For weeks, ministers and other political appointees acted like they were above the law. Even the Presidency indulged them. But by Wednesday, it all changed. Impunity went on vacation, and suddenly Nigerians are being regaled with ‘tales by moonlight’ by those who thought they could eat their cakes and have it.
Suddenly, the public space is inundated with tales of how ministers are resigning their jobs. They include Senator Godswill Akpabio of Niger Delta Ministry; Ogbonnaya Onu, the Minister of Science and Technology; Rotimi Amaechi of Transport Ministry.
Except for the Minister of State for Education, Barrister Emeka Nwajiuba, who is said to have resigned long before President Muhammadu Buhari issued marching orders to his ministers interested in contesting for his office and other offices to quit the cabinet, others remained stubborn. Now humbled, they are cooking up stories of having made up their minds to leave before the order.
But one; Dr. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment is tenaciously clinging on, saying he is awaiting a clarification from Buharu. Many suspect he does not plan to leave.
And for the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who is testing his suitability in the Federal High Court, he appears to have been roped in by a circular by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who also became aware of his powers so late in the day and only after the President spoke up.
In his late circular now making the rounds on social media, Mustapha nailed more than a few coffins. He wrote:
“Mr. President has observed and noted the expression of interest and intention by some members of the Federal Executive Council, Heads of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Agencies, Parastatals of Government, Ambassadors and other Political Office holders to contest the upcoming Presidential, Gubernatorial, National and State Assemblies’ elections.
“Consequently, Mr. President has directed that the affected office holders aspiring to run for various offices in the 2023 General Elections, should tender their resignation on or before Monday, the 16th of May, 2022.
“For the avoidance of doubt, this directive affects all Ministers, Heads and Members of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Agencies and Parastatals of Government, Ambassadors as well as other political appointees who desire to contest for elective offices. For smooth running of the machinery of government and our foreign Missions, affected Ministers are to hand over to Ministers of State where they exist or to the Permanent Secretary, where there is no Minister of State. Ambassadors shall hand over to their Deputy Heads of Mission or the most Senior Foreign Service Officer in line with established practices.
“Similarly, Heads of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Agencies and Parastatals are to hand over to the most senior Director/Officer as may be peculiar to the organisation, in line with the service wide Circular No. SGF.50/S. Il/C.2/268 of 4th December, 2017.
“The contents of this circular and the incidental directives, takes effect immediately.”
But if Emefiele still refuses to balk, observers point to Section 9 of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act which appears to bar the CBN governor and his deputies from engaging in politics and other businesses, unless such person resigns.
The section reads: “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.”
Apparently relying on this section, a civil society organisation, HEDA, petitioned the ICPC to take swift action to prevent the breach of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act by the Governor, by promptly and diligently investigating the motive and sponsors of the Green Alliance Movement and if any foul play was uncovered, such culprits should be prosecuted accordingly.
The Green Alliance has been pushing to have Emefiele contest the Presidency.
ICPC’s Registrar, H.S Folaranmi, on behalf of the Chairman of the Commission- Bolaji Owasanoye, has already acknowledged HEDA’s petition and averred to act accordingly.
Recall that Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, had called for the sack of Emefiele, if he did not resign.
Akeredolu said, “This act, if unchecked, timeously, portends great danger to the fragile economy of the country.
“This latest news confirms that the Governor may indeed be interested in immersing himself in the murky waters of politics like any other Nigerian with partisan interests.
“It is incontrovertible that Mr Emefiele enjoys a constitutionally protected right to belong to any group or association and participate fully, just as any Nigerian.
“It is, however, difficult to imagine that a person who occupies the exalted and sensitive office of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria will be this brazen in actualising his ambition. There is no gain asserting the obvious.
“The combined effect of the Public Service Rules, CBN Act and the 1999 Constitution, as amended, exposes not only the oddity inherent in this brash exercise of presumed right to associate.
“It also confirms the illegality of the act should he proceed to submit the forms while occupying the seat as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
“Consequently, we admonish Mr Emefiele to leave the office, immediately, for him to pursue his interest. He cannot combine partisan politics with the very delicate assignment of his office. Should he refuse to quit, it becomes incumbent on the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to remove him forthwith. This is a joke taken too far.”