Central Bank as victim of its governor
In what may be described as a case of an institutional victim of leadership misadventure, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) untrustworthy and ipso facto, unfit to keep sensitive election materials for the forthcoming elections – soon in the case of Ekiti, Osun states, and much later in the case of other elections.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said the electoral body would no longer entrust its sensitive election materials with the CBN. ‘‘We are not going to use the CBN for Ekiti elections.
The material will be moved from our headquarters in Abuja to the airport and then to our state office.’’ Such sensitive materials include ballot papers and result sheets, among other things. Let it be said directly that this is a smear on the integrity of a major state institution and one which needs to be interrogated with a bit of clear-headed thinking. How did Nigeria’s most important financial institution come to be found so wanting?
It is opprobrium brought upon it by, of all things, the aspiration of its head, the governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele for high political office: he aspired to contest for president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria while remaining on his seat.
The CBN is not merely one of the many institutions of government. ‘‘A central bank is a financial institution given privileged control over the production and distribution of money and credit for a nation or a group of nations,’’ writes online Investopedia. It is also empowered by law to ‘enact monetary policy,’ ‘regulate the money supply and set interest rates,’ ‘manage foreign exchange reserves,’ and regulate the banking industry. These are powers enshrined in the CBN Act and which Emefiele exercises although not necessarily alone. This is to say that what the governor of the CBN does or fails to do, affects directly the country’s financial system, and in turn the economy.
So far as aspiration goes, Emefiele has all rights within the law to aim for whatever position he wishes in the land. But he must do so with the utmost sensitivity to the role of the CBN that he heads within the state economic and political system, including as a banker to the Federal Government, as stipulated in Section 36 of the CBN Act, and as ‘the banker to banks in the country.
For, it is no exaggeration that when the CBN sneezes, the financial sector, and in turn the national economy may catch a cold, so to speak. He must consider the legal and ethical implications of every step that he takes in pursuit of his legitimate ambition; he must, we should expect, think deeply about the impact of his ambition on his present and future prospects.
With the benefit of hindsight, this banker seems to have not thought through his aspiration, or merely allowed his judgment to be beclouded by naked, blind ambition and edged on by persons and groups whose motives may not necessarily coincide with his desire, and who may have chosen to not have read properly the job requirements of a CBN governor as stipulated in the CBN Act.
More than rumours that had gone round for some time, the Emefiele for President project took off in earnest with ‘Friends of Emefiele’, ‘Emefiele Support Group’ bodies that urged the governor to run for president, and apparently financially well resourced, embarked on wide publicity of their goal, including put up posters across the country and even bought a large number of campaign vehicles appropriately branded.
Whereas his cheerleaders may not have examined the provisions of the CBN Act in respect of the position of a governor, it is not reasonable to grant that Emefiele who has served seven years in the post would not know what the rules say. Section 9 of the act says that ‘the Governor and the Deputy Governors shall devote the whole of their time to the service of the Bank and while holding office, shall not engage in any full or part-time employment or vocation whether remunerated or not…’ But that is for whosoever wishes to remain in the system. Aspirants to other vocations are free to leave in pursuit of their interest. But they must leave. Emefiele sought to pursue his aspiration in clear violation of this rule.
Indeed, his procedure to pursue his aspiration was somewhat shilly-shally, characterised by ‘should I, should I not’ and riddled with obfuscations of sorts. He had denied rumours of his political ambition and claimed that he would rather focus on his job to fulfil the statutory responsibilities of the CBN and ultimately to help the administration of President Buhari ‘finish strong.’ At another time, he even posted a ‘No Distractions Please’ warning to his ‘friends’ and ‘supporters.’
To be continued tomorrow