March 1, 2024

Replacing Emefiele: Review of the Past, the Future in View

14 min read

By Bolaji O. Akinyemi

On the 4th of June 2014, we witnessed the emergence of the first politician to become the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria. Emefiele might have been a politician before this appointment giving the political exigencies to rid Sanusi of the Office.

However his avowed interest became known when he purchased APC form to slug it out with other Aspirants in the party among whom was Bola Ahmed Tinubu, our new President. His interest in politics is enough reason for him to have been excused, but since Buhari left him to continue his havoc which provided further complications of not seeing the next of Emefiele’s leadership of CBN, PBAT did well to excuse Godwin Emefiele after 9 years of holding down the economy.

Emefiele is a Nigerian economist, banker, and *politician* who served as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from 2014 to 2023. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in Nigeria’s economic and financial sector.

Emefiele was born on August 4, 1961 in Lagos State, Nigeria. He is a native of Agbor, Delta State, Nigeria. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Banking and Finance in 1984 and a Master’s degree in Finance in 1986 from UNN. He also earned a Ph.D. in Economics from the same university.

Emefiele began his career as a lecturer in finance and insurance at UNN and the University of Port Harcourt. He later joined Zenith Bank Plc, one of the leading banks in Nigeria, where he rose through the ranks to become the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer.

In 2014, Emefiele was appointed as the governor of the CBN by President Goodluck Jonathan. He was reappointed for a second term by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.

As the CBN governor, typical of a politician, he was driven towards conquest of power, he oversaw a largely controversial Central Bank, implementing various policies and initiatives to stabilize the Nigerian currency, boost foreign exchange reserves, support economic growth, enhance financial inclusion, promote agricultural development, and reduce inflation.

He also introduced a multiple exchange rate regime to manage the demand and supply of foreign currency in the country.

During his time, the exchange rate disparity between the black market and the official market was as high as N300. Inflation also rose to 22.22%.

Emefiele was suspended from office by President Bola Tinubu in 2023, following investigations into operations at the bank.

History bears record of the popularity of Udoji among ordinary Nigerians for his salary review recommendation that saw lower and middle class civil servants earn more than what the can ever imagined. That record of popularity of a financial expert Emefiele now holds as the infamous former CBN Governor who was presumably absolute in power and subjected the people to untold hardship as a result of his naira swap project through which many died needless death.

There have been CBN Governors before Emefiele. It’s important that we take a cursory review of them, for this let’s glean from Nairametrics’ insightful exploration of the past Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governors, who have played instrumental roles in shaping the nation’s monetary policies and financial landscape.

(Late) Mallam Aliyu Mai Bornu 7/25/1963 – 6/22/1967 (4 years)

Mallam Aliyu Mai Bornu, born in 1919, pursued his education and became an English Language Teacher after graduating from Kaduna College in 1942. He taught at Yola Middle School and later at Kaduna College. In 1954, he studied Economics at Bristol University after serving as a House Tutor at the Veterinary School in Vom.

After completing his studies in 1957, he joined the Northern Nigeria Public Service as an Administrative Officer. In 1959, he was seconded to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as an Assistant Secretary and progressed to become the Deputy Secretary, Secretary, and ultimately the first indigenous Governor of the Bank in 1963.

He retired from the CBN in 1967 and took up a role as the Director and General Manager of the Nigerian Tobacco Company.

Despite resigning from the Nigerian Tobacco Company in 1969, Mallam Mai Bornu remained a member of the Board of Directors until his passing on February 23, 1970.

(Late) Dr. Clement Nyong Isong Served From: 8/15/1967 – 9/22/1975 (8 years)

Chief (Dr.) Clement Nyong Isong, born on April 20, 1920, in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, began his education at Qua Iboe Primary School.

He completed his primary education in Oron and later attended the Oron Training Institute. In 1950, he pursued a diploma in Education at the University College, Ibadan.

With scholarships from the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller, Isong studied Economics at Iowa Wesleyan College, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 1954. He continued his studies at the Howard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, earning his Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Economics.

After working briefly at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, he returned to the University of Ibadan as a lecturer.

