By Mobolaji Sanusi
The rancorous murmuring about Godwin Emefiele and his leadership of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as exposed by the Jim Obazee probe panel report, has left many mouths agape. Since the last quarter of 2022, Emefiele has become a newsmaker, albeit for the wrong reasons.
To Nigerians, the most heinous of his crimes was his sudden change of the naira without proper planning, leaving in its wake severe naira scarcity with the commercial banks struggling to meet up with customers’ requests for their deposited money. Millions went into depression whilst deaths of Nigerians who were unable to access their deposits were recorded. May Nigeria never witness such a dastard policy, with its attendant excruciating pain, again.
To date, it is quite clear that the initiative was bereft of any altruistic intentions. It was obviously targeted at certain political interests that the then inimical presidency cabals under the Mohammadu Buhari administration tried to stop from becoming the president. The result, as they say, is history.
The essence of this piece is not to apportion contentious blames but to highlight institutional absurdities as impediments holding down the country from realizing the Nigerian dream.
Of course, if Emefiele is prosecuted and found wanting by the court, he must not escape justice. Facing the full wrath of the law is the least prescriptions of the rule of law and the current government must pursue this to the last letter.
When Emefiele is ultimately jailed, after due trial, convicted and sentenced, will that be solution to Nigeria’s problems at the CBN and other institutions of government? This writer believes that to an extent, it will serve the end of deterrence but can it cure the festering mischief and damnable rot in the country’s system? Obviously Not.
Is Nigeria ready to correct its institutional rot? Hmmm! Sometimes, one wonders if Nigeria is ready to get out of this rot. We cannot be seen to be pursuing what the Yoruba sees as: ‘Ka’fi ete’sile ma’awo’lapalapa.’ It is laughable to apply headache drugs to cure arthritis seems my readily available translation of the above Yoruba proverb.
Other salient questions: How can we effectively resolve the Emefiele conundrum that is ravaging all institutions of state in this country? Do public officers, elected and appointed, have honest resolve for truly pursuing the ideals of progressive policies without expecting some unjustifiable gratification in return?
Serving the country, in whatever capacity is now considered an avenue for personal, family and friends aggrandizement. Bad enough to also note that governments in power serve the needs of close buddies in cahoots with willing civil servants that are conspiratorial tools in the corruption game against the Nigerian system. How can the country be bailed out of this vicious cycle of concentric corruption?
As things stand today, Nigeria is bereft of selfless architects and implementors of her so much-desired developmental policy initiatives. The degenerating values in the nation with the oozing odium from her public institutions have negatively redefined the principle of role models in the minds of our youths. This is expected when stealing in public offices is considered as God’s blessings with no dire consequences from the state once you belong or defected to the political party in power.
Nigeria, as it stands today, is not in any way operating a system at state and federal levels that is known to honesty or ingrained in good faith.
This can’t be President Bola Tinubu’s creation or problem but he owes Nigeria the duty of rectifying this to the best of his ability. The president cannot repair, overnight what has been destroyed several decades ago but he must be seen by deeds and actions to be realistically improving the Nigerian debilitating situation. After all, Mark Twain once said: “ Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” Nobody wants him to create a perfect Nigeria since no country or even individual is perfect but we demand from him, a continuously and genuinely improving country.
Until this is done, the likes of Emefiele at the local, state and federal levels will continue to thrive, unhindered. The Emefieles are virtually in all public institutions in the country hoping not to be caught.
We have only removed the CBN Emefiele but what about other hydra-headed Emefieles still lurking and thriving unnoticed in very important institutions and corridors of power in the Nigerian state?
The Obazee probe panel report has raised very pertinent questions including but not limited to: What has happened to the principle of checks and balances enshrined in our constitution? Do we really follow the law in our day-to-day official activities or we gleefully succumb to the dictates of self-avarice?
A typical example bringing forth the above questions in the unfurling Emefiele scenario is to ask what statutory role did the National Assembly of that era played in looking the other way when this Emefiele criminality is being foisted on the entire country. The role of the Presidency under Mohammadu Buhari in this entire avoidable CBN financial conundrum, to say the least, is demeaning.
The CBN Act 2007 when carefully scrutinized exposed the ‘conspiracy’ of the National Assembly and the then Presidency. In section 50(1), the Act provides: “The bank shall within two months after the close of each financial year, transmit to the National Assembly and the President a copy of its annual accounts certified by the Auditor.”
In section 50(2), the Act wants the people of Nigeria to have a glimpse of the affairs of their apex bank where it states: “A report required to be submitted to the National Assembly and the President shall be published by the Bank in such manner as the Governor may direct.”
If the law of the apex bank provides for transmission of its annual financial report before the National Assembly and the President, how come all the financial atrocities committed by Emefiele were not detected by its Appropriation, Finance, and even Budget Committees or any others saddled with conducting oversight functions on the CBN and other institutions of government?
Also, assuming the CBN failed to transmit its financial report, what efforts were made by the federal lawmakers to compel the apex bank to comply with the provisions of its enabling law? Could it be said that those around Buhari at that time have all gone to sleep or were complicit? Otherwise, they ought to have advised him appropriately. Not doing that brings out the hypocrisy and the Emefiele in all of us.
This unpardonable dereliction of duty by the National Assembly affected committees’ members/chairmen and the Presidency at that period brings out the Emefieles in our institutions of state that consider personal interest over and far above national progress.
If Emefiele is jailed, what’s the government going to do for these other Emefieles identified above and those not yet known that collaborate and close their greedy eyes to injurious official acts against the Nigerian people and state? This is the question for the current administration to answer.
• _Sanusi, former LASAA MD/CEO is a Lagos-based Corporate Legal Consultant_