Court threatens Emefiele with arrest warrant over $53m Paris Club refund

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against suspended Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele, over his failure to appear in court to explain circumstances surrounding the $53 million judgment debt arising from the Pars Club refund.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, who ordered Emefiele to appear on the next adjourned date, said he was minded to exercise a restraint in the proceeding to give the ex-CBN boss an opportunity to explain himself.

The development occured following an intervention by Emefiele’s counsel, Audu Anuga, SAN, praying the court to give his client another opportunity due to the fact that they had been unable to reach him since the last order, directing him to appear in court.

Anuga told the court that Emefiele, who was suspended as CBN governor, had been in detention and all efforts to reach him to communicate the directive of the court to him were unsuccessful.

Credible News recalls that Justice Ekwo had, on Oct. 20, 2022, ordered the CBN governor to appear in court on Jan. 18 over his alleged refusal to obey the order of the court for the payment of the judgment debt in favour of a legal practitioner, Joe Agi, SAN.

Agi had dragged Linas International Ltd, Minister of Finance, CBN and Emefiele to court as 1st to 4th judgment debtors respectively, following an application for garnishee made by him as judgment creditor in the case.

However, on the Jan. 18, proceedings could not go on as scheduled when the matter was called, prompting the court to subsequently adjourned the case till March 20, before it was fixed for June 6 again.

Credible News reports that the Judge, on June 6, ordered Emefiele to appear before it today. But President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on June 9, suspended him as CBN governor and he was directed to transfer his responsibilities to the deputy governor, operations directorate.

After Emefiele was suspended, the Department of State Services on June 10, also announced his arrest and detention.

Upon resumed hearing on Wednesday, Ayodele Arotiowa, who appeared for Agi, was about to make a submission when Justice Ekwo asked Emefiele’s lawyer if he had complied with the order.

“We made effort to see how we can communicate with the 4th respondent, Emefiele, but the 3rd respondent, CBN, was unable to communicate with 4th respondent.

“We rely only on public communication that the 4th respondent is incarcerated and have been unable to communicate with him”, Anuga responded. Adding that there was another development now as to whether Emefiele could act on behalf of the CBN.

The Judge, who said that CBN had no issue here, said Emefiele was sued on his personal capacity.

Anuga said: “But the public information now is that he has been suspended. And opportunity has to be given to him to comply”.

Justice Ekwo however, questioned how long the court will have to wait for Emefiele since 2017 when the suit was filed.

“I have given you enough opportunity but you are taking it for granted”, the Judge said, while directing Anuga to give a good reason why the court should not issue a warrant of arrest against Emefiele.

The senior lawyer said since his client was still in detention after his suspension despite an order mandating his release, “my lord, we are at the mercy of the court”. Adding that the whole purpose for warrant is to put this honourable court in a duty to do its work.

“But there is an intervening event, as we have not had the privilege to see him. The last opportunity my lord gave to the 4th respondent has not been communicated to him. I feel opportunity should be given so that this can be communicated”, he pleaded.

Anuga said after this, if Emefiele failed to comply, the court can then take its action.

The Judge, consequently, adjourned the matter until Oct. 31 for the CBN and Emefiele to show cause why an arrest warrant should not be issued against the former CBN governor.

“Upon listening to counsel, I am minded to exercise restraint in this proceeding to give 4th respondent an opportunity to explain himself to me on next adjourned date”, he said.

Credible News reports that the dispute stemmed from an alleged $70 million judgment against Linas International Ltd for the lawyer’s, Joe Agi, assistance with the Paris Club refund. Emefiele was accused of only releasing $17 million, leaving an unpaid balance of $53 million.

The court had on Jan. 23, 2020, ruled that Emefiele must appear “to be examined on oath. Since the order, the said garnishee order absolute, to pay the balance of 53 million dollars now due and payable under the said garnishee order absolute and also show cause why you should not be committed to prison for default in payment of the said sum”.

In October 2022, Agi through his counsel Isaac Ekpa and Chinonso Obasi, filed another application against Linas International, Minister of Finance and the CBN.

He sought for an order directing the Inspector-General of Police to “arrest Emefiele and bring him to court alongside his lawyers, Damian Dodo, Audu Anuga, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria, and Ginika Ezeoke, Jessica Iyoke, Abdullahi Afolayan, and Olayemi Afolayan”.

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