In 1958, Isong joined the newly established Central Bank of Nigeria as Secretary and later became the Director of Research. He served at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the United States from 1962 to 1967.

During the Civil War, he was appointed as the Governor of the Central Bank, guiding the transition to the Nigerian Naira. He retired from the Bank in 1975 and was elected as the first Governor of Cross River State in 1979.

In recognition of his contributions, Dr. Isong was honored with the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) national award in 1982.

(Late) Mallam Adamu Ciroma Served From: 9/24/1975 – 6/28/1977 (2 years)

Mallam Adamu Ciroma, born on November 20, 1934, in Potiskum, Yobe State, was the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 1975 to 1977.

He completed his primary education at Borno Middle School in Maiduguri in 1949 and pursued his secondary education at Barewa College in Zaria starting in 1950. After obtaining his A Levels in 1957, he attended the University of Ibadan and earned a Bachelor’s degree in History.

Throughout his career, Mallam Ciroma held various positions in the Public Service. He joined the Board of the Central Bank in 1970 as a Director and later became the Governor in 1976.

He also served as a Minister in the Ministries of Industry, Agriculture, and Finance, and sat on the Board of several companies.

(Late) Alhaji Abdulkadir Ahmed Served From: 6/28/1982 – 9/30/1993 (11 years)

Abdulkadir Ahmed, born on October 31, 1940, in Jama’are, Bauchi State, had his early education in Jama’are and Bauchi before attending Barewa College Zaria in 1955.

He graduated from South West London College in 1972 after studying at Nigeria College (University of Ife) in 1961.

Ahmed began his career at the New Nigerian Development Company (NNDC) in January 1960, serving in various roles across the group’s subsidiaries and associate companies.

He later became Bauchi State’s first Commissioner of Finance from March 1976 to June 1977 before being appointed Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

On June 27, 1982, he assumed the position of Governor of the Bank and retired on September 30, 1993.

Alhaji Ahmed was a fellow of the Institute of Chartered and Certified Accountants (FCCA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants (FAC).

Abdulkadir Ahmed is notable for being the longest-serving Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Dr. Paul A. Ogwuma, OFR Retired as Governor – Served in the CBN from 10/1/1993 To 5/29/1999 (6 years)

Dr. Paul Agbai Ogwuma, born on April 24, 1932, in Abayi, Imo State, had his early education at St. Barnabas School, Thie, St. Michael’s School, Aba, and St. Gregory’s School, Mbusi.

He continued his studies at New Bethel College in Onitsha and Bradford Institute of Technology. From 1959 to 1962, he pursued further education at Bradford University in the United Kingdom.

With a distinguished career as a seasoned banker, Chartered Accountant, and Administrator, Dr. Ogwuma has held various positions in organizations both in the United Kingdom and Nigeria.

He served as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Union Bank of Nigeria before being appointed as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in September 1993.

1977 to 1982 were the years Ola Vincent, he was the first personality that drew my consciousness to the office of the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria. He became the Governor of CBN on the 28th of June 1977 and held on till 1982.

Late Mr. O. O. Vincent, was a highly respected elder statesman. His insightful perspectives on national matters held significant importance. Prior to his tenure at the Central Bank, he was appointed as a Vice President at the African Development Bank in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire from 1966 to 1973.

Mr. Vincent held the distinction of being a life member of the Nigerian Economic Society and the Society for International Development. Additionally, he supported charitable organizations such as the Red Cross Society and the Nigerian Society for the Blind. With a simplistic legible signature that adorns every naira, he authorized and legitimized as tenders for exchange and circulation, I became attracted and attached to CBN as an institution. Literally is signature is engraved in my mind as his well as his enviable achievements as CBN Governor.

Olatunde Olabode Vincent wasn’t loud and lousy, I can’t remember him been vagrant and vulgar, though I was just 11 years old in 1977 and 16 in 1982 when he left office. Integrity wasn’t a prerequsite for becoming CBN Governor in those days, it was the personality among which the choice were made.

Competence wasn’t the mark they left behind but the tool with which they got the job done.

