Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Suspended central bank governor of Nigeria denies firearm charges

Suspended Nigerian central bank governor Godwin Emefiele appeared in court on Tuesday to deny illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition, the first time he has been seen in public in more than a month.

Emefiele was detained by the Department State Services (DSS) on June 10, a day after new President Bola Tinubu suspended him. A judge this month ordered the agency to file charges or release him.

Emefiele, dressed in a white kaftan and looking frail, pleaded not guilty to two counts of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, a Reuters reporter said.

The court granted Emefiele bail on condition of paying 20 million naira ($25,500) and said he should be remanded in custody in prison until the bail conditions are met or until Nov. 14, when next his case next comes up for hearing.

Emefiele was re-arrested by DSS officers after clashing with prison officials who attempted to take him into custody in line with the court's ruling.

Government lawyers had asked the courts in June to authorise Emefiele's detention for allegedly misappropriating funds and "criminal breach of trust", charges that carry lengthy jail terms if proved.

They secured a court order to hold Emefiele pending further investigations.

Emefiele was known for using unorthodox policies to keep the country's naira currency artificially strong and lending directly to businesses to try to boost growth.

Tinubu, who is embarking on the boldest reforms in Africa's biggest economy in more than a decade, criticised the central bank's policies under Emefiele at his inauguration in May, saying they needed "thorough house-cleaning", without providing details.

The central bank is due later on Tuesday to announce its first interest rate decision since Emefiele's suspension. One of Emefiele's deputies, Folashodun Shonubi, is acting central bank governor. 

By Chijioke Ohuocha and Seun Sanni, Reuters

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