Last updated on August 5th, 2023 at 09:24 pm
On Friday, June 9, 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu suspended the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele and ordered a probe into his financial dealings during his reign at the apex ban.
Everyone had expected it since Tinubu was sworn in on May 29, 2023, but what was surprising to many was that the former CBN chief had to wait till he was kicked out of office. So, how did it start?
From 1958 to date, no governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had the audacity to come out and purchase a presidential nomination form while still in office until Friday, May 6, 2022, when Godwin Emefiele, the 11th head of the apex bank, broke that jinx.
His predecessors had battles they fought, but Emefiele’s case unceremoniously became unique because the way the value of naira fell against other major currencies was ridiculous.
From N166/$1 when he assumed office in 2014 to N760/$1 at the black market rate was the worst in the history of Nigeria’s forex market.
Table of Contents
- Date of birth: August 4, 1961
- State of origin: Delta
- Education: UNN, UNIPORT
- Profession: Banker
- Assumption of office: June 4, 2014
- Reappointment: May 16, 2019
- Wife: Margaret Emefiele
- Children: 2
- Record: First Zenith Bank GMD to become CBN Governor
Emefiele Presidential Ambition
To the surprise of millions of Nigerians, Godwin Emefiele picked the NGN100 million presidential form on Friday, May 6, 2022, under the ruling All Progress Congress (APC).
A few hours before the news broke about Emefiele picking APC presidential form, a video of masked men who endorsed Emefiele for 2023 presidential election had circulated on social media. The gun-touting men claimed to be from the oil-rich Niger Delta.
The gunmen who claimed to be the Niger Delta Freedom Reserve Force stated that CBN governor is the only credible politician with the capacity to resolve Nigeria’s multi-faceted economic and social crises.
The video which was shared by Professor Chidi Odinkalu showed six men led by their leader read from a script:
“We are tired of recycling politicians in the system. We have settled for the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele.
“If he is truly contesting, and the rumours are true, we believe that he will bring meaningful development and help the country get back on its feet.”
Emefiele is the first incumbent CBN governor to pick the presidential nomination form. Nigerians have described his action as what is beyond impunity.
They also said it shows the rascality of ‘Meffy’ and how he messed up Nigeria’s monetary system. “The game plan of these guys is beyond what an outsider can explain. We’re definitely going to see Chief of Army Staff of Inspector General of Police picking a presidential nomination form in future,” a Twitter user said.
Calls for Emefiele Sack
Meanwhile, legal luminaries across Nigeria have condemned the action of Nigeria’s apex bank for picking a presidential form while he’s yet to resign as CBN governor.
One of them is Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State. While it was argued that he has the right to belong to any group according to Mr Akeredolu, who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), it was right for Emefiele to have resigned before joining partisan politicians.
“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,” he said.
Brought up in Nigeria’s commercial city of Lagos, Godwin Emefiele who hailed from Ika South, Agbor, Delta State, speaks Yoruba like every typical Yoruba man in the South West.
The CBN governor had his primary and secondary school education in the city of Lagos until he moved to Enugu State for his university education.
After completing his elementary education at the Government Primary School, Victoria Island, Lagos, in 1973, he proceeded to Maryland Comprehensive Secondary School, Ikeja, Lagos, with West African School Certificate (WASC) in June 1978.
His pursuit for university education took him to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Finance in 1984. And by 1984, he earned a Masters in Banking and Finance in 1986 at the same university.
In 2004, Emefiele proceeded to Stanford University, and Harvard University for an Executive Education.
In the year that followed (2005), he crowned it with another executive education at Wharton School of Business.
With an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Emefiele isn’t just a banker but also an explorer in the educational space.
- Appointed Chairman, International Islamic Liquidity Management Corp on December 15, 2016 (it’s a rotational position)
- Chairman, Board of Members, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from 2014 till date
- Board Member, Zenith Bank Ghana Ltd from April 2005 till June 2014
- Board Member, Zenith Bank PLC from January 2001 till May 2014
- International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ex-Officio Member of the Board of Governors (since 2018)
- He was also a former Director of ACCION Microfinance Bank Limited
Emefiele As A University Teacher:
At the University of Port Harcourt, the brilliant Emefiele was an insurance lecturer before moving back to the University of Nigeria (UNN), where he was a finance lecturer until he resigned to join Zenith Bank in May 1990.
As An Accomplished Banker:
As one of the pioneer staff members of the young Zenith Bank in May 1990, the ex-university teacher taught it was a time to bring to practice some of the economic and banking theories in class.
He started as a manager in May 1990 till December 2001. He held other strategic positions and member of several committees to help the bank achieve its goals.
By January 2002, he rose to become the Deputy Managing Director, the position he held till 2010 until he was appointed the Group Managing Director in August 2010 till the end of May 2014.
By June 3, 2014, Godwin Emefiele assumed office as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
A career full of unforgettable records:
1) He was the first GMD of Zenith Bank to become the governor of Nigeria’s apex bank.
2) Emefiele was the first governor of CBN since 1999 to be reappointed by the government for a second term.
