INEC to sever CBN ties as Emefiele seeks court’s nod

• Court invites INEC, AGF before hearing Emefiele’s restraining order on presidential ambition
• INEC: Emefiele’s ambition will have implications for sensitive election materials storage at CBN
• Why CBN governor is not qualified to run – Falana, Amadi • Adegboruwa: Emefiele’s suit a
comedy, insult to Nigerians • HCSF memo puts CBN chief in quandary

A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to appear before it on Thursday, May 12, to explain why the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele, should be disqualified from running for President in 2023.

Emefiele is one of 25 persons who have indicated interest to run for president on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). He, yesterday, through his counsel, Mike Ozekhome SAN, applied for an order of status quo ante bellum to be made against INEC and AGF so that he would not be made to resign from office until 30 days to the general election.

In an ex-parte application argued on Monday, Emefiele denied being a political appointee but a public servant not caught by Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022.

The CBN governor asked the court to invoke Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution to bar the defendants from asking him to vacate office until 30 days to the February 2023 presidential election.

Emefiele expressed apprehension that sale and submission of presidential nomination form would expire on Wednesday and that unless the AGF and INEC are ordered to maintain status ante bellum as at May 5, when he filed the suit, he would be made to vacate office before his form would be accepted by the appropriate authority.

However, in a brief ruling, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed, turned down the request for the order. Instead, the judge ordered him to put the defendants on notice and also serve court processes on the defendants.

Justice Mohammed ordered the defendants to appear before him on May 12 and show cause why the request should not be granted.
REACTING to Emefiele’s confirmation of interest in the 2023 general elections, INEC has said it would have no option than to review its long-term relationship with the CBN if its governor joins the presidential race.

Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, in a statement made available to The Guardian, said though INEC has enjoyed a beneficial relationship with the apex bank in the area of storing its sensitive election materials over the years, the move by the CBN governor to contest for the nation’s number one post while still retaining his current position might have implications on the existing partnership. 

Sensitive materials stored with the CBN during elections include ballot papers, results sheets, braille ballot guide for visually-impaired persons, among others. 

“The strategic partnership between the CBN and INEC, which enables the Commission to store its sensitive election materials with the apex bank, has been in place for many years and beneficial in several ways.

“Indeed, there have been various reports that the CBN Governor is nursing the intention of running for the office of president, but, he is yet to formally declare his intention to run as of today.

“However, if and when he eventually does, the Commission will look at the implications and take a decision on what becomes of the long-standing strategic partnership with the CBN,” Oyekanmi said.

It would be recalled that on May 31, 2018, the CBN had in a release by the then Director of Corporate Communications, Isaac Okorafor, announced the disengagement of the Deputy Governor in charge of Operations, Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, with effect from July 15, 2018.

In the release, President Buhari formally accepted Adelabu’s disengagement to pursue his political aspiration to govern Oyo State under the APC.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has given reasons Emefiele is not qualified to run for president. A statement by the lawyer said the CBN governor is supposed to resign since he has the constitutional right to participate in politics and contest elections, which he said is according to Section 11 of the CBN Act.

“If he does not call it quits with the CBN forthwith, Mr. Emefiele should be removed by the President in line with Section 11 of the CBN Act and recommended for prosecution for conflict of interest before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

“Retaining Mr. Emefiele as the CBN governor and presidential aspirant in the ruling party is going to have a more deleterious effect on the national economy that has been paralysed through the implementation of obnoxious monetary policies at the behest of imperialism.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the powers conferred on the Governor and Board of the CBN under the CBN Act are enormous. They include the power to ensure monetary and price stability; issue legal tender currency in Nigeria; maintain external reserves to safeguard the international value of the legal tender currency; promote a sound financial system in Nigeria; and act as bankers and provide economic and financial advice to the Federal Government.

“In addition, the Banks and Financial institutions Act 2020 has empowered the Governor and CBN to grant and revoke licences of banks; supervise banks, dissolve Boards and Management of banks, remove managing directors and other directors of banks, sanction erring banks and officials, make rules that guide commercial banks, provide loan to governments, set interest rates, serve as apex bank to other banks and ensure a cordial relationship with foreign banks.

“Furthermore, the Minister of Finance shall seek inputs from the CBN in preparing the Medium Term Expenditure Framework for the annual budget pursuant to the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007. The performance of these statutory functions, which shall be in the national interest, cannot be left in the hands of a politically exposed person.

“Therefore, the involvement of the CBN governor in partisan politics will compromise the autonomy of the CBN. For instance, during the #EndSARS protests in October 2020, Emefiele held a secret meeting with some of the leading protesters. He tried in vain to prevail on the young men and women to end the protests. In a desperate bid to coerce the leaders of the movement to stop embarrassing the President Buhari administration, Emefiele invoked his powers under the BOFIA by freezing the bank accounts of 20 leading protesters.”

