Concerns mount over Emefiele’s political ambition while CBN Gov

THE ambition of the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to participate in the party primary towards the presidential election in 2023 has been eliciting mixed reactions from both politicians and  industry watchers, as concerns mount over possible conflict of interest on his regulatory and supervisory role on Nigerian banks. 

Emefiele was reported to have joined the list of presidential aspirants who had picked the Expression of Interest form of the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC).

Although the form was said to have been picked on his behalf by a group, the apex bank governor had gone to the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking to retain his office as the Central Bank Governor while pursuing his interest in the Presidential race.


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In his tweet, @GodwinIEmefiele, regarding the group that picked his form, he had said, “I am humbled by the growing interest of those asking that I run for the Office of President in the 2023 general elections.”

He, however, insisted he would use his own money to pursue his presidential ambition, having been in public focus for 35 years.

The governor’s eye for the exalted office has divided opinions, and concerns are also raised on how he can combine the ambition and conscientiously remain as the CBN governor.

Emefiele, through his counsel, Mike Ozekhome, is seeking the court’s interpretation as to whether by the provisions of section 84 (3) of the Electoral Act, 2022, a political party can by its constitution impose any nomination qualification criteria measures condition on aspirants or candidates, including him which is in centrally the constitutional provision.

He also is seeking the Court to clarify whether he can be compelled to resign his position as Governor of the CBN earlier than 30 days to the political party primary, in line with the provision 84 (3) of the Electoral Act, which is against section 137 (1) of the constitution of Nigeria as amended, which require a public officer to resign, withdraw, retire at least 30 days from the date of the presidential election.

However, in a quick reaction, the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, in a statement he personally signed on Friday, May 6, said Emefiele’s  action, “if unchecked timeously, portends great danger to the fragile economy of the country.”

Akeredolu, a senior advocate and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said, “It is difficult to imagine that a person who occupies the exalted and sensitive office of the Governor of the CBN will be this brazen in actualizing his ambition.”

While expressing further concern, another senior advocate, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said there was everything wrong, morally and legally, with Emefiele’s ambition to become Nigeria’s President.

As Adegboruwa argued, “looking from the handwriting on the wall, you will note that the CBN governor has been a partisan politician.”

Citing some relevant sections of the CBN Act to buttress his point, the lawyer said, “Section 6 of the CBN Act says that the governor of the Central Bank should not pursue any interest that would make him to be in conflict with his official duties.

He stressed that the CBN Act states that the office should be autonomous and independent.

He said, “He is the number one banker in Nigeria. He’s the chairman of the Bankers’ Committee, and the chairman of the financial regulations in Nigeria that determine exchange and inflation rates.

“It’s not correct for the governor of the Central Bank to declare partisan interest with the sensitive position he occupies. He has done a lot of things wrong, because you shouldn’t judge the position of Emefiele with the constitution alone.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria is like the INEC, and shouldn’t be under the control of any political influence or party.

“Remember, he has the powers to remove the managing directors of banks. Imagine Emefiele being a member of the APC and he can use his position to punish or witch-hunt the MDs of banks.

“He’s a lender to other banks in the country and in custody of the foreign exchange. So how can such a person submit himself to partisan politics?”

Speaking on what he regarded as the CBN governor ’s partisan posture during the #ENDSARS protest, Adegboruwa recalled how Emefiele asked the leaders of the group to shelve their protest, which they refused to do.

According to Adegboruwa, “The leaders of the Endsars protest had their account blocked by the CBN, having gone to court to secure an ex parte order to do that. This is because they refused to yield to his demand to halt the protest. Thanks to Femi Falana and other senior lawyers who rose to the occasion.”

A former Head, National Human Rights Commission and human rights activitst, Chidi Odinkalu, said on the development, “Mr. Emefiele has been nothing if not consistent in his convenient attitude to rules. As CBN Governor, he has maintained a ruinous regime of multiple exchange rates, sustaining a deliberate scheme of profitable arbitrage conducive to cronyism at his discretion, and to insider abuse.

“The result is this his version of ‘Farmers Earnestly Yearn for Emefiele (FEYE)’.

Odinkalu alleged that Emefiele had involved the CBN in schemes “that almost assuredly violated Section 34 of the CBN Act  –  from taking over the management of the National Theatre (despite pending litigation) to making himself a willing instrument for the persecution of #EndSARS protesters.”

A professor of Economics and international finance expert, Ken Ife, said Emefiele could not dabble into the race without recourse to provisions of relevant laws, including the CBN Act, which emphasises the independence of the apex bank.




     

     

    “I am sure he knows the CBN Act and its position on the involvement of key officials in partisan politics. He must have also studied the potential consequences of seeking a political position while in office as CBN governor,” Ife stressed.

    Also, a professor of Comparative Constitutional Law and Governance, Edoba Omoregie (SAN), said Emefiele should either resign to pursue his aspiration or be kicked out.

    “His remark is not only suggestive but disappointing. It shows that Mr. Emiefele doesn’t fully grasp the negative policy and legal implications of being associated with partisan politics, even remotely.

    “Already, and rather unsurprisingly, local and international media have picked up the news of Emiefele’s reported interests and his unwise responses 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,” Omoregie stated.

    Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.

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