Alleged N1.2bn procurement fraud: With 20-count amended charge, court stops Emefiele from travelling abroad

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Thursday filed an amended 20-count charge against the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, in an FCT High Court.

The former CBN helmsman was released from the Kuje Correctional Centre on December 23, 2023.

The EFCC had earlier in August 2023,  dragged Emefiele to court on a six-count charge bordering on alleged breach of procurement procedure in the award of the contract to April1616 Investment Limited.

Specifically, the ex-CBN is being charged for alleged procurement fraud amounting to N1.2 billion.

Also charged alongside Emefiele for breach of the Procurement Act in respect of the purchase of some vehicles, were Sa’adatu Yaro and April 1616 Investment.

Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, had November 28, 2023,  called the court’s attention  to an amended charge dated November 8, 2023.

In the said charge, Emefiele was the sole defendant while the charges were reduced from 20 to six, and the ex-CBN governor pleaded not guilty.

Consequent upon that, the trial judge, Hamza Muazu, on November 22, 2023, granted Emefiele bail in the sum of N300 million.

Further to this, Muazu also ordered for two sureties in the like sum of the N300 million, and that they must have property in Maitama District of Abuja.

He also ruled that the sureties must present the title documents and Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) to the court for verification, while also ordering the ex-CBN boss to submit to the registrar of the court his travelling documents and must be within Abuja throughout the period of the trial.

…The amended charges

Upon resumption of the case, Thursday, Oyedepo, counsel to the EFCC, told the court that they had filed another amended charges of 20 counts against the ex-CBN governor.

He listed the new charges to include forgery, conferring of corrupt advantage, and criminal breach of trust among others.

Emefiele’s counsel

And in his submission, Emefiele’s counsel, Matthew Burkaa, SAN, prayed the court to give him time to study the new charge sheet as brought forward by the prosecuting counsel.

And in response to his prayer, the trial judge adjourned the case until Friday for arraignment.

…Varying bail condition

The defendant’s counsel further told the court that his client had filed a motion dated January 10, seeking the variation of the bail condition to enable him travel within the country.

While not objecting to Emefiele’s plea, the EFCC counsel, however, urged the court to ensure  the defendant stays within the country throughout the duration of his trial.

Besides, he asked that the defence team write an undertaking that their client would remain within the country, saying there had been cases of people whose travel documents were seized by the court travelling out of the country.

“From experience, we have seen cases where travel documents are with the court and the defendant will travel out of the country. What they usually do is to go to the immigration and depose an affidavit that their traveling documents are missing.

“So, in addition to his traveling documents being with the court, he should write an undertaking that the defendant will remain in Nigeria for the duration of his trial. I am not in any way suggesting the defendant will jump bail,” Oyedepo submitted.

…And Court accedes to Emefiele’s prayers

And as prayed, the court granted Emefiele’s request and subsequently ordered him to remain within Nigeria while the trial lasts.

He is, however, at liberty to travel from Abuja to any part of the country. “The defendant’s application is hereby granted. He must remain in the country for the pendency of his trial,” Justice Muazu ruled.