Terrorism financing and fraud: DSS intensifies investigation of Emefiele

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The Department of State Services (DSS) has stepped up investigations with a view to arrest and prosecute the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, over allegations of terrorism financing and fraud. 

This is even as the military is said to be providing soldiers to protect the CBN governor both at home and office in a bid to scuttle his arrest, an allegation the defence headquarters has denied. 

Following its earlier unsuccessful attempt at arresting the apex bank governor, Daily Trust gathered that the secret police has renewed its investigations into multiple allegations with a view to arresting the embattled Emefiele for possible prosecution. 

An online platform, Premium Times, recently published some of the exclusive details it got from court documents on the controversy around the trail for Emefiele, among them funding   “unknown gunmen” and members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The federal government had proscribed IPOB, a separatist organisation that calls for secession and working for the establishment of Biafra republic.

Its members had killed hundreds of civilians and security operatives in the last few years and burnt symbols of authority like police and military formations, INEC offices, among others.

In the report by the online medium, Emefiele was also accused of sabotaging President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, financing terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorism, and committing other economic crimes with the effect of undermining Nigeria’s national security.

It also accused the CBN governor of mismanaging the CBN subsidiary, NIRSAL, and the central bank’s Anchor Borrowers Programme.

The DSS alleged that Emefiele funded IPOB/ESN with both the resources he raised for his failed presidential bid last year and funds diverted from government coffers.

The secret government agency also accused Emefiele of “fraud, money laundering, round tripping and conferment of financial benefit to self and others.” 

It said he mismanaged various interventionist funds of the government under his control and concluded that “investigation is still ongoing on a wider scale as other members of the syndicate chain need to be identified and arrested to enable successful prosecution.”

Ther has been reports that Emefiele had vied for the presidential ticket on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) last year.

Efforts to get his reaction to the allegations labelled against him by the DSS were not successful as his office did not respond to enquiries.

However, the CBN governor had at the height of the controversy surrounding his political aspiration said that the presidential form and other logistics were bankrolled by his admirers and denied any wrongdoing.

He also approached the Federal High Court in Abuja to obtain an order affirming his right to jostle for the APC’s ticket. But the court on 9 May refused to grant Emefiele’s prayer.

Multiple sources told this newspaper that the DSS is not relenting in unravelling all the suspicions around the CBN governor with a view to bringing him to book. 

Emefiele, who has been governor since 2014, is the first person to serve two terms as the head of Nigeria’s apex bank in nearly 20 years. He was first appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan in June 2014, after Sarah Alade served out the term of the suspended Lamido Sanusi.

DSS steps up investigation 

Although the secret police declined to officially comment on the matter, multiple insider sources told this paper in confidence that the CBN governor is still on the investigation radar of the DSS.

 According to our sources, the DSS was discreetly continuing with investigations into the multiple allegations against Emefiele. 

The secret police is also said to be making an attempt at convincing President Buhari on the need to carry through with the investigations in view of the weighty nature of allegations against the CBN governor. 

24-hour protection for CBN gov

While making efforts to arrest Emefiele, the CBN governor travelled out of the country as part of President Buhari’s entourage to the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington DC between December 13 and 15, 2022. 

While Buhari returned to Abuja a day after the summit, the CBN governor remained abroad until January, 12, 2023, when he returned to the country.

Upon his return, the Chief of Defence Staff deployed soldiers to provide security to Emefiele and prevent him from being arrested by the DSS.

Although President Buhari was said not to have been informed as at the time the CDS provided the soldiers for Emefiele, a source said the president was only informed afterwards. 

A senior DSS operative in confidence said the soldiers provided by the CDS countermanded the DSS officials who went to arrest Emefiele at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

“Had we not stood down our officers, there could have been a shootout between our men and the soldiers who had cordoned off the area when the plane landed and escorted the CBN governor to his residence,” he said.

Security sources have also told Daily Trust that soldiers deployed by the CDS are still providing security cover for Emefiele both at his residence and his office. 

“They are guarding his official residence and also escorting him to his office on a daily basis,” said a security source who wouldn’t want to be named due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

It was also gathered that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had spearheaded the move to remove Emefiele following pressure from the ‘cabal in the presidency’.

However, the anti-graft agency was said to have backed down from the move after selling to him (Emefiele) the dummy on the controversial currency re-design.

Deployment a normal practice – Military

When contacted with the allegation that the military was still providing soldiers to protect Emefiele, the Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. Tukur Gusau, told Daily Trust that the military had always been deploying its personnel to man and secure critical assets across the country.

He said that such deployment was not about a personality or individual but the asset, which is beneficial to every Nigerian. 

“What I know is that, we have deployment at the Central Bank of Nigeria and for other critical national assets. If you go to NNPC too, you will see our person. 

“It is not only in Abuja here, we have such deployments, you will see that type of deployment in Lagos and other places where the critical national assets are located or situated,” Gusau said.

 On his part, the spokesman for the DSS, Peter Afunanya, when contacted, declined to speak on the matter. He simply said:  “No comment.”

Background of prosecution

A team of four lawyers from the DSS legal department filed its case (ex parte motion) against Emefiele on 7 December, 2022, seeking permission to detain him for 60 days to conclude an ongoing investigation of his alleged atrocities. 

However, on December 9 last year, a federal high court sitting in Abuja declined an application by the DSS to arrest and detain the CBN governor. 

In declining the motion ex parte filed by the secret police, Justice J. T. Tsoho, the Chief Judge, said the DSS did not provide any concrete evidence to substantiate its claims that Emefiele was involved in terrorism financing and economic crimes. 

The court said such an application should have been accompanied with the presidential approval because of the grave implications for the Nigerian economy if the CBN governor was arrested and detained. 

Meanwhile, about two weeks after Justice Tsoho gave his order, Emefiele got another reprieve from a separate court as the Federal Capital Territory High Court granted a request by a civil society organisation to prevent his arrest. 

Justice Muslim Hassan of the FCT court had ruled that based on  Tsoho’s earlier ruling, “Any continuous harassment, intimidation, threats, restriction of movement, abuse of right of office, surreptitious moves to arrest, and humiliation” of  Emefiele, over “Trumped up allegations of terrorism financing and fraudulent practices” was illegal and unconstitutional. 

The judge also restrained the DSS “From instigating the arrest or arresting, interrogating and detaining” Emefiele in respect of any matter or policy decision on the Nigerian economy “or for any connected purposes except by an order of a Superior Court.”

Daily Trust