The Department of State Services (DSS) has arrested the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, over his alleged involvement in a $53 million debt scandal.
Emefiele was taken into custody by the DSS operatives on Friday night, shortly after President Bola Tinubu announced his suspension from office.
Tinubu, who was sworn in as Nigeria’s president on May 29, 2023, appointed Mr Folashodun Adebisi Shonubi as the acting Governor of the CBN, in replacement for Emefiele. Shonubi, who was born on March 7, 1962, is a banker with over 30 years of professional experience. He holds a double Master’s Degree respectively in Business Administration and Mechanical Engineering, from the University of Lagos.
Shonubi was the Deputy Governor (Operations Directorate) of the CBN since October 17, 2018. He was also the Managing Director/CEO of the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System PLC (NIBSS) from 2012 to 2018. He has served on several sub-committees of the Bankers’ Committee, including the Ethics and Professionalism sub-committee.
The suspension and arrest of Emefiele are believed to be connected to his failure to pay a $53 million judgement debt arising from the Paris Club refunds to a creditor who had helped Nigeria recover some funds from the Paris Club of creditors in 2017.
The creditor had sued the CBN and the Attorney General of the Federation for breach of contract and obtained a judgement in his favour. However, Emefiele allegedly only released $17 million, leaving a balance of $53 million.
The Federal High Court in Abuja had summoned Emefiele on Tuesday to explain why he had not complied with a valid court order to pay the debt. The presiding judge, Inyang Ekwo, had warned that he would not hear Emefiele’s motion for stay until he appeared before him.
Emefiele has been the CBN governor since 2014 when he was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan. He was reappointed for a second term in 2019 by former President Muhammadu Buhari. He is the first CBN governor to serve two terms.
The suspension and arrest of Emefiele are seen as a bold move by Tinubu, who is known as the political “godfather” of the south-west. Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State and senator for Lagos West, has been credited with playing a key role in the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013 and its victory in the 2023 presidential election. He is expected to implement his vision of economic development and social welfare for Nigeria.