The Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele’s alleged involvement in politics on Sunday attracted more strong condemnations, with senior lawyers and other eminent Nigerians calling for his immediate resignation.
Senior lawyers and top politicians, who spoke separately to The PUNCH, stated that Emefiele’s continuous stay as the CBN governor was dangerous to the economy.
They said this as the Chairman of Ward 6 in the Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State, Mr Nduka Erikpume, in a telephone chat with one of our correspondents on Sunday, said the CBN governor had registered as an APC member.
When asked whether Emefiele had registered in the APC, Erikpume said, “Yes, he has registered since February 2021. He is our member.”
Amid widespread condemnations of his alleged presidential ambition, The PUNCH on Sunday learnt that the CBN governor had headed to a Federal High Court in Abuja to seek a constitutional interpretation on his non-resignation while pursuing his political interests.
Sources said that the CBN governor had reached out to a constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Dr Mike Ozekhome (SAN), to seek interpretation of the constitution and public service rules on public servants seeking elective positions while in office.
A highly placed source in the CBN told The PUNCH that the case had been scheduled for today (Monday).
He said, “Emefiele has just briefed Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) as his lawyer. He has just filed a case in court and is coming up tomorrow (today, Monday).”
Several efforts by The PUNCH correspondent to get the reliefs being sought by Emefiele from the source proved abortive.
Although the details of the suit were still sketchy Monday night, another source in the APC said Ozekhome was taking up the matter “for certain constitutional interpretations.”
Three interest groups – the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Friends of Emefiele and Emefiele Support Group – last week paid N100m for the APC presidential expression of interest and nominations forms for Emefiele.
But the CBN governor, in a tweet on Saturday, said he was still waiting for God’s direction, adding that he would purchase the N100m forms himself if he entered the presidential race.
He said that he would continue to serve the country in his capacity as CBN governor until he received divine counsel to contest for a higher office.
But a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Kunle Adegoke, in a telephone with The PUNCH on Sunday, said the CBN governor should resign his appointment and become a politician if he intended to contest in the 2023 general elections.
He said, “The governor of the central bank is expected to be impartial and not be driven by his own personal interests or the interests of a political party. Emefiele, as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, represents all Nigerians and in that capacity, he is obliged under the constitution to serve each person irrespective of their political party or affiliation.
“With that evident, it would be grossly irresponsible for anybody to be agitating for the CBN governor to join politics. The CBN governor is not entitled as a citizen of Nigeria to contest for a political office, but where he desires to do so, he will have to resign his appointment and become a politician, strictly speaking.
“The honourable thing for him to do is to resign if he is the one behind all these calls for him to come and contest. Where he is not the one, he ought to have come out earlier than now because we could see on social media, the branded vehicles and then the claim that farmers have spent N100m to buy him a nomination form of the All Progressives Congress. That is questionable. The few farmers who are debtors under the Anchors Borrowers’ Programme cannot now be deploying their resources towards this.
“That also questions the integrity of funds and the whole ABP project. Emefiele is supposed to stay away from such things that will lead to unnecessary scandals.”
Another SAN, Babatunde Ogala, told The PUNCH that it was inappropriate for a CBN governor to be involved in politics, adding that Emefiele “should resign now or be removed.”
On whether it was within Emefiele’s rights to run for office, Ogala said, “That means Chairman of INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission), Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector-General of Police can also pick up forms and decide to run. It is immoral and a joke taken too far. He shouldn’t ridicule our country. Where is that done?
“The CBN governor, the one who is supposed to manage our treasury, is getting himself distracted by politics. It is inappropriate. Emefiele should resign now. If he wants to join politics, let him go into politics. He shouldn’t sit down as the head of the treasury and be talking politics when he should be concentrating. That means he’s a card-carrying member of a political party. It’s unacceptable.”
When brought to his notice that Emefiele is a card-carrying member of the APC, Ogala called for the immediate resignation of the CBN governor.
Similarly, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, kicked against the alleged presidential ambition of the CBN governor.
Adegboruwa, who stated this in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, stressed that his action was also not in tandem with his position as the governor of the CBN.
He noted, “Under Section 1 of the CBN Act, the governor of the central bank ought to maintain the autonomy and independence of the financial institution in order to subject itself to political manipulations.
“If the CBN governor is interested in partisan politics, he has to give up the position as the governor of the regulatory and apex bank in Nigeria. This is because his action will throw the autonomy of the CBN under political influence.
“As a member of the APC, Mr Emefiele is under the national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu. As a member of the party, he is also under the secretary of the party, Iyiola Omisore. How does a person regulating the activities of banks become a servant to politicians, who have disputes with these banks and have loans hanging on their necks?
