PRESIDENT Bola Ahmed Tinubu has suspended the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele, with immediate effect.
A press release on Friday, June 9, by the director of information, office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Willie Bassey, reportedly announced the suspension.
It said Emefiele had 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 into Emefiele’s office and reform of the financial sector.
Efforts made by The ICIR to reach the CBN Director of Corporate Communications, Isa Abdulmumin, did not go through as his phone line kept saying, “The person you are calling is busy; please try again at another time.”
Emefiele, born on August 4, 1961, assumed office as CBN governor on June 4, 2014. He was before becoming head of the country’s central bank, managing director of Zenith Bank Plc.
In October 2022, he had announced a redesign of the country’s N200, N500, and N1,000 notes to, according to him, fight terrorism financing, mop up money outside the banking system, and curb the use of cash during the 2023 general elections.
While the CBN said the newly redesigned N200, N500 and N1,000 notes would come into circulation on December 15, it said it would be phasing out the old notes of the three denominations on March 10.
But the policy brought so much agony to Nigerians as the naira notes became scarce, especially since the people had returned the old notes of the three denominations to commercial banks, as ordered by the CBN, which was not circulating the new, redesigned notes to the public.
Till now, the new notes are not circulating widely, and people have been using the old notes, which the Supreme Court ruled can be legal tender until December 31, 2023.
Tinubu had said during the election campaign that the redesign policy was deliberately formulated to make him lose the presidential election.
Emefiele’s suspension is long overdue, Abel Ezekiel, an investment and portfolio analyst, said.
“Inept, and error in financial system management ever experienced in Nigeria banking regulations sector,” were Ezekiel’s words describing Emefiele.
Coming shortly after his suspension, several online media platforms reported that the Department of State Services (DSS) had arrested Emefiele.
There has, however, been no official confirmation of the arrest.
In December last year, the DSS attempted to arrest the CBN chief after it accused him of financing terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorism, and committing other economic crimes.
The agency alleged that Emefiele funded the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The secret police also accused him of fraud, money laundering, round-tripping and conferment of financial benefit to self and others.
On December 7, 2022, the DSS, in an ex-parte motion, prayed to the Federal High Court, Abuja, to grant it permission to arrest, probe and detain Emefiele.
However, on December 9, 2022, the court declined the application.
The chief judge, J. T. Tsoho, ruled that the DSS did not provide concrete evidence to substantiate its claims that Emefiele was involved in terrorism financing and economic crimes.
According to the court, such an application should have been accompanied by presidential approval because of the grave implications for the economy if Emefiele as CBN governor, was arrested and detained.
The former President, Muhammadu Buhari, did not approve Emefiele’s arrest until he left office on May 29.