ANOTHER renowned lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has described the suit by Emefiele, on his eligibility to contest the 2023 presidency, as a comedy. In a statement yesterday, Adegboruwa said by the decision of the Supreme Court in Akinlade vs INEC, there is no competent suit filed by Emefiele pending before the court for adjudication.

He noted that the affidavit supporting the originating summons and the affidavit of urgency were deposed to by his counsel in flagrant violation of Rule 20 of Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC).

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said originating summons cannot be determined in the Federal High Court without a competent affidavit in support thereof.

Being an employee of the CBN, the legal practitioner explained that any case to determine Emefiele’s status or eligibility should be filed at the National Industrial Court (NIC).

Adegboruwa said as long as Emefiele earns salary from CBN, “he should not dream of contesting election while still holding on to his office. It is an insult to our collective psyche as a people.

“Sensitive election materials are always kept in CBN offices nationwide by INEC, unknown to Nigerians that Emefiele as Governor of CBN had been a politician all his life,” Adegboruwa said.

He further observed that the APC, which Emefiele seeks its presidential ticket, is not a party in his court case, contrary to extant laws and practice. He urged the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Election Situation Room, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to apply to join Emefiele’s case “and put an end to this joke.”

ALSO, an Associate Professor of Law and former chairman, National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Sam Amadi, has said the suit filed by Emefiele is a dangerous innovation by a public official to evade the requirement of law and to serve personal interest to the detriment of public interest.

“No Central Bank governor anywhere in the world has alleged a right to be involved in partisan politics while still serving as governor. The fact that a governor of Central Bank has been a registered and card-carrying member of a political party since February 2021 is a fragrant violation of the statutory independence and political neutrality of the apex bank.

“The Central Bank is a regulator with quasi-judicial and legislative power. It is not a mere transaction agency. The governor of such agency ought not to be a member of a political party under our market economy that is based on fair regulation.

“Such a person has the powers to impose drastic punishments and penalties on citizens. Such a person is required to be above the political fray. It is so sad that under Buhari, even something like the CBN that used to be respected and hallowed is now an object of political football. 

“The suit is based on the Electoral Act but not under the CBN Act that precludes the governor from being involved in politics. It is a cynical suit that follows the bad example that the AGF set by his contrived judgment at a high court in Umuahia. It is a bad precedent,” he said.

MEANWHILE, Emefiele’s aspiration seems to create some confusion over the interpretation of the Public Service Rules (PSR) and Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 as amended. Recall that in a memo dated May 5, 2022, with reference number HCSF/479/11/19, the Head of Federal Civil Service, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, had clarified government’s stance on the issue of civil servants participating in partisan politics.
Dr. Yemi-Esan had noted that “in the overall best interest of neutrality, harmony, integrity and development of Nigerian civil Service, all civil servants are strongly advised to be guided by PSR and the legal opinion of Hon Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice on the subject.”
In the memo titled, “Clarification on the Provision of Public Service Rules (PSR) vis-à-vis the Supreme Court Judgment as it Relates to participation of Civil Servants in Partisan Politics,” the office of the Head of Service said it decided to respond to series of requests on the subject matter.
“In the light of the above, it has become necessary to draw the attention of all civil servants to the legal opinion of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice (HAGF/MJ) on the matter.
“In his letter, Ref. No. SGF/PS/HCS/210/II dated 26thNovember 2018, HAGF/MJ asserted, inter alia, that ‘neither the 1999 Constitution nor the Supreme Court has authorised civil servants to engage in partisan politics. The provisions of Rules 030422 and 030423 of the Public Service Rules (2008 Edition) were not nullified by the Supreme Court, hence they remain in force and binding on all civil servants seeking to participate in nomination exercises or party primaries.

“The provisions of Rule 030402(g), 030422 and 030423 of the PSR (2008 Edition) should be enforced…and that the attention of civils servants (be drawn) to the fact that the Supreme Court judgment in INEC vs Musa did not set aside or nullify these provisions of the PSR, hence, they must be complied with by any civil servant who wishes to seek nomination or participation in party primary elections.”

Opinions are divided on whether the OHCSF’s memo was targeted at the CBN governor after he had been lured into participating in partisan political activities, but Emefiele has approached the court praying it to determine whether in view of the Umuahia Federal High Court ruling on the illegality and unconstitutionality of Section 84(12) he should resign his appointment to pursue his political ambition.

A source confided in The Guardian that the CBN was programmed to purchase the APC presidential nominations on the last day of the sale of the forms, remarking that the decision to postpone the deadline from Friday, May 6, to Tuesday, May 10, exposed the CBN governor to the public outcry that attended the purchase of the forms by the Rice Farmers Association.


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