Is it legal for CBN Gov to run for political office?

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The Central Bank of Nigeria Act (2007) is the legal instrument that establishes the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Office of the CBN Governor. Hence, it clearly defines the process for the appointment and removal of the CBN Governor. It also creates certain rules that regulate the activities of the holder of the office.

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria is an appointee by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is in accordance with Section 8 of the CBN Act (2007). However, the appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate. This can be interpreted to mean that neither the President nor the Senate has the unfettered power to act with respect to the appointment of a CBN Governor independent of the other.

Section 9 of the CBN Act is very clear on what is expected of a CBN Governor during the pendency of his tenure. The provision states that “The Governor and the Deputy Governors shall devote the whole of their time to the service of the Bank and while holding office shall not engage in any full or part-time employment or vocation whether remunerated or not except such personal or charitable causes as may be determined by the Board and which do not detract from their full-time duties.”

This section prevents a CBN Governor from taking up any other full-time or part-time employment or vocation, whether paid or unpaid. Thus, it can be interpreted that a CBN Governor cannot run for any political office while he continues to occupy the office of the CBN Governor.

Running for any political office fits into the definition of a vocation. The process of electioneering is also a full-time engagement that will clearly interfere with the roles and duties of a CBN Governor as envisaged under Section 9 of the Act. Hence, it is only appropriate that a sitting CBN Governor that intends to run for political office resigns before going ahead with such a pursuit.

There is a proviso to Section 9 which states that the CBN Governor can only engage in personal or charitable causes as determined by the Board of Directors and which will not detract from his full-time duties. The implication of this is that the Board of Directors can determine personal or charitable causes that the Governor can engage in. However, such must also not interfere with his full-time duties as the Governor.

While it is debatable whether vying for a political office qualifies as the exception to engaging in personal or charitable causes, it can only become so when the Board of Directors makes a pronouncement on it. Additionally, it must also meet the requirement that it will not detract the CBN Governor from his full-time duties.

The reality is that the process of strategizing, campaigning, and running for a political office is a full-time role and very demanding. Hence, it cannot suffice as the exception under Section 9 of the CBN Act.

From the combined reading of Sections 7, and 8 of the Act, the CBN Governor answers to the President, the National Assembly, and the Bank’s Board of Directors. Section 11 of the CBN Act (2007) provides the circumstances under which the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria shall cease to act in that capacity. According to subsection 2(c) of the Act, where the CBN Governor commits serious misconduct in respect of his duties under the Act, he ceases to be the Governor of the Bank. However, the removal must be carried by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

An Abuja based lawyer, Muhammad Yahaya said that appointment as CBN Governor is a privilege and not a right and to be voted is a right enshrined under the constitution.

He said “The Office of the CBN governor was created by the CBN act, how he would be appointed and how he can be removed. The act further mandates him to commit himself to serving the office diligently and shall not hold any other appointment paid or not full time or part time except that which is approved by the board of the CBN for him.

Speaking further he said “The office of the CBN governor is that of a public servant and is guided by the public service rules. The public service rules require public servants to resign if they want to join partisan politics. This provision is still subsisting and has not been set aside by the court.”

“To be appointed to the office of the governor of CBN is a privilege and not a Right. To vote and be voted for, is a right provided by the constitution. Therefore, if he intends to contest for any election it is his right to do so. However, if he intends to do so while in office as the CBN governor then it is against public service rules, good conscience and logic.” Mr Yahaya said.

Another lawyer, Ikechukwu Ikogwe told Nairametrics that it is a breach of the CBN Act for Emefiele to vie for the office of the president while remaining the CBN Governor.

He stated that a CBN governor’s participation in active politics while occupying the office of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria is certainly a monumental illegality.

“Emefiele vying for the office of President while occupying the position of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria will inexorably breach the provisions of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007.

“For instance, Section 9 of the CBN Act provides that the Governor of CBN and the Deputy Governors shall devote the whole of their time to their duties and functions at the apex Bank. The Section provides that ;

“The Governor and the Deputy Governors *shall* devote the whole of their time to the service of the Bank and while holding office *shall not* engage in any full or part time employment or vocation whether remunerated or not except such personal or charitable causes as may be determined by the Board and which do not conflict with or detract from their full time duties.

*Provided* that the Governor or any of the Deputy Governors may, by virtue of his office, be appointed with the approval of the Board to-

(a) act as member of any Commission established by the Federal Government to enquire into any matter affecting currency or banking in Nigeria;

(b) become Governor, Director or member of the Board or by whatever name called, of any international bank or international monetary institution to which the Federal Government shall have interest or give support or approval; and

(c) become Director of any corporation in Nigeria in which the Bank may participate under section 31 of this Act.”

Mr Ikogwe said the exceptions as provided under section 9 of the Act include. “Personal or Charitable causes as may be determined by the Board and which do not conflict with or detract from their full time duties; and

“Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of Section 9 provide for appointments to other offices and organizations in which the CBN Governor or any of the Deputy Governors can function aside from their offices at the CBN.”

“It is instructive to note that the legislative intendment of their engagement in these other appointments is for the purposes of promoting the strength of the country’s currency; promoting the development of the banking sector; promoting money or capital markets in Nigeria as well as stimulating financial and economic development in the country going by the provisions of Section 32 of the CBN Act.”

“CBN Governor’s engagement in politics is tangential to and out of sync with these underlying objectives of the statutorily permitted and clearly delineated extracurricular engagements of the CBN Governor.”

“Besides, the CBN Governor’s engagement or appointment in these other vocations specified in the CBN Act must be determined as proper and approved by the Board of the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

“Certainly, politicking and vying for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not fall within the stratification of the other vocations that the CBN Governor can engage in contemporaneously.”

“Assuming, but not conceding, that Emefiele’s controversial political trajectory falls within the exceptions, a crucial question is: has the Board of CBN weighed in on and approved same as prescribed in the Act? I don’t think so.”

“However, in the unlikely event that the Board of CBN has given its nod, that will be unlawful because Emefiele’s inevitable engagement in the time consuming electioneering campaigns and political activities towards the 2023 Presidential election will unarguably conflict with or detract from his full time duties as CBN Governor which will run counter to Section 9 of the Act. “

“Therefore, having regard to the explicit and extant provisions of Section 9 and other sections of the CBN Act, Emefiele’s participation in active politics while occupying the office of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria is certainly a monumental illegality.” Mr Ikogwe said.

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