“Also, Under Section 6 of the CBN Act, the person occupying the position of the governor should not pursue any vocation that will result in a conflict of interest. Therefore, pursuing presidential ambition is in conflict with his position as the governor of CBN.”
But Lekan Ojo, SAN, argued that there were constitutional provisions for public officeholders who wanted to contest public offices and the constitution makes allowance till 180 days before general elections to tender his resignation.
He added, “The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria is also in a public office position and the constitution requires that people in such office should tender their resignation 180 days before the election dates.
There is no provision in the constitution that states that he cannot contest an electoral position, it only states that such must resign.
“Also, the law did not state that he must resign before picking the nomination form or before the primaries, it only states that 180 days before the elections.”
Ojo noted that although there was a provision of the electoral act that stipulated that public office holders running for political positions must immediately resign their appointments, however, the case was still in court and all things remained as they were until the case would be decided by the court.
He said, “On the other side, there is an Electoral Act, 2022 that is currently in court. In the act, there is the precedence of the view that a person holding a government office should resign his or her appointment within a particular period before contesting an election or before the date of an election.”
It is morally right for CBN gov to resign
The SAN also added that outside of the provisions of the constitution and legal perspective, he believes it is morally right for Emeifele to resign.
He said, added, “Outside of the law, on moral grounds, it is honourable for him to resign because the position he is occupying is a very sensitive position and he is expected to be apolitical. So, if we look at it from that perspective, it’s wise for him or anyone in such a public office to resign while contesting for a political office.”
Emefiele’s action could compromise CBN’s integrity – Ex-director
A former Assistant Director at the CBN, Prof Jonathan Aremu, said any political participation by the CBN governor could compromise the integrity of the central bank.
He noted that should the CBN governor decide to get involved in politics, he must resign.
Aremu said, “I am not going to quote the specifics of the CBN Act, but I will give you an objective view of this. Because of the special importance of the central bank, I don’t think it is right for the CBN governor to be political. It is important to have a monetary policy that is relatively seen to be objective because governments come and go.
“If you want to go into politics, for the relative independence of the CBN, then you have to leave the position. When people lose confidence in issues of money, it tends to be a serious issue. In some countries, central bank governors disagree with presidents and resign.”
Also, the Sokoto Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, to remove Emefiele.
Tambuwal, who is a presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, made the call on Saturday when he met with PDP delegates in Jalingo.
The Sokoto State Governor said Emefiele’s continuous stay in office as the CBN governor after identifying with a political party was dangerous for the nation’s economy.
A member of the House of Representatives, Teejay Yusuf, on his part, called on the President to immediately sack Emefiele if he failed to resign over his presidential ambition.
Yusuf, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party from Kogi State, made the call in a statement issued on Sunday and titled ‘Sack Emefiele Now – Reps Member Tells Buhari.’
The lawmaker said, “For a candidature that flouts extant rules and exposes Nigeria’s economy to further risks, while his proxies continue to canvass his 2023 presidential candidature, Central Bank Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, deserves immediate sacking from President Muhammadu Buhari.“
Groups back Emefiele, tackle critics
But a group of ethnic youth leaders in the country under the aegis of the Nigerian Ethnic Youths Leaders Council on Sunday warned Governor Tambuwal against attacking Emefiele.
The NEYLC, therefore, asked Tambuwal to stop panicking over Emefiele who had yet to declare an interest.
They told him to ‘stop taking paracetamol for other people’s headaches.’
The NEYLC, which is made up of the Arewa Consultative Youths Movement, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youths Movement, Oduduwa Youths and Middle Belt Youths, made its position known in a statement by the Head of its secretariat, Chiamaka Ike Nwada.
The statement reads, “We will like to tell Governor Tambuwal that blowing off someone else’s candle will not make his own candle brighter.
“Let him know for a fact that his attack on Emefiele will not help his campaign to get the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party which does not have steam or resonate with stakeholders in the party.”
Also, a group, Ideas Nigeria Movement, Sunday described as baseless, calls by various persons and associations for Emefiele’s resignation.
But the INM in a statement by its Executive Secretary, Mallam Nadodo Abubakar, said Emefiele had not breached any law, especially the constitution, hence should not resign.
Efforts to reach the state Chairman of APC, Mr Omene Sobotie, failed as calls and text messages put across to his phone were not responded to.
When contacted, the APC state Publicity Secretary, E.V Onojeghuo, on the status of Emefiele, he said, “My brother, it is only the state Chairman that provides you this information either through the LGA Chairman or the ward chairman.”
But some party chieftains, who confided in one of our correspondents, said Emefiele had registered as an APC member since 2021 in ward 6.