Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor, has reportedly failed to resume official duties after exhausting his approved vacation period.
This is as the apex bank governor has concluded plans to seek asylum in the United Kingdom over developing threats to his position and personal safety from the State Security Service.
However, The Gazette doesn’t know when he’s filing his asylum application but he is ready.
Mr Emefiele had in December received presidential approval to proceed on vacation until January 9.
Sources, however, told The Gazette that the apex bank chief, who was billed to resume work today, had not shown up as of noon on Monday and that he is not on his way back to the country.
The tension surrounding his much-expected return borders around the uncertainty that has enveloped the economy, especially the capital markets.
According to the source, the bank’s chief is still shuttling between the UK and United States. The situation is still not very comfortable for him, per a source familiar with the matter.
Mr Emefiele, who has been forced to remain abroad due to plots to implicate him as a financier of terrorism, has been weighing his options there.
People familiar with his schedule said the CBN governor departed Nigeria between December 9 and 10, then made an appearance with President Muhammadu Buhari during a well-publicised trip to Washington that ended on December 17.
Sources say that Mr Emefiele would be willing to return to Nigeria if the president could offer protection from state goons at the SSS.
Allegations have flared that the covert police secured the backing of Mr Buhari and other high-ranking government officials to launch an attack against the CBN governor.
However, Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High in a December 13, 2022, ruling declined to authorise an arrest warrant sought by the SSS to take Mr Emefiele into custody.
Mr Tsoho said the secret police had failed to establish its claims against Mr Emefiele, while also obscuring his identity in order to deceive the court into granting an erroneous motion.
The Gazette learnt that the president has not taken a definitive position yet on the stalemate.
Mr Emefiele’s decision to redesign the naira and limit cash withdrawals, presumably intended to curb vote-buying at the 2023 elections, may have earned him strong political adversaries and landed him in a war with other loyalists of the regime.
Victor Ndukwoba, a business analyst with Afro Invest, said the country cannot afford any unneeded controversies at a time when the economy is not doing well in an interview with The Gazette about the effects of Mr Emefiele’s absence on the country’s economy.
Mr Ndukwoba stated that while the bank has a structure that will allow operations to continue while the head of the apex bank is away for an extended period of time, his prolonged absence wasn’t good for the country’s economy.
“It doesn’t go well for an economy that is already still sort of grappling with all sorts of issues like revenue challenges on the fiscal side; you know government revenue is challenged, we have issues around debt and debt sustainability, and the central bank has obviously been a key part of funding government activities.
“The central bank governor will continue to play a key role in the economy, the monetary policy, managing FX and others. So, a prolonged absence from office will obviously have a negative impact,” he said.
“But again, I’ll like to believe that the Central Bank has the appropriate structures to allow extended time away for principal officers within its organs. There is the board of governors, the MPC itself, even though the central bank governor will chair that committee. But I believe in his absence there will be governance framework to allow the institution and its activities continue,” he added.
On his part, legal practitioner Festus Oguns argued that it was impossible for the apex bank boss to effectively and efficiently carry out his official duties while outside the country.
Establishing that the move by the SSS to arrest Mr Emefiele was illegal, the lawyer said the CBN chief brought distraction to himself when he showed interest of contesting for the presidency.
“While the action of the SSS trying to arrest him is not supported by law, I believe that his personal travail occasioned by his unwarranted and his needless involvement in politics while in office; should not be at the expense of the generality of our people,” Mr Oguns said.
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