Nigeria files graft charges against detained and suspended cenbank chief

By Camillus Eboh and Elisha Bala-Gbogbo

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigerian prosecutors filed a 20-count indictment against suspended and detained central bank governor Godwin Emefiele on Tuesday, one of them accusing him of “conferring unlawful advantages”, a government lawyer said.

President Bola Tinubu, who is embarking on the boldest reforms in Africa’s biggest economy in more than a decade, has launched a probe of the central bank under Emefiele after criticising its policies at his inauguration in May, especially moves to prop up the naira currency.

It was not immediately clear what the new charges were. But court documents deposed by the Attorney General’s Office last month showed that Emefiele faced criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation of funds charges, among others, which carry long jail terms.

Emefiele, who was detained on June 10, a day after Tinubu suspended him, pleaded not guilty to a charge of possessing a firearm. A judge granted him bail following his plea on July 25 but he was immediately rearrested.

“We have filed a matter with comprehensive charges” and “we are withdrawing the (firearm) case at the Federal High Court in Lagos,” a government lawyer told Reuters.

Emefiele has challenged his detention and filed an application for bail. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

Emefiele introduced a multiple exchange rate policy to keep the currency artificially strong, which former President Muhammadu Buhari had viewed as a matter of national pride.

Buhari appointed Emefiele for a second five-year term in 2019. He was due to retire next year.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh and Elisha Bala-Gbogbo; Editing by Nick Macfie)