Suspended Nigerian central bank governor denies firearm charges

The central bank chief, Nigeria’s longest-serving, has been suspended since June 10 and in state custody.

Nigeria's central bank governor Godwin Emefiele, who has been suspended since June 10, 2023
Nigeria's central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele, who has been suspended since June 10, 2023 [AFP]

The suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, has appeared in court, denying illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition, according to local media reports, the first time he has been seen in public in more than a month.

On Tuesday, Emefiele pleaded not guilty to two counts of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, Channels TV reported.

He was arrested by the state secret police on June 10, a day after new President Bola Tinubu suspended him. Earlier this month, a judge ordered the agency to file charges or release him.

He has challenged his detention and has filed an application for bail.

In June, government lawyers had asked the courts 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. Until his arrest, he was also one of the most powerful men in Nigeria and made an unprecedented run last year to replace then-President Muhammadu Buhari.

First appointed in 2014, Emefiele got a second five-year term in 2019 and was due to retire next year. He was the second-longest-serving governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and oversaw the biggest economic downturn of Africa’s largest economy.

Tinubu, who is embarking on the boldest reforms 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 his deputies, Folashodun Shonubi, is acting central bank governor.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies