By Kola King
Godwin Emefiele was appointed Central Bank governor by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014. He was one of the few survivors of the Jonathan administration following the sudden change of power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to the opposition All Progressives Party, APC that emerged victorious in the 2015 presidential elections. As the nation’s top banker and Governor of the CBN, Emefiele was noted for his trademark suits and tie and with a dark shoe to answer. He was the bankers’ banker.
Having wormed his way into the heart of President Muhammadu Buhari, Emefiele got a second five-year term in 2019 and was due to retire next year. He was the second-longest-serving governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and oversaw an unprecedented downturn of the nation’s economy. Prior to his arrest, he was also one of the movers and shakers and most powerful men in Nigeria. When Emefiele coughed bankers quivered. He also made a controversial run for president but later withdrew from the race after much criticism by civil society and the generality of Nigerians.
However, many believe his scorecard in the CBN was anything but flattering. His decision to dabble in partisan politics was as though fishing in troubled waters, turning the rules of the CBN on its head while the president looked askance without as much as raising a finger against Emefiele. Besides the much touted Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, ABP, a signature project of Emefiele was adjudged less of a success as over 50 percent of beneficiaries are yet to reedem the loans extended to them by the CBN. Emefiele confirmed that out of the 1.09 trillion naira disbursed for the ABP about 52.4 percent has been recovered from the 4.5 million beneficiaries.
Moreover, instead of concentrating on CBN’s primary role of maintaining macroeconomic stability, regulating the financial sector and implementing monetary policy, among others, Emefiele resorted to unorthodox economic policies by lending to various sectors of the economy and virtually taking over the roles of the commercial banks. Besides, Emefiele is faulted for the constant resort to the CBN for ways and means borrowings by the Buhari administration. In fact, Buhari overshot the five percent ceiling and grew ways and means from N856 billion to N23.8 trillion, representing 2,635 percent in seven years, which is another violation of the rules of the CBN and by extension mortgaging our economy, according to Dataphyte. Borrowing via ways and means must be temporary and should only occur “in respect of temporary deficiency of budget revenue,” according to Section 38 (1) of the CBN Act. This means that the CBN can only lend to the Federal Government when the latter has a temporary revenue shortfall.
However, on Emefiele’s watch, the Buhari administration abused the ways and means advances. In fact, it violated the CBN Act. Section 38 (2) of the CBN Act makes it clear that “the total amount of such advances outstanding shall not at any time exceed five per cent of the previous year’s actual revenue of the Federal Government.”
Generally, as govenor of the CBN, Mr Emefiele violated the rules, acted with impunity and followed his own counsel and took the unprecedented step of running for president without resigning from office. During the currency swap, he defied the court’s ruling directing that the old currency should be used alongside the new ones. He set a very bad precedent while in office.
However, with the emergence of President Bola Tinubu the fortunes of Emefiele took a sudden turn for the worse. Fingered as the brain behind the currency swap which many believed were targeted at politicians, especially Tinubu, it didn’t take long for Emefiele to be suspended from office. Though many consider this action as personal vendetta.
Tinubu, who has embarked on the far reaching reforms within a short time had criticised the central bank’s policies under Emefiele and justified his suspension when he told a cross section of Nigerians during a summit in Paris, France who asked about the fate of Emefiele, and in his response Tinubu told the audience that the CBN under Emefiele was ‘rotten.’
Following his suspension, Emefiele was picked up on June 10, by the DSS in his Ikoyi home in Lagos and driven in a hilux pick-up van to the Ikeja airport where he was later flown to Abuja. In the photos that went viral on social media Emefiele looked ungainly and ruffled dressed in kaftan and wearing a Hausa traditional cap to match with a leather slippers as well as he alighted from the hilux pick-up van sandwitched between DSS operatives. Thereafter he was led to the airstair of the aircraft that flew him to Abuja.
Ever since then the trials or ordeal of Godwin Emefiele has multiplied. He’s fighting several charges levelled against him by the DSS. Despite several court rulings granting Emefiele freedom from detention, the DSS has held on jealously to its quarry and refused to comply with the court orders. Only this week he was arraigned before a Federal High Court in Lagos where the court granted him bail in the sum of 20 million naira and with a surety with landed property in Lagos. The court had directed his remand in the Nigeria Correctional Service centre pending the fulfilment of the bail terms.
It will be recalled that a judge had ordered the agency to file charges or release him. He has challenged his detention and has filed an application for bail.
Ordinarily few Nigerians would bat an eye lid over the current travails of Godwin Emefiele with the Department of State Security Service, considering how he put millions of Nigerians through the wringer due to the redesign of the naira and currency swap. Many businesses were ruined and millions of Nigerians went through extreme hardships and pain due to the ill-advised policy believed to have targeted politicians. His detractors who are legion would prefer that he stew in his own juice, moreso that many believe he’s getting his comeuppance, as it were.
In the course of that ruinous and ill-motivated policy not a few were sent to there untimely graves. Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka had described the policy as a crime against humanity. In short, that policy was akin to setting the entire village ablaze in a bid to catch a rat.
