In a ongoing legal battle involving a $53 million judgment debt linked to the Paris Club refund, the Federal High Court in Abuja has once again warned of the possibility of issuing an arrest order for the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele.
Judge Inyang Ekwo, on Tuesday, set a deadline of January 25th for Mr. Emefiele to appear in court and provide an explanation regarding the circumstances surrounding the judgment debt. This marks the latest development in a case that has been hampered by Mr. Emefiele’s absence from court, a situation caused by his arrest and detention since June.
Mr. Emefiele was initially arrested by the State Security Service (SSS) shortly after President Bola Tinubu suspended him from office in June. He was held in custody until late October when he was transferred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for ongoing investigations into undisclosed corruption allegations.
Despite repeated calls from Judge Ekwo for Mr. Emefiele’s appearance in court, the former CBN governor remained in custody, prompting the judge to issue an arrest warrant in July. However, on Tuesday, the judge refrained from issuing a new arrest warrant after a plea from Mr. Emefiele’s lawyer, Audu Anuga, who explained that all efforts to secure his client’s release for court proceedings had been unsuccessful.
The judgment creditor’s lawyer, I.A. Nnana, confirmed receiving the affidavit explaining the delay in Mr. Emefiele’s appearance, and indicated that a formal response would be filed.
Judge Ekwo stressed the importance of compliance with court orders and reiterated the necessity of Mr. Emefiele’s presence at the next hearing, emphasizing that his detention should not be an excuse for avoiding court proceedings.
The legal dispute is part of a series of cases related to the federal government’s reimbursement to states and local governments for funds that were allegedly over-deducted from their accounts to offset Paris Club and London Club debts between 1995 and 2002.
Joe Agi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), filed a suit seeking enforcement of a judgment he obtained against Linas International Ltd, a company involved in recovering funds for the states and local governments. Mr. Emefiele, as the former CBN governor, was tasked with releasing the funds, but a balance of $53 million remains unpaid. The court had previously ordered Mr. Emefiele to appear and pay the outstanding sum.
In October 2022, Mr. Agi filed an application calling for Mr. Emefiele’s arrest and appearance in court, along with his legal team, for failing to comply with the court’s order to pay the judgment debt. Judge Ekwo had already set a previous appearance date for Mr. Emefiele on January 18th, 2023, due to his alleged refusal to obey the court’s order.