President Bola Tinubu, who was sworn in as Nigeria’s president on May 29, 2023, has taken a decisive action against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, by suspending him from office with immediate effect.
The suspension was announced by the Director of Information, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Willie Bassey, in a statement on Friday night.
According to Bassey, the suspension of Emefiele was based on two reasons: an ongoing investigation into his office and the planned reforms in the financial sector of the economy. He did not give further details on the nature or scope of the investigation or the reforms.
However, it is widely speculated that Emefiele’s suspension is connected to a $53 million judgement debt arising from the Paris Club refunds that he has failed to pay.
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 to a creditor. The presiding judge, Inyang Ekwo, had warned that he would not hear Emefiele’s motion for stay until he appeared before him.
The debt originated from a $70 million claim by 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.
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.
Bassey added that Emefiele has been directed to hand over the affairs of his office to the Deputy Governor (Operations Directorate), who will act as the CBN governor pending the conclusion of the investigation and the reforms.
The suspension of Emefiele is 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.