The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, on Monday filed a lawsuit in the Abuja division of the federal high court, seeking legal backing to run for the office of the president while he remains at the helm of the apex bank.
The development, which confirms what a large section of Nigerians have believed about Emefiele, is said to be the latest among many impunity-characterized incidents of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Last month, when Emefiele’s presidential campaign posters and branded vehicles trended online, it was a cause of worry for many though not surprising. Emefiele is largely seen as a political central bank governor, using the office to do dirty works for the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). It is a belief backed by his reaction toward socio-political issues in Nigeria – the most prominent of them is the End SARS protest.
Two years ago, Nigerian youths took to the streets asking for the disbandment of the Special Anti-robbery Squad, a police unit that specialized in armed robbery cases but eventually turned rogue – maiming, robbing and killing the very people that it was designed to protect. The protest, which eventually became a movement, garnering international momentum, was the most organized and successful in Nigeria’s history. President Buhari, who is said to be always paranoid due to the coup d’etat in the skills part of his resume, felt his leadership position was being threatened and instigated institution-backed vendetta against the protesters.
Emefiele was very quick to do it. He illegally ordered regulated financial institutions in Nigeria to freeze all known accounts of the organizers of the protest, forcing them to stick to cryptocurrency, before he went to court to get a legal backing with the claim that the frozen financial accounts are being used to sponsor terrorism. Emefiele was way out of line, he has no jurisdiction to freeze people’s accounts for engaging in a peaceful protest – after all, Nigeria is a democratic country, legal experts said.
So in March, when the CBN governor was spotted at the APC’s national convention, it became a further credence to everything political that people believe him to be. Emefiele’s partisanship is believed to be the major reason for Nigeria’s two digit inflation which has resulted in the naira’s free fall – losing about its N160/$1 pre-2015 position to the current nearly N600/$1. He has been repeatedly accused of leaving his job as the central bank governor to play politics to the detriment of the monetary policy and Nigeria’s economy as a whole.
As of January 2022, the CBN has printed and lent to the federal government a whopping sum of N18.16 trillion, according to data on its website. This means that the central bank has ignored the CBN Act, which prohibits it from lending more than 5% of the federal government’s previous year’s revenue. To fight the inflation emanating from this, the apex bank has been converting the fund to long term loans and raising interest rates on SMEs.
This, like many other decisions and steps taken by Emefiele, is believed to be in the interest of the ruling party. Thus, when the report emerged that a group of farmers has purchased the N100 million APC’s presidential form for Emefiele, the pointer blinked toward the farmers’ loan scheme.
The CBN has given out billions of naira in loans to farmers under its Anchor Borrowers Programme designed to boost food security, Most of the farmers have defaulted in the loan repayment, questioning the motive behind their decision to purchase N100 million form for Emefiele. But that does not overshadow the crux of the matter, which glares with reckless effrontery, and was laid bare as an increasing number of Nigerians asked for Emefiele’s resignation.
“Emefiele is now poking his fingers at us and our law. This is just beyond contemplation, reason, and logic that a sitting CBN Governor is not only a closet member of a political party, he’s actively taking part in a partisan contest in defiance of Section 1 (3) of the CBN Act, 2007 which secures the independence of CBN. Section 9 of the Act talks about the Governor having no other vocation than running the CBN. If this isn’t a vocation for politics, nothing is. Terrible,” Nigerian lawyer Abdul Mahmud said.
The audacity behind Emefiele’s decision to approach the court, “challenging the attempt to disqualify and exclude him from participating in the party’s presidential primaries scheduled to hold on about May 30 and June 1 2022,” is believed to have been borne from the knowledge that, for some reasons linked to quid pro quo, the Buhari’s administration lacks the political will to sack him as the CBN governor.
In 2014, when the former CBN governor Lamido Sanusi Lamido, towed the same path as Emefiele – meddling in political issues, though he had a better record managing Nigeria’s monetary policies, the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, didn’t hesitate to fire him.
Emefiele, through his lawyer, Mike Ezekhome, told the court that stopping him from participating in the primaries while at the helm of the central bank, will cause him “irreparable harm.” But where Nigerians see “irreparable harm” is in allowing Emefiele to remain the CBN governor while pursuing his political ambition.
The spokesman for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), told People’s Gazette that Emefiele’s political activities have become cause for concern.
“The strategic partnership between the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Independent National Electoral Commission, which enables the Commission to store its election sensitive materials with the CBN, has been in place for many years and beneficial in several ways.
“Indeed, there have been various reports that the CBN Governor is nursing an intention to run for the office of President… 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,” he said.
INEC stores sensitive electoral materials such as ballot papers and biometric equipment with the CBN – materials which would influence the results of elections if compromised.
Though the court has refused to give immediate answer to his prayer, adjourning decision on the matter till May 12, Emefiele, besides setting the unlawful precedent, is believed to have cast further stench on Nigeria’s dwindling economy by his actions.
“What is the Central Bank of Nigeria governor hiding? … Emefiele’s disqualification mustn’t end at the court. Foreign investors are watching the circus. Meffy [Emefiele] must leave the CBN to restore trust and confidence in the apex bank,” a Twitter user wrote.
More outrage has trailed the development as both legal and economic experts weigh in. A professor of Comparative Constitutional Law and Governance, Edoba Omoregie, said Emefiele should either resign to pursue his aspiration or be kicked out.
“Already, and rather unsurprisingly, local and international media have picked up the news of Emiefele’s reported interests and his unwise response to his linkage to partisan politics. It’s needless to say that his alleged aspiration while holding office as governor of the apex bank is a very weighty turn of events. It can potentially erode the confidence in the Nigerian monetary system, which is expected to be administered by non-partisan experts with the CBN governor as the dominant head of the team,” he stated.
“Consequently, I join other well-meaning Nigerians to call on Mr. Emiefele to resign his office as Governor of the CBN forthwith, to save the Nigerian economy from further erosion on account of his political partisanship, ” he added.