Amidst the unfolding drama surrounding the resignation of Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele, a recent dive into the CBN Act reveals that the President possesses the authority to unilaterally remove deputy governors.
The President would require a two-thirds majority approval from the Senate to dismiss the Central Bank Governor, a stipulation that does not extend to deputy governors.
According to Section 11, subsection 2f of the CBN Act, the President has the authority to remove any deputy governor without consulting the National Assembly.
“The removal of the Governor shall be supported by a two-thirds majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed,” the Act states, leaving the deputy governors’ fate largely in the President’s hands.
President Tinubu recently announced a new slate of nominees for deputy governors—Mrs. Emem Nnana Usoro, Mr. Muhammad Sani Abdullahi Dattijo, Mr. Philip Ikeazor, and Dr. Bala M. Bello. These nominees await ratification from the Senate and are set to replace outgoing deputy governors Kingsley Obiora, Aishah Ahmad, Ade Shonubi, and Edward L. Adamu.
Despite the presidential nominations, the current deputy governors have not resigned as of Saturday, September 16th. Sources close to the deputies told Nairametrics that no formal resignation has been tendered.
- “As far as we’re concerned, the tenure of some of the deputy governors was recently extended by the National Assembly. They are, therefore, still legally in office and have neither been dismissed by the President nor the National Assembly,” the source clarified.
While one source stated that the existing deputy governors would continue in their roles until formal notification is received, another reliable source suggested that the incumbents might have been asked to resign, thereby facilitating the President’s new appointments.
The National Assembly recently extended the tenure of some deputy governors, further complicating the issue. Last December, the Senate approved second five-year terms for Aisha Ahmad and Edward Adamu. Dr. Kingsley Obiora, appointed in March 2020, is in the fourth year of his term, while Ade Shonubi’s term is set to expire in October.
Experts indicate that the most likely route for the current deputy governors to exit would be through resignation.
What the law says
A closer look at the CBN Act reveals that Section 3 allows both the Governor and Deputy Governors of the Central Bank to submit their resignations at least three months in advance, in writing, to the President. Additionally, the Act permits the President to appoint replacements to serve the remaining duration of the term.
This implies that if they choose to resign, a three-month handover period would be needed before the new deputy governors can be sworn in.
According to legal expert Liborous Oshoma, while the CBN Act mandates that the President must seek Senate support to remove the CBN Governor, the same does not apply to the Deputy Governors.
“Unlike the CBN Governor, who requires the support of the Senate for removal, the President can dismiss the CBN Deputy Governors without Senate approval,” Oshoma explained.
Dr. Ralph Ibekwe, another legal expert, opined,
“Section 11(2)(f) is a flashpoint of debate. By requiring a two-thirds Senate affirmation solely for the Governor’s removal, the Act strengthens the CBN’s autonomy,” suggesting that this provision does not extend to the Deputy Governors.
Legal expert Chike Ukoh also weighed in, stating that the CBN Governor alone is singled out for Senate confirmation for both appointment and removal, while the Deputy Governors do not require Senate confirmation for their removal.
“According to the law, it means the President can remove a Deputy Governor without Senate approval. However, if he wishes to remove the Governor, a two-thirds majority in the Senate is needed to pass a resolution for his removal.”
“In essence, the Governor is the only individual who requires Senate approval for removal. So, when interpreting the law literally, a Deputy Governor can be removed without Senate involvement, but Senate approval is needed to remove the Governor,” Ukoh concluded.
Also, giving his perspective to the debate, the Managing Partner of the law firm Adesokan & Ajayi, Oladiran Ajayi, said the president has the powers to remove the Deputy Governors without confirmation by the Senate, but, however, agreed that the president needs two-thirds of the senate to remove the Governor.
He said, ‘’President Bola Tinubu has approved the nomination of Olayemi Cardoso to serve as the new Governor of the CBN. He also nominated four new deputy governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). All nominations are for a term of five (5) years in the first instance and subject to confirmation by the Nigerian Senate.
‘’The question that arises is are the appointments lawfully done?
‘’Section 8 (1) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007, vests in the President with the authority to appoint the Governor and Four (4) Deputy Governors for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), subject to confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
‘’The only requirement that the Act includes is that they shall be persons of recognised financial experience. This appears to be the case with all the appointments.
‘’One question is whether they can still be appointed in light of the fact that the fate of the erstwhile suspended Governor of the CBN remains unclear?
‘’In respect of the Deputy Governors the question is an easy one. By section 11(f) of the CBN Act, the president has the powers to remove them without any requirement for senate confirmation.
‘’In respect of the Governor however, section 11 lists the only ways he can be removed; and the President can only remove him with confirmation of 2/3 of the Senate. While the President has not yet followed this process, there are news reports on the 17 of September by Reuters news agency that Mr. Emefiele resigned his appointment in August.
‘’If the report is correct, then he is expected to give a 3 month notice for his resignation. In addition, Mr. Cardozo is expected to take over for the unexpired period of the term of appointment, in the first instance.’’
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