressives Congress (APC) party regaled Nigerians with tales of how corrupt the Peoples Democratic Party government that it had just ousted was. Chief among the tales was the ‘petroleum subsidy scam’. Nigerians were so engaged with tales of the scam, that for six months, Buhari forgot to form his cabinet. And after eight years of his rule, hardly was anybody convicted for the touted crimes.

On coming to power, the Bola Tinubu government seems to have simply followed the APC template – feed them with scandals. Tinubu government found its own proverbial tortoise around whom the tales are woven in the person of Godwin Emefiele.

Tinubu suspended him as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) less than a fortnight after taking over power, and the Department of State Security (DSS) arrested him the next day. The DSS has held him since, despite an extant court injunction forbidding his arrest, court orders for his release from detention, and bail granted him by the judge adjudicating on the charges brought by the DSS against him.

But Tinubu wouldn’t have Buhari’s six months of absolute storytelling before governance. For one, this is a transition within the same party. So, finger-pointing had to be limited. And Tinubu’s haste to yank off the petroleum subsidy and please his foreign masters brought acute hunger very fast to the populace, and the primacy of the stomach started asserting itself.

While engaged in all motion but no movement concerning hunger in the land, Tinubu’s spin-doctors found it necessary to keep feeding the ears of the populace. They found nothing better to sell than the tale of a demon upon which to hang the troubles of Nigeria. They thus created the necessary devil in the person of Godwin Emefiele.

First, the speculation was floated that Emefiele was a sponsor of terrorism in Nigeria. A shocked nation looked on with bated breath for the man to be arraigned in court on those charges. But it wasn’t to be. After holding him in custody for 45 days, the DSS climbed down and charged him with the possession of a firearm and ammunition. Emefiele pleaded not-guilty, and was granted bail by the trial judge, who also ordered that he be held by the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) till the bail was perfected. But the DSS physically fought off the NCS to take Emefiele away.

The government has since resorted to a strip-tease approach in the demonization of Emefiele. A strip tease starts with an apparently willing young woman dancing before a crowd at a club and then peeling off the items of her dressing till she is stark naked. That’s what the government is doing with Emefiele, only that he is an unwilling entertainer getting unclad.

A new 20-count charge of malfeasance was slammed on him and another CBN colleague on August 13. But the arraignment scheduled for that day didn’t hold, as his co-accused, Saadatu Ramalan Yaro was reported sick and absent from court. The matter was adjourned to August 22. Again, the arraignment didn’t hold. A leak has since emerged that some people had threatened to snatch and lynch Emefiele from the court, and the DSS opted for the safety of the accused. That’s on the side of the court.

On another side, President Tinubu had on July 28, appointed Jim Obazee a special investigator to probe the CBN. Hardly had he started than a thinly-disguised leak emanate, claiming that Emefiele had exceeded lending limits to the government.

This accusation had been around since 2021, but the spin-doctors found it necessary to reinvigorate it and give it enhanced amplitude. We heard that the amount lent to the government was over 2900% above the statutory limit of 5% of the previous year’s government earnings. It is apposite to hang it all on the neck of Emefiele who must be seen as public enemy number one.

It matters little that Emefiele gave this loan to the government that he served and that both the lender and the borrower would be seen as equally guilty on the count. In January this year, the senate rejected a request by President Buhari to approve in arrears a loan of N23.7 trillion from the CBN which the Federal Governmnt had taken and spent. But Emefiele must be presented as a sole culprit and should thank his stars that the narrative wasn’t changed to read that he gave the loan to his village people. Meanwhile, Buhari enjoys his retirement untouched. Whoever ambushes one stronger than him?

Now, following this soccer pass that the DSS and EFCC are playing with Emefiele, an Abuja High Court has ordered an unconditional release of Emefiele or his arraignment in court on November 6. Will the EFCC surprise Nigerians or will it go the way of its sister agency which made itself above the law, ignoring half a dozen court orders?

~Kalu I. Kalu writes from Owerri
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