President Bola Tinubu has suspended the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, from office with immediate effect.
This is sequel to the ongoing investigation of his office and the planned reforms in the financial sector of the economy, according to a statement on Friday by the Director of Information, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Willie Bassey.
According to the statement, Emefiele has been directed to immediately hand over the affairs of his office to the Deputy Governor (Operations Directorate), who will act as the CBN governor pending the conclusion of the investigation and the reforms.
The CBN listed the Deputy Director, Operations Directorate, as Mr Folashodun Adebisi Shonubi.
Unconfirmed reports emerged late on Friday that operatives of the Department of State Services had arrested the suspended CBN governor. But the spokesman for the DSS, Peter Afunaya, told one of our correspondents that he could not confirm the arrest.
A top security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, opined that Emefiele would have been arrested during the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said, “Yes, expect that (his arrest) to happen. He would have been arrested before but the administration of former President Buhari protected him. He has many questions to answer.
“As a result of this, he won’t be allowed to either travel out or sneak out of the country. So, we are looking for him.”
Emefiele, who was appointed the apex bank’s governor on June 4, 2014, was also at the centre of a storm in January 2023 when security operatives attempted to arrest him over allegations of terrorism financing and economic crime.
Section 11 of the CBN Act, 2007 gives the President power to terminate the appointment of the apex bank governor, but such must have the backing of lawmakers.
“The CBN governor can be removed by the President provided that the removal of the governor shall be supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate praying that he be removed,” the section stated.
The Act also states that the governor, deputy governor, or director of the CBN can be removed if they are serving as a lawmaker or a director of a bank.
“A person shall not remain a governor, deputy governor or director of the Bank if he is a member of any federal or state legislative house; or if he is a director, officer or employee of any bank licensed under the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act.”
The CBN Act further states that criminal offences and mental health conditions can result in the CBN governor’s termination of appointment.
“The governor, deputy governor or director shall cease to hold office in the Bank if he becomes of unsound mind or, owing to ill health, is incapable of carrying out his duties: is convicted of any criminal offence by a court of competent jurisdiction except for traffic offences or contempt proceedings arising in connection with the execution or intended execution of any power or duty conferred under this Act or the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act,” the Act adds.
The governor can also be removed if he “is guilty of a serious misconduct in relation to his duties under this Act; disqualified or suspended from practising his profession in Nigeria by order of a competent authority made in respect of him personally; becomes bankrupt.”
The introduction of the naira redesign policy by the Emefiele-led CBN in October 2022 started on a controversial note as the then Minister Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, kicked against it barely 48 hours after it was announced.
Ahmed had stated that her ministry was not consulted and she was not aware of the monetary policy.
The reaction generated tension and uncertainty until the Presidency confirmed that Buhari approved the policy, which it said was to manage inflation, combat currency counterfeiting and ransom payment.
Early January 2023, the CBN started a cash swap programme in various local government areas to reach citizens in rural communities, who complained of the unavailability of banks in their localities.
The initial deadline of January 31, 2023, set by the apex bank for the old notes to cease being legal tender was moved to February 10, as the country fell into hard times with both the old and new naira notes going out of circulation.
The situation was compounded by fuel scarcity across the country as Nigerians berated the policies of the government as ill-thought.
Tinubu, who was then the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, also slammed those behind the naira redesign, which he said was targeted at his candidature.
While speaking in January during a campaign at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, Tinubu said, “Let fuel be expensive, only they know where they keep it. Keep petrol, keep the naira, we will vote and be elected. You may change the ink of naira notes. What you expect will not happen. We will win.
“They said petrol will rise to N200/litre and N500/litre, let your mind be at rest. They don’t want the forthcoming election to hold. They want to scatter it but that won’t be possible.
“They thought they could cause trouble; they sabotaged fuel but with or without fuel, with or without motorcycles and tricycles, we will vote and win. This is a superior revolution.”
In February, the governors of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states took the Federal Government to the Supreme Court and urged it to declare the naira redesign illegal.
Despite an initial order of the court for the policy to be suspended, the CBN went ahead to announce that the old naira notes had ceased to be legal tender at the expiration of the February deadline.
In March, the Supreme Court finally ruled that the old naira notes remain legal tender till December 31, 2023, effectively ending the controversies surrounding the matter.
Experts estimated the loss to the failed naira redesign policy at N20tn as many called for the sacking of Emefiele. Many citizens died during protests against the policy, while many commercial banks had their facilities destroyed.
Prior to the naira redesign controversy, many Nigerians, particularly members of civil society and the media, had called for Emefiele’s sacking over his rumoured political ambition.
A group of friends had in May 2022 bought the N100m expression of interest form for the presidential ticket of the APC for him.
This was followed by sponsored posts on various media platforms advertising his candidacy.
Photos of hundreds of branded vehicles were also splashed on social media, attracting widespread outrage.
Emefiele had subsequently instituted a suit against the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice over his eligibility to contest the APC primary.
He asked the court to stop INEC from disqualifying him from participating in the primary election of his preferred political party.
Culled from Punch