The tussle between officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) on Tuesday after a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi granted the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, bail has raised questions about the reasons for the fight.
Some have speculated that the fight was due to deep distrust between the two agencies. The DSS and NCS have a long history of rivalry, and this rivalry has often boiled over into conflict.
Others have suggested that the fight was over who would have control of Emefiele’s custody. The NCS was ordered to remand Emefiele in prison, but the DSS argued that they were the ones responsible for the custody of prisoners.
DSS operatives in defiance of the court directives stormed the court premises in an attempt to re-arrest and take custody of Emefiele which was swiftly rejected by officials of the Ikoyi prison. When the prison officials resisted, a heated argument escalated into a physical altercation, leading to injuries on both sides. The situation quickly garnered attention as the news spread like wildfire across the nation.
It is also possible that the fight was due to a combination of factors. The distrust between the two agencies, the desire to control Emefiele’s custody, and other unknown factors may have all contributed to the fight.
Emeka Ugwuonye, a lawyer and former political prisoner, offered his insights into the clash between the DSS and the NCoS. Ugwuonye argued that the clash was a result of the distrust between the two agencies, and he also suggested that the DSS was motivated by a desire to keep Emefiele in custody so that they could continue their investigation into him.
The incident, which occurred on July 25, has now taken an intriguing twist, with claims emerging that the clash was all about protecting deep pockets and a powerful figure allegedly involved – the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele.
According to the lawyer, “The prison staff, especially the Officer-in-Charge and above make a lot of money when a big man is detained in their prison. They go out of their way to curry favor from such big men. A man like Emefiele has a lot of money.”
He added that the suspended governor will need a lot of favors while in prison. He will need access to phones. He will want to have an air-conditioned cell, specially fitted cell. He will want to have access to visitors and many other things. He is not entitled to any of this.
“But with the support of the Officer-in-Charge, he will have them and more. That will cost him a lot of money, like millions of money.”
According to the ex-inmate everybody in the prison hierarchy would have been lined up to benefit from Emefiele. That effort starts right from the moment he leaves the court and heads to prison. He would be taken in special vehicle.
Whatever the reasons for the fight, it is clear that it has further damaged the reputation of the Nigerian justice system. It is a reminder that the system is still struggling to deal with high-profile cases, and that there is a long way to go before it can be considered to be fair and impartial.
Furthermore, this incident has sparked discussions about the urgent need for judicial reforms in Nigeria to ensure the independence of law enforcement agencies and the judiciary. The clash at the court premises serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced in the country’s fight against corruption and the lengths to which some might go to subvert justice.
The recent incident has also cast a cloud of suspicion over the involvement of powerful figures in the DSS’s actions, raising questions about the abuse of power and the lengths some might go to protect their interests.
Citizens are expressing concern over the potential erosion of the rule of law and the need to ensure that those in positions of authority are held accountable for their actions, irrespective of their stature or connections.
In the days to come, Nigerians will be keenly observing how this tense situation unfolds and whether it leads to tangible actions that uphold the principles of justice and accountability in the country.
Governor Emefiele, who has been heading the CBN since 2014 till his appointment got terminated by President Bola Tinubu in June 2023, has come under scrutiny on multiple occasions during his tenure, with various allegations of financial mismanagement and lack of transparency. However, no concrete evidence has emerged to substantiate these claims.