It was during Ola Vincent’s years I resumed at the Christ Apostolic Church Grammar School, Iperu Remo for my secondary school education in September of 1979 and I still remember the impact my father, Alhaji Nasir Adesina Babatunde Ogunseye’s visit left on my school community. He shared mint One Naira notes with about 5 of my seniors who were around me. That gesture adopted a school father for me in Senior Mukaila, he was in the fourth form then. Naira was managed so strongly by the Ola Vincent CBN Team it stood at just a little over 60 Kobo to a dollar, making it not just the pride of the business community but even students jump in celebration of the purchasing power of One Naira.

This piece represents an average Nigerian’s thought process of what was, what is and what should be as far as CBN and its Governorship is concerned! I didn’t know about macro and micro economic indices in 1979, but I lived in admiration of power of One Naira and what it could buy, back in those days.

Subsidy complexity is not the interest of an average Nigerian, removing it isn’t his concern! All he wants to celebrate are policies that will return the good life back to him. “Forex”, sounds French and foreign to our masses who would care less as long as it doesn’t remove food from their table.

Stimulation of local productivity to provide jobs, food and grant access to health delivery vis a vis strengthening the naira, was the take away for me from ART – Green Shift Conference in a paper presented by Mr Adetokunbo Olusegun Osilowo on the 24th of February, 2022 at the NECA House. Osilowo’s focus was how to make the CBN work for Nigerians.

The fourth Republic came with the challenge of a battered economy and a CBN that must be above board if the giant in the sun will rise again.

It was the best of Chief (Dr.) J. O. Sanusi, CON to kick the dead horse of our economy back to life from 5/29/1999, this he rode progressively till 5/29/2004 (5 years)

Chief (Dr.) Joseph Oladele Sanusi (CON) was born on September 24, 1938, in Ogbagi-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria. He studied at South-West London College and Kingston College of Technology in England, qualifying as a Chartered Accountant.

He became a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) in 1969 and a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Bankers in 1987.

Chief Sanusi began his career as an Accountant in England and later worked with the Board of Customs and Excise in Nigeria.

He joined the Centrality Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 1966, (the very year I was born) as a Deputy Manager and steadily rose through the ranks, serving as a Departmental Director, the first Chief Executive of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Executive Director of Monetary and Banking Policy, and Deputy Governor of the CBN.

He is one of the few CBN Governors who rose through the ranks at the bank to become Governor. His understanding of the system accounted largely for his success.

He held leadership positions at United Bank for Africa and First Bank of Nigeria, two major Nigerian banks.

His accomplishments have been recognized with honors such as Banker Extra Ordinary by the University of Ibadan, Man of Achievement by Corporate Press Services Ltd., and Doctor of Science – Honoris Causa by the Federal Universities of Technology, Akure, and Yola.

Prof. Chukwuma C. Soludo, CFR Retired as Governor – Served in the CBN from 5/29/2004 To 5/29/2009 (5 years)

Professor Chukwuma C. Soludo, born on July 28, 1960, is an accomplished economist and public servant. He holds a first-class degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, as well as post-graduate and doctoral degrees from the same institution.

With extensive training and experience, Professor Soludo has worked as a consultant for renowned institutions such as the World Bank, United Nations, European Union, and African Development Bank. He has also taught and conducted research in various areas of economics.

In his role as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from May 2004, Professor Soludo implemented significant reforms that led to the consolidation and growth of the Nigerian banking system. He also championed initiatives such as the establishment of the Africa Finance Corporation and the Financial System Strategy 2020 to position Nigeria as a leading financial hub in Africa.

Professor Soludo has received numerous awards and recognition for his contributions, including being named the Global and African Central Bank Governor of the Year by various international media institutions.

He was elected Governor of Anambra state in 2021 and sworn in March 17 2022.

Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (CON) Served From: 6/3/2009 – 6/2/2014 (5 years)

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, born on July 31, 1961, in Kano, Nigeria, is a renowned economist and banking professional.

He holds degrees in Economics and Islamic Law from Ahmadu Bello University and the International University of Africa. Starting his career in teaching, he transitioned to banking, working with Icon Limited, United Bank for Africa, and First Bank of Nigeria.

