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Why Godwin Emefiele Shouldn’t go Down Alone

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CEM OPINNION, LEGAL |  It is a bit of a relief that Godwin Emefiele is finally having his day in court. He now has the opportunity to defend himself, and possibly prove his innocence. He is facing a six-count illegal procurement charge in which he’s accused of awarding a contract for the purchase of 43 vehicles worth N1.2 billion between 2008 and 2020 to a female staff of the bank, Sa’adatu Ramallan Yaro, in violation of Section 19 of Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Act 2020. The law bars public officials from awarding contracts to themselves, their relations or their staffs. In his initial arraignment in August on the same offence, the former CBN Governor faced nine charges, the vehicles were worth N6.9 billion and Mrs Yero and her company, April 1616 Investment Company Ltd, were co-accused.

By dropping her and her company from the current charges, it is likely that Mrs Yaro has agreed to serve as the prosecution witness against Emefiele, indicating that the government wants to send him to jail by all means. When an accused person becomes a prosecution witness (PW), it is usually in return for a favour, which may be dropping of all or some of the charges. The implication is that the prosecuting authorities (EFCC, in this case) will have more evidence against the defendant and a greater chance of winning the case. Mrs Yaro will tell the court everything she knows about the contract and the involvement of the former CBN governor. I pity Emefiele because he could be facing a prison sentence of over 10 years without an option of fine. I have spoken to a few senior staffers in the CBN who have hinted that the said Mrs Yaro is related to a former governor of Kaduna State and she was hired into the bank ‘’to pursue business agenda’’. ‘’I have spent over 28 years in this bank, and I don’t know her. ‘’She must be one of those people hired by the former governor as contract staff for specific agenda’’, a director told me over lunch last weekend.

But why is Emefiele facing his predicament alone? Where are his colleagues in the Bank, his bosses and the cabals in the Villa who benefitted from his years of service? Clearly, Emefiele did not run the bank alone. What of the four deputy governors who worked with him? Are they so honest and clean that nothing could be found against them? What of those powerful cabals who were so close to the former president that they used their influences to benefit massively from the arbitrage created by the dual exchange rates? Why are they not facing any charge? What of the former President himself? Was he not aware of what was happening inside the CBN? Was he not aware of the huge profits the cabals were making just by buying FX in the official market and selling them in the unofficial market? These people were so wealthy that one of them bought a bank and a mobile telecommunications company without moving from his chair. All they did was roundtripping the dollars from one market to the other. Every morning, they would wake up with calculators to compute the billions of Naira they were making in profit. Is the EFCC not aware of this? If Emefiele turns out to be the only person tried out of the lot that participated in what he did and benefitted from him, it would seem that he is a victim of grand vindictiveness.

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Have his friends and associates intervened on his behalf?  Where is Jim Ovia; James Ibori; Udom Emmanuel and all his other powerful friends and associates in the banking and oil industries? Where are those in government and business who wined and dined with him when the goings were good? Why have they abandoned him now? Where is Emefiele’s wife, by the way? Why has she not been showing up in court to support him? Or has she left the country? You know, some women can’t face trouble.

I saw Godwin Emefiele in the court premises the other day, and I shed tears for him. He looked gaunt, tired, desolate and helpless. This was once the CEO of the largest bank in the country; an influential voice who could move the market and set stock prices flying; a man who easily signed off on a billion-naira credit to a customer and a man who was an influential presence in the banking industry and the Bankers’ Committee meetings. For six months now, he’s been in detention apart from a one-week break granted by the court in November. He has been in Kuje prison since last week, pending when the court would consider his bail application this week. His fall is one of the greatest tragic events in recent memory, and it holds some lessons for some public officials who believe that they are too powerful.

But what led to his fall and what lessons can we learn? Poor judgement and lack of character to stick to what is right. Emefiele came to the CBN in June 2014 after President Goodluck Jonathan had intimidated, harassed and forced out Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi for his courage, boldness and outspokenness. As CBN Governor, Sanusi had written to President Jonathan in 2013, informing the President that the NNPC was not remitting crude oil sales proceeds into the consolidated federation account as stipulated by the Constitution. Nigerians had always suspected that the NNPC was a leaking basket when it comes to our commonwealth, but the government did not nothing. That December, former President Obasanjo wrote Jonathan a stinker of a letter, accusing the President of cluelessness and making reference to the Sanusi letter, which was not made public then. Obasanjo accused Jonathan of doing nothing about the missing billions from the NNPC. There was outrage across the land and the Jonathan administration went on overdrive to counter the damage the Obasanjo letter caused. It was a mortal blow to Jonathan, then already perceived as the weakest Nigerian leader ever.

[READ ALSO] Nigerian High Court Nullifies Section of Tax Laws

Jonathan was livid with rage with Sanusi and he wasted no time in forcing him out of office. But surprisingly, he did nothing to NNPC or his oil minister, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke, who was then swimming in her own ocean of corruption scandals. So, when Emefiele was appointed in 2014 to replace Sanusi, I understand that he was warned by Jonathan’s officials that if he did not ‘cooperate’, he would meet the same fate that befell Sanusi. In other words, Godwin Emefiele went into office as our fifth CBN Governor frightened, fearful and intimidated given what his predecessor went through. Villa officials were constantly hammering into his head that ‘’you must be loyal to Oga o’’, and he took it to heart. And that explains why he willingly opened the CBN vault to Aso Rock and PDP officials to take as much dollars as they could to prosecute the 2015 presidential elections. Until this day, I can’t seem to understand why it is so easy for the CBN Governor to withdraw so much foreign exchange cash from the CBN on the orders of the President. Has the practice stopped?

I was surprised that President Buhari, who came to office in 2015 as anti-corruption czar, did not prosecute Emefiele for being complicit in this massive looting of the CBN. I wrote about it, but nothing happened. Unknown to me, a more massive ‘looting operation’ was to unfold under the new President. A powerful three- man cabal emerged and it quickly designed a roundtripping scheme and made billions under President Buhari. Again, Emefiele was a willing tool in their hands because they too kept telling him that ‘’the President is in the know and he is part of it’’. It was a big bazaar!

By the time Emefiele completed his first five-year term in June 2019, he too had become a powerful and wealthy member of the cabal and an insider in the Villa. It was therefore not difficult for them to sell the idea of running for President to him. he was told that ‘’Oga wants him’’. The campaign was well funded and the media ads ran into billions. I wrote two articles asking him to stop the charade, but like a drunken sailor, he paid no attention. You may not take a heed to the admonitions in my articles, but sooner or later, I will always be borne out. Truth is constant!

The eventual crash of Emefiele’s presidential bid angered him to no end, and he thought of nothing else than to stop the ambition of the leading contender in that race. There began his downward spiral to where he is today. He was essentially consumed by greed, graft, anger, envy and his inability to make sound judgement in the face of contending interests. His story is the biggest tragicomedy of the Fourth Republic.

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