N6.9bn procurement fraud: Emefiele, Yaro opted for a plea bargain settlement

…Their arraignments flops again

…Just as the court dismisses Emefiele siblings’ suits following a request for discontinuance

Embattled suspended Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mr. Godwin Emefiele and a CBN staff Mrs. Sa’adatu Yaro may have opted for a plea bargain settlement on the 20 count charge pending before the High Court of Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Indications to this effect emerged on Wednesday as their rescheduled arraignment before the trial Court judge, Justice Hamza Muazu could not hold nor did the matter even appear in the cause list. The matter was adjourned last Thursday for Wednesday, August 23, 2023, for their arraignments.

A source privy to efforts being made for out-of-court settlement confided in our correspondent that Emefiele and his accused, Saadat Yaro have opted for a plea bargain policy to settle with the Federal Government.

Besides their arraignments being put on hold, two separate suits filed by Emefiele’s two siblings George and Okanta Emefiele were on Wednesday discontinued and withdrawn by the plaintiffs and consequently dismissed by the court.

Recall that Emefiele and Mrs. Sa’adatu Yaro were to be arraigned last week Thursday before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama, Abuja, for breaching the procurement Act in respect of the purchase of some vehicles. But they could not take their plea because of the reported ill health of Mrs Yaro who was conspicuously absent in court.

Her absence forced Justice Hamza Muazu last week to adjourn to Wednesday, August 23 for arraignment.

However, on the said adjourned date (today )Emefiele, his co-defendant, his lawyers, and that of the prosecution were not present in court.

Similarly, a check on the case list for the day showed that Emefiele’s case was not among the cases the court would handle for the day.

Meanwhile, one of the senior lawyers defending Emefiele, Mr Akinlolu Kehinde, SAN, told journalists that the matter was not coming up, adding that, “they will communicate the new date” for arraignment.

However, a lawyer although not in the team of the suspended governor, told journalists who besieged the court premises for coverage that Emefiele was not in court because “they are talking with the federal government”.

But, neither Kehinde nor Chief Joseph Daudu, SAN, responded to calls and text messages for confirmation of the report that Emefiele has opted for a Plea Bargain in the matter.

President Bola Tinubu had shortly after their assumption of office suspended Emefiele as CBN governor over alleged infractions and breach of trust.

Emefiele was then arrested on June 10 and later arraigned a month after on a two-count charge of alleged unlawful possession of firearms before a Federal High Court in Lagos.

Although he pleaded not guilty to the charge and was admitted to bail, the Department of State Service (DSS) refused to recognize the bail claiming that Emefiele still had other tasks to answer to.

Subsequently, the DSS last week withdrew the two-count charge and filed a fresh 20-count charge bordering on breach of procurement laws.

The arraignment last week was however stalled.

Emefiele, Yaro, and a company, April 1616 Investment Limited, purported to belong to Mrs Yaro were to be arraigned before Justice Hamza Muazu on a fresh 20-count charge bordering on alleged breach of procurement laws.

In the fresh charge, the federal government accused the suspended CBN governor of conferring corrupt advantages on Yaro by awarding contracts to April 1616 Investment Limited, up to N99.9m for the supply of cars.

The said transaction was said to have occurred between 2018 and 2020 and is said to have contravened Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.

If found guilty, he could spend up to five years in jail.

“Any public officer who uses his office or position to gratify or confer any corrupt or unfair advantage upon himself or any relation or associate of the public officer or any other public officer shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for five years without an option of fine,” the law stipulates.

According to the charges, Emefiele and Yaro were alleged to have purchased a fleet of about 100 posh vehicles and armored buses worth about N6.9 billion.

In count one, Mr. Emefiele was said to have “sometime in 2018 within the jurisdiction of this honorable court did use your position as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to confer a corrupt advantage on Sa’adatu Ramallan Yaro, a staff member of the Central Bank of Nigeria by awarding a contract for the supply of 37 (Nos.) Toyota Hilux Vehicles at the cost of N854,700,000 only to April 1616 Investment Ltd, a company in which she is a director and thereby committed an offense.”

In another count, the suspended CBN chief, Ms Yaro, and her company “sometime in 2019 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did conspire amongst yourselves to use the office of Mr. Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to confer a corrupt advantage on Sa’adatu Ramallan Yaro, a staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria by awarding a contract for the supply of 1 (No.) Toyota Landcruiser V8 at the cost of N73,800,000 only to April 1616 Investment Ltd., ‘’ the charge stated.

Recall that Emefiele has been in custody since June 10, when he was arrested despite the order for his release.

Justice Muazu had in July ordered the government to arraign him within seven days or release him immediately but, the order to date has not been obeyed.

Meanwhile, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Wednesday struck out two separate cases filed by two siblings of Emefiele, George and Okanta Emefiele.

The Emefiele brothers had separately approached the court, seeking, among other reliefs, an order of perpetual injunction restraining the DSS from inviting, intimidating, harassing, and arresting or detaining them in relation “to matters or body of matters which relates to the ongoing investigation of Emefiele and/or matters outside the constitutional and statutory mandate of the 1st respondent (DSS)”.

The applicants in the two separate matters had joined the Department of State Service and the Attorney-General of the Federation as respondents.

At the resumed hearing of the case, counsel for the applicants, Grace Ehusani, informed the court that the applicants separately filed a notice of discountenance of the case, though she did not give any reasons for the application.

While not opposing the application, counsel for the DSS, Ibrahim Awo, urged the court to dismiss the case, instead of striking it out as requested by the applicants’ counsel.

He then asked for a substantial cost against the applicants in favor of the respondents.

Counsel for the AGF, Maimuma Lami-Sheru aligned herself with the submission of the DSS counsel and asked for a N2 million cost.

In his bench ruling, the vacation judge, Justice E Okpe, dismissed the suit without cost.