In Nigeria’s democratic framework, the separation of powers is a key feature, providing an equilibrium that prevents the consolidation of power within a single branch of government. The rapport between the Nigerian President and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has become a focal point of discussion across political, legal, and economic arenas. Central to this discourse is the question of whether the President holds the authority to suspend the CBN Governor. This composition scrutinises this issue by inspecting the legal landscape in Nigeria, and furthermore proposes potential roundabouts if the President indeed lacks such powers.
Just a few hours before midnight on June 9th, 2023, many media houses reported that the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR had suspended the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele. It thus has become very important to xray the extent of the powers or legality of the Nigerian President to exert disciplinary actions against a CBN Governor.
The Interplay of Presidential Powers and the Suspension of the CBN Governor:
A scrutiny of the Central Bank of Nigeria (Establishment) Act 2007 reveals that the President does not have the unilateral authority to suspend or remove the CBN Governor. As per the Act, the removal of the Governor can only be initiated by the President with the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of the Senate following allegations of misconduct or incapacity due to mental or physical infirmity. This provision seeks to maintain the independence of the central bank from the government’s direct control, a practice seen in most democratic societies.
Although the appointment of the CBN Governor is a presidential responsibility (subject to the Senate’s endorsement), the Act’s conditions underscore the necessity for checks and balances. This is aimed at sheltering the Governor from potential political manipulation, which could undermine the CBN’s independence—critical for executing effective monetary policy and maintaining economic stability.
Bypassing the Stipulations:
However, circumstances may arise where the President might feel compelled to suspend the CBN Governor, especially in situations of policy deadlock that could potentially destabilize the nation’s economy. While direct suspension might not be legally feasible without Senate backing, there are various methods through which the President could indirectly affect the Governor’s tenure.
- Open Discourse and Persuasion: Encouraging an open dialogue and utilizing persuasion to align monetary policies with national interest could ensure a harmonious working relationship between the President and the CBN Governor.
- Utilization of Executive Influence: The President could exercise influence through appointed members of the Monetary Policy Committee, who could, in turn, vote in line with the President’s preferences on monetary policies.
- Garnering Legislative Support: The President could rally legislative backing to propose amendments to the CBN Act, albeit this would demand substantial political effort and negotiation due to the significance of maintaining CBN’s independence for economic stability.
- Mobilizing Public Pressure: By effectively communicating with the populace and enlightening them on potentially detrimental impacts of the central bank’s policies on the economy, the President could build a case for the Governor’s suspension or removal.
The powers of the Nigerian President to suspend the CBN Governor are not unrestrained and are subject to checks and balances, particularly the approval of the Senate. Despite this arrangement’s intent to safeguard the CBN’s autonomy, the President still holds the potential to indirectly steer the direction of the central bank through various strategic means. Nonetheless, such measures should be undertaken with discretion and respect for democratic principles to avoid disrupting the delicate balance of power and the country’s economic stability.