Sanusi excelled in the field of Risk Management, holding the position of Chief Risk Officer in both UBA and FBN. He became the Group Managing Director/CEO of First Bank, the largest bank in Nigeria, in 2009. Subsequently, in June 2009, he was appointed as the 10th Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

During his tenure as Governor, Sanusi faced the challenge of a global financial crisis and a banking system on the verge of collapse. He implemented comprehensive reforms to address issues of poor corporate governance, risk management practices, management fraud, insider abuses, and weak regulation supervision and enforcement. Arguably the most outspoken of all the CBN Governor till date.

The decision of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to sack Sanusi will prove to be a fatal legacy of calamity that Emefiele will become when Buhari was elected to reinforce his failure by reappointment.

May Emefiele never happen to Nigeria again! However, it will be unfair to treat the combined efforts of Buhari Emefiele separately. If Emefiele was fatal in failure it was because Buhari enabled him. Emefiele did not fail alone as CBN Governor, the institution failed him and failed us. Isolating Emefiele for prosecution or persecution as the enemies of Nigerians will like to refer to our accountability demand on him, will make no difference if we aren’t prepared to look beyond Emefiele.

Looking beyond Emefiele will demand that we take a cue from other developed democracies where qualification of those to be appointed to head institutions resides in the institution they are to head, this will excuse the President from the error of appointment based on political leanings. Qualifications naturally will balance performance. When an individual fails as a result of not been qualified, it is an indictment of the system and the state. Going forward, both the system and the state must be excused from failure of individuals so that person privileged of the office can bear full responsibility.

In the lamentation of the Board Chairman of NDIC, Abdulhakeem Abdulateef, he wailed; “there is corruption, there is corruption, let’s cry! Let us cry for Nigeria!”

Indeed there is corruption, and his name is not Emefiele, so removing Emefiele isn’t removing corruption. Yes, he must answer for his alleged financial crimes to serve as deterrent to others.

We must not ignore the institution check of the CBN as an institution, the assented bill by Buhari that gave so much power to CBN and its Governor must be revisited by the 10th National Assembly. The right of the Ministry of Finance to supervise the CBN must be returned. Representation of Regions must be back at NDIC. NDIC must be removed from the pocket of CBN to earn trust of depositors and guarantee insurance of funds. A CBN allowed to do as it wishes can only produce another Emefiele.

It is more about replacing the whole Board of Directors who are all culpable including all the 23 Departmental Directors who kept quiet on their watch while Emefiele was running riot of all morals and integrity.

Axing Emefiele alone and leaving 34 other people who kept quiet while he was behaving like an Emperor is nothing but injustice. The President must not just be interested in a new Governor but a new CBN.

PBAT, should put his broom to work through the new Governor to be appointed at CBN as he did at the Ministry of Defence.

Can we ignore the culpability of former President Buhari and the institution of the Presidency under whose watch Emefiele thrived in “thievery” without any check?

PBAT, should make good his promise to start where Buhari stop by investigating and probing all that was done under Buhari to know where to really start from. There are 34 Officers of the CBN who should by now be seating in the investigating room of EFCC. This again emphasizes the need for an efficient EFCC, which we can only attain if a round peg the President will find to put in the round hole of EFCC.

The CBN like EFCC should be made to work in the best interest of Nigeria.

Without cowing to partisan spirit or tribe and religion, people of impeccable integrity with sincerity of purpose and truly proven leadership skills that are required to fill these important gaps do not have to know the President to be fished out and appointed.

CBN must witness a restructuring and not dismemberment as being proposed by the current administration. What is needed at CBN is not their men out and our people in, but a holistic approach to get CBN up and running.

A muted financial system where people see things but say nothing is catastrophic! That is what our experience was with Emefiele-led CBN. CBN must now become an institution that discovered its voice by enabling all her people to discover their voice and bring their best into performing the job they have been employed to do.

LCI, Leadership Collaboration and Intervention should be the direction of the new CBN, this should be driven by best practices for our financial system health.

Dr Bolaji O Akinyemi is an Apostle and Nation Builder Convener Apostolic Round Table ART BOT Chairman Project Victory Call Initiative AKA PVC-Naija. A leading voice in conference speaking on leadership; apostolic, public, corporate.

He can be reached via: bolajiakinyemi66@gmail.com

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