Buhari meets Emefiele in Abuja amid DSS arrest rumours

Abuja—President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday met with the embattled governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, as the interest of concerned parties in the banking sector heightens over the fate of the nation’s topmost banker.

The duo met at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, in what is believed to be their first meeting this year, according to the News Agency Nigeria.

Emefiele arrived the villa at about 14:30 GMT and had a closed-door meeting for about 25 minutes with Mr Buhari. However, reports said the apex bank governor declined questions and comments from state house correspondents after the meeting.

Emefiele joined a delegation of the Arab Bank for Economic Development led by its Director General, Sidi Tah, to the state house. The apex bank chief was reportedly received by Mr Buhari, who welcomed him back to the country.

“The Central Bank Governor, you are welcome back. I am grateful you are well received,” Punch newspaper quoted Mr Buhari as saying.

In recent weeks, Mr Emefiele has been in the eye of the storm amid moves by Nigeria’s secret police to arrest him over several allegations of professional misconducts.

On Monday, it was reported how the apex bank announced that Emefiele was back in the country and had resumed duty amid report of DSS invasion of the CBN headquarters in Abuja.

Reports claimed Monday afternoon that operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) invaded the headquarters of the CBN and took over the office of the embattled governor of the apex bank.

An online publication, Daily Nigerian, reported that the SSS operatives came in with about 20 vehicles with armed personnel. The operatives also barred all staff of the bank from gaining access to Mr Emefiele’s office, it said.

But the SSS, in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Peter Afunnaya, said the reports are “fake and misleading.”

Last week, PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Emefiele quietly returned to the country, according to sources in the apex bank and the presidency. The apex bank chief returned to Nigeria ahead of the CBN’s first Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting of the year scheduled for 23 January.

Earlier in December, the CBN governor left the country upon approval of his two weeks leave by Mr Buhari, a decision many beleived he took ostensibly to avoid being arrested by operatives of the State Security Service (SSS).

The SSS in December had secretly sought a court order to arrest Mr Emefiele over alleged “acts of financing terrorism, fraudulent activities and economic crimes of national security dimension.”

The Federal High Court, Abuja, however, rejected the SSS request.

The judge, John Tsoho, who is the Chief Judge of the Court, in a ruling on 9 December, rejected the application on the grounds that the SSS failed to provide sufficient evidence to warrant the issuance of an arrest warrant against Mr Emefiele.

He explained that the depositions in the affidavit filed by the SSS in support of its application “purport that preliminary investigation has revealed various acts of terrorism financing, fraudulent activities perpetrated by the respondent and his involvement in economic crimes of national security dimension.”

The Judge also accused the SSS of deceit, saying the secret police failed to indicate that ‘Godwin Emefiele’, against whom the order was sought, was the same as the CBN governor.

“It is left to speculation if the ‘Godwin Emefiele’ is the same person as the serving Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. If it is, then he is unarguably a high-ranking public official in Nigeria and indeed occupies a sensitive position as one of the key drivers of the nation’s economy.

“Therefore, an application of this kind should have evidence of the approval of the respondent’s boss, that such measures are authorised to be taken,” he said.

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