Paris Club refund: Fresh trouble for Emefiele as court threatens him with arrest warrant over N41.7bn ($53m) debt

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The embattled suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele has been faced with fresh trouble as a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against him over his failure to appear in court to explain circumstances surrounding the $53 million judgment debt arising from the Paris Club refund.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, who on Wednesday, July 19, 2023, ordered Emefiele to appear on the next adjourned date, said he was minded to exercise restraint in the proceeding to give the ex-CBN boss an opportunity to explain himself in the matter.

Emefiele’s counsel, Audu Anuga (SAN) had prayed 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.

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

It be recalled that Justice Ekwo had, on October 20, 2022, ordered the CBN governor to appear in court on January 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).

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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.

The January 18, proceedings could not hold 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.

On June 6, the court ordered Emefiele to appear before it on Wednesday, July 19 over the matter.

 

When the matter was called 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.

He said there was another development now as to whether Emefiele could act on behalf of the CBN, but the judge, who said the CBN had no issue here, said Emefiele was sued on his personal capacity.

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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 said for how long will the court wait for Emefiele since 2017 when the suit was filed, adding that, “I have given you enough opportunity but you are taking it for granted” and asked 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.”

According to him, the whole purpose of warrant is to put this honourable court on 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 and said, after this, if Emefiele failed to comply, the court can then take action.

The judge adjourned the matter till October 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.

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