CONTROVERSY has continued to trail the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, and some of his policies in recent times.
Emefiele, who has been CBN governor since June 2014, suddenly burst into unusual limelight early in 2022 when rumours emerged that he was nursing a presidential ambition on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Eventually, Emefiele announced his intention to contest the 2023 presidential election on the ticket of the APC after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja.
New CBN Gov, Godwin Emefiele, Resumes Duties
Reports later emerged that Emefiele had picked the N100 million APC presidential election nomination forms.
The development came after weeks of speculations concerning the CBN governor’s presidential ambition.
Ondo State governor Rotimi Akeredolu was among the first prominent voices that criticised Emefiele’s decision. Akeredolu insisted that Emefiele should resign to pursue his presidential ambition.
Akeredolu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), asked Buhari to remove Emefiele from the position of CBN governor if he refused to resign.
Emefiele, in response to all the criticism that followed his presidential ambition, said he was yet to decide on the issue. He spoke about 24 hours after a group reportedly purchased the APC presidential forms for him.
He thanked those who raised money for the gesture but said he would buy the forms with his own money when he decides to contest.
In the same month, Emefiele reportedly went to court to seek constitutional clarification on whether he could remain in office while running for President.
Reports emerged that Emefiele’s lawyer Mike Ozekhome, SAN, filed a suit before an Abuja Federal High Court seeking interpretation of the Constitution and Public Service Rules on public servants seeking elective positions while in office.
It was reported that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was listed among the respondents in the suit numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/610/2022.
During the period, reports emerged that Emefiele has been sacked. However, the head of corporate communications at the CBN, Osita Nwanisobi, refuted the reports, which he described as mere rumour.
Nwanisobi confirmed to The ICIR that the alleged sack was not true.
Nationwide controversy also trailed Emefiele’s s announcement on October 26 that new naira notes would be introduced to replace the current N200, N500, and N1000 notes.
Many observers raised concerns at the timing of the naira redesign plan.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed disclosed that the CBN governor did not inform her of the plan to redesign the naira.
The CBN said the new notes will be released for public use on December 15 and circulate alongside the old ones until January 31, 2023, when the old ones cease to be legal tender.
Reactions eventually followed the unveiling of the redesigned N200, N500 and N1000 notes by President Buhari in Abuja on November 23.
Most Nigerians, in their reaction, jokingly described the new Naira notes as “coloured” and “bleached”, with some tagging the project as a waste of scarce resources.
Public outrage trailed the cash withdrawal limit introduced by the CBN on December 7.
The policy limited cash withdrawals to N100,000 for individuals and N500,000 for organisations per week, from January 2023. The introduction of the withdrawal limit, which followed the launch of the redesigned naira notes on November 23, was in line with the cashless policy of the CBN.
However, the policy generated heated controversy and was met with criticism from several quarters.
One of the groups that criticised the policy is the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF).
The ACF warned that the cash withdrawal limit would lead to the collapse of the informal sector.
In a statement released by the Secretary-General, Murtala Aliyu, the ACF noted that the CBN might have had the best intentions while initiating the policy but failed to consider its extreme consequences on the informal sector.
A Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), also criticised the policy and demanded its reversal.
In a statement released by the Executive Director, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, on December 14, the group said the CBN took a hasty and ill-conceived decision that will impact negatively on the livelihood of Nigerians.
The Senate and the House of Representatives also demanded the reversal of the policy.
The Senate mandated its Committee on Banking and Finance to undertake aggressive oversight of the apex bank on its commitment to flexible adjustment of the withdrawal limit.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, while speaking in Abuja during the 2nd Distinguished Parliamentarians Lecture 2022 Series organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), faulted the CBN’s cash withdrawal policy for lack of thorough consultation.
The House of Representatives also summoned Emefiele to appear before the it to explain the rationale for the cash withdrawal limit policy.
The House, via a resolution passed after robust debate on a motion, mandated CBN to halt the implementation of the plan.
Emefiele failed to honour the lawmakers’ summons.
The CBN has, however, bowed to pressure by reviewing the cash withdrawal limits. On December 21, the apex bank increased the maximum weekly limit for cash withdrawals across all channels by individuals and corporate organisations to N500,000 and N5 million, respectively.
The decision was disclosed in a circular signed by the director of the banking supervision department, Haruna Mustafa.
In the circular, the apex bank said it did the upward review based on feedback received from stakeholders
In another development, last week, a Federal High Court in Abuja reportedly refused an application by the Department of State Services (DSS) to arrest and detain Emefiele.
It was gathered that the move to arrest and detain Emefiele followed unconfirmed claims that he was involved in terrorism financing and economic crimes.
On refusing the application to order Emefiele’s arrest and detention, the court presided by Justice T Tsoho said such an application should have been accompanied by presidential approval because of the grave implications for the Nigerian economy if the CBN governor is to be arrested and detained.
Following the development, on December 19, human rights lawyers and civil groups, including the Arewa Youth Consultative Movement, raised the alarm over an alleged plot by the DSS to frame Emefiele with terrorism charges.
Also, the Coalition of National Interest Defenders alleged that to get Emefiele arrested, the DSS had secretly instituted a court action against him at a Federal High Court in Abuja.
The coalition demanded the immediate sacking of the Director-General of the DSS over the development.
The convener of the coalition, Tochukwu Ohazuruike, said the DSS filed a motion in court, accusing the CBN governor of terrorism financing and other crimes it described as economic crimes of national security dimension.
Meanwhile, the DSS has warned Nigerians against being used to “undermine” its investigations.
In a statement issued on December 19, Peter Afunanya, DSS spokesperson, said the Service would not be distracted by those seeking to use “propaganda” to undermine its lawful investigations.
Afunanya said one of the DSS’s duties is to investigate matters of national security dimension. He urged Nigerians to avoid being used to undermine lawful investigations, warning that those who wish to act in the breach would be dealt with.
In yet another controversial development, on December 14, a House of Representatives member, Muhammed Kazaure, raised the alarm over Emefiele’s role in alleged missing N89 trillion stamp duty proceeds.
Kazaure, who said he is the secretary of a committee set up by Buhari for the reconciliation and recovery of all outstanding stamp duties, claimed that he has valid documents that prove the existence of such funds in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) custody.
He alleged that the apex bank had not remitted stamp duty revenue to government coffers as tax, insisting that the bank paid only 60 per cent to the government while 40 per cent went to private pockets.
According to Kazaure, the President is worried over the unremitted huge sums since he wants to liquidate the nation’s debts before leaving office. According to him, the money in question would have gone a long way in offsetting the debts.
The lawmaker further alleged that the CBN governor kept another $171 billion proceeds from stamp duty in the bank’s private investors account.
He called for Emefiele’s suspension to enable relevant authorities to investigate the matter.
However, the Speaker of House Gbajabiamila has distanced the National Assembly from the N89 trillion stamp duty controversy.
While speaking to journalists on December 20, after meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Gbajabiamila said the stamp duty funds controversy had nothing to do with the National Assembly.