This apart, Emefiele while he held sway at the Central Bank had perfected the art of running with the hare and hunting with the hound. He wanted to eat his cake and have it. Despite extant policy that prohibits the CBN governor from dabbling in partisan politics, Emefiele plunged headlong into politics and even went so far as to head to the courts shopping for a ruling that would allow him participate in politics and run for president. As a precursor to that he had registered in his ward in Delta State as a card carrying member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, a clear violation of the rules of the CBN. Propelled by vaulting ambition, and to show that he meant business a Meffy for President campaign swung into action and the nation was innundated with a high-powered campaign while several SUVs were purchased with the inscription- Meffy for President 2023, and with Emefiele being egged on by the beneficiaries of the anchor borrower’s programne of the CBN and other hangers-on.
Long before his current travails, Emefiele was in a running battle with the DSS that had accused him of economic crimes, sponsoring terrorism and also financing the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB. All this sounded outlandish and not a few thought it was a ploy to get Emefiele out of office and instal a stooge of the cabal that called the shots during the Buhari administration. Hauled before the DSS, he pleaded ill-health, and he later travelled abroad on health vacation and returned home some few weeks to the inaguration of the Tinubu administration. Earlier he had run to the courts where he obtained an injunction against the DSS from arresting him on a wide range of charges. That order is yet to be vacated by court.
On Tuesday July 25, Godwin Emefiele, was brought before the court by the DSS and he denied illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition, according to news reports, the first time he has been seen in public in more than a month. Emefiele was brought to court wearing a white kaftan and clutching a Bible in one hand, he had discarded his trademark coat and tie. He seems to have found solace in the Good Book, considering the grievious charges levelled against him by the DSS.
However, Emefiele pleaded not guilty to two counts of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, according to news reports.
Clearly, the travails of Emefiele is a clear indication of the instability of human greatness and the ephemerality of power. This goes to show that power is transient, and it should serve as a lesson to all those who hold power at various levels. It is a given that those who act with impunity will definetly be caught in their own artifice, sooner than later.
Today Emefiele is also a victim of impunity exhibited by another agency of government which is condemnable as well. Still what goes around comes around. The DSS has defied the courts as they are wont to do. Having held Emefiele for almost 50 days they complied with the courts that ordered that he should be released if they failed to bring up charges against him. Fully conscious that the court will grant him bail, the DSS had earlier approached a magistrate’s court where it obtained another detention order on another case filed against Emefiele. They secured a court order to hold Emefiele pending further investigations.
Notwithstanding the antecedents of Emefiele, the show of shame exhibited at the Federal High Court by the DSS where its officers manhandled an officer of the Nigeria Correctional Service, NCoS while trying to rearrest Emefiele, despite a court ruling granting him bail is totally condemnable and should not be tolerated in a nation built on the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. The altercation between operatives of the DSS and Nigerian Correctional Services is disgraceful and unacceptable. It shows the rot in the security services.
But some have raised posers, wondering why the Correctional Service came to the court fully armed and how it got wind that Emefiele would be released to the Service since they were not the agency that brought him to the court. Were they privy to the judgement that was expected to be delivered? There are more questions than answers.
As would be expected, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has condemned the conduct of agents of the bodies involved in the clash and called for a probe with a view of punishing the erring officers. Also, the civil society has condemned the action of the DSS, saying the organisation founded by law should not be seen violating the law of the land.
More often than not the DSS had always acted with impunity. For example, the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa is still being detained longer than what the law stipulates. Also, despite several court orders for the release of Nnamdi Kanu from detention, the DSS has turned a deaf ear to the court orders. It tends to act like a law unto itself, forgetting that it is a creation of the law. The action of the DSS suggests that we are running a militarized democracy, judging by the fact that 24 years of democracy was nurtured and tempered by two generals, Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari who both spent a combined 16 years in power. It seems the outsize influence of the generals on our democracy has been unwholesome due to their military background and their penchant for disobeying court orders during their tenures.
To avoid anarchy and the desecration of the judiciary, President Tinubu should read the riot act to the DSS and ensure that the security agencies work seamlessly and in harmony with each other. It is not enough to mouth sanctimonious platitudes about the rule of law, President Tinubu should walk the talk and should be seen defending the rule of law and the sanctity of the judiciary.
Meanwhile, the DSS has described the incident that happened at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi on July 25, as unfortunate and does not in any way reflect the professional disposition of the DSS; that the personnel from both Agencies exhibited undue overzealousness, the Service has further initiated detailed investigations into the matter.
In a statement by the Public Relations Officer of the agency, Dr Peter Afunanya, the Service said it did not and would never encourage the incident under reference; saying,
“The Service has tremendous respect for the Judiciary as an Arm and Institution of Government and will not go out of its way to undermine it.
“For emphasis, the DSS has not broken any laws in handling the Emefiele Case despite efforts by some elements to skew the narratives to the contrary. The Service had since alerted the public of sinister plots to discredit its leadership. In pursuit of its assignments, it will strive to remain professional, maintain ethical standards and high sense of discipline.”
It’s a good thing the DSS has condemned the action of its operatives and also reiterated its respect for the rule of law. In most cases, the actions of the agency tend to give the impression that it is a willing tool in the hands of those who hold political power. Essentially, the DSS needs to reinvent itself to justify the confidence of the people in it as a non-partisan security agency of government.