Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele’s foray into politics to contest the presidency under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is a clear evidence of partisanship; and his brazenly filing lawsuits to affirm his eligibility shows how distracted he has become from the onerous task of managing Nigeria’s monetary regime. He should have since resigned from the position he has held for eight years, since June 2014.
The political activities of Governor Emefiele contradict Section 9 of the CBN Act, which forbids the apex bank’s leadership from engaging in other activities that could take their attention from their statutory duties of managing the country’s finances. It says: “The governor and deputy governors shall devote the whole of their time to the service of the bank and while holding office shall not engage in any full time or part-time employment or any vocation whether remunerated or not except such personal or charitable causes as may be determined by the board and which do not conflict with or detract from their full time duties.”
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The exception in the act is when the governor or deputy governors are appointed into special positions, like members of the board of directors of government parastatals or government committees. In other climes, CBN governors attracted to politics would take the honourable step of resigning, as happened for instance, when a former Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, resigned his appointment in order to become the running mate to President John Dramani Mahama in 2012.
As a proven member of the APC, Emefiele’s impartiality, as required by law and convention, no longer holds and has become a source of grave concern to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) because sensitive election materials like ballot papers and results sheets are in the custody of the CBN. Last week, INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu hinted at plans for an alternative arrangement for securing the sensitive materials. The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi stated further that, “The strategic partnership between the CBN and INEC, which enables the Commission to store its sensitive election materials with the apex bank, has been in place for many years and beneficial in several ways. Indeed, there have been various reports that the CBN governor is nursing the intention of running for the office of president, but, he is yet to formally declare his intention to run as of today. However, if and when he eventually does, the Commission will look at the implications and take a decision on what becomes of the long-standing strategic partnership with the CBN.”
The situation is made worse by Emefiele’s brazen and absurd desire to remain as CBN governor while pursuing his presidential ambition, as demonstrated in his suit contesting Section 82(12) of the Electoral Act 2022, as amended. The section says clearly that: “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.” By implication, political appointees seeking elective positions, are expected to resign from their positions before their political parties’ primary elections.
Emefiele asked the court to invoke Sections 66(1)(f), 107(1)(f), 137(1)(f), and 182(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution, which stipulates that public servants seeking to contest elections were only to resign at least 30 days to the date of the election. The kernel of the suit is in Emefiele’s prayer to the court to declare that he is a ‘public servant,’ not a ‘political appointee,’ and, therefore, exempted from the provisions of the new electoral act. But his very foray into partisan politics as a member of the APC since February 2021, and now as a presidential aspirant is more than sufficient grounds for his resignation under the CBN Act, which he swore to uphold. Worse still, when asked to comment on his presidential aspiration and CBN governorship as major concerns for Nigerians and the international community, he said, “Let them have heart attack, I am having fun.” This is a clear demonstration of Emefiele’s lack of sensibility to the feelings of Nigerians about his odd and illegal political move.
President Muhammadu Buhari has asked ministers and political appointees interested in contesting for elections in 2023 to resign and handover to their permanent secretaries or most senior management staff. Emefiele must take that honourable step immediately. Holding unto his seat as CBN governor while in partisan politics hurts both the economy and governance in an unacceptable manner. We call on the president to invoke the provisions of the CBN Act to explicitly demand his resignation, should he choose to stay in the position beyond the May 16 deadline of the presidential directive.
But even if Governor Emefiele is no longer interested in seeking the presidency, he must still resign as his partisanship is no longer in doubt and therefore dangerous for the coming elections if sensitive materials were to be kept at the CBN. To restore the integrity of the CBN and the confidence of the Nigerian people and investors in the CBN, Godwin Emefiele must go.