3) He was the first CBN boss to undertake robust microeconomic policies aimed at boosting local production of what Nigerians consume
4) He was also the first head of Nigeria’s apex bank to spark the most controversial crisis in the foreign exchange market
Allegations against Emefiele
- Mismanagement CBN funds by his associates
- Cryptocurrency ban
- eNaira project after condemning blockchain technology
- Employing foreign contractors for eNaira project
- Forex controversy like threatening to prosecute anyone who buys USD with naira
- Naira confiscation
Mismanagement Allegations of CBN Funds
In May 2019, a few days before the Nigerian Senate confirmed him for a second term, Godwin Emefiele was enmeshed in mismanagement allegations under his watch, he described the leaked audiotape as selective.
An online news platform Sahara Reporters had published an audio conversation of Emefiele’s deputy, Edward Lametek Adamu; Director for Finance, Dayo M. Arowosegbe and an aide to the CBN governor, Emmanuel Ukeje, where they discussed how to cover up for the loss of over N500 billion taken from the CBN vault in a private investment that went awry.
Emefiele threw the allegation behind him in a rebuttal when the apex bank’s Director of Corporate Communications said there was indeed a conversation among the top executives, describing what that was published as being “selective conversation” and claimed that no money was lost neither was there any private investment scheme in Dubai as claimed by the online news platform.
The call for his sack wasn’t successful. Instead, President Muhammadu Buhari rewarded him with another five-year term for a job well done at the apex bank.
Cryptocurrency Ban in Nigeria
In February 2020, Godwin Emefiele instructed all financial institutions to stop funding cryptocurrency-related wallets. He described cryptos like bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, Binance coin as a currency from the “thin air”
He said crypto was being used to fund terrorism and concluded that the restriction was part of the government’s plan to cut funding to Boko Haram, a terrorist group that has brought the North-West of Nigeria to its knees.
Hundreds of Nigerian crypto enthusiasts cried out, accusing the government of not providing jobs while it came up with policies to make them poorer.
The Nigerian spirit pushed crypto buyers and sellers in Nigeria to opt for Peer-To-Peer Crypto platforms, a few months after, Nigeria became one of the top 10 crypto adoption countries.
A few months he banned Nigerians from using Nigerian bank accounts to fund their crypto wallet, he disclosed that the apex bank would be launching eNaira, a digital currency that would be regulated by the CBN.
Known as Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) globally, the eNaira will not replace the naira notes, but rather explore the digital world.
Some Nigerians criticised him, saying he’s using the blockchain technology he described as a hoax to backup the eNaira project.
He wouldn’t listen to any of their criticisms, rather he said Nigerians should watch out for a formal launch of the project by October 1, 2021.
Penchant for Foreign Contractors
While those who believed that eNaira project wasn’t a bad idea, they, however, queried his decision to hand over the project to a Barbados-based company Bitt Inc.
They accused him of neglecting Nigerian blockchain experts who are spread across the country to contract it out to Bitt, the project is said to be worth millions of US dollars.
They said it was bad for Nigeria’s economy at a time the country is trying to resolve the imbalances in its balance of trade.
Again, the CBN fired back, saying every contractor was given an equal opportunity to bid.
Between 2014 to 2019, he supervised an interventionist currency policy by pumping billions of dollars into the foreign exchange market to ’empower’ Bureau De Change operators in Nigeria.
At a time, CBN was selling $50,000 to each of the BDC per week, it was reduced to $30,000 and settled for $20,000 per week when the number of BDCs rose astronomically to 5,500
As more forex licence applications were submitted, Emefiele set out his research team to know how lucrative the foreign exchange business was and what they found was alarming.
On July 27, 2021, he declared that funding BDCs was no longer sustainable, saying such funds would henceforth be diverted to commercial banks that have forex licence.
The decision has sparked terrible performance of the naira against major currencies in the fx market.
Emefiele, was accused of trying to abolish the same multiple exchange rate regime he invented during his first term in office.
Although the naira was N412/$1 at the official CBN rate, the gap is huge at the parallel market. It was N576/$1 at the time of putting this biography together.
He believed that a legitimate fx buyer shouldn’t patronise the parallel market by saying,:
“When you talk about pressure on the exchange rate, I don’t see it because if you are sure that you’re conducting a legal business and you are authorized; you want to pay medical bills, you want to pay school fees, you know it is legal, you know it’s not something meant to perpetrate graft and corruption – go to your bank. The bank will take your documentation and they will do your transfers for you”.
Threat Against AbokiFX Founder
On September 17, 2021, Emefiele went viral after alleging that the founder of AbokiFX Olusegun Oniwinde Adedotun had manipulated the rate of forex on his tracking website.
He claimed that the rate of USD, Pounds, Euro against the naira on abokifx was an imagination of the Oniwinde.
Most Nigerians who had been following fx market berated him for holding a single entity responsible for the decade-long rot in the forex market.
Some of his critics say, he was chasing shadows and advised him to expose the real faces behind the failure of Naira against other currencies.
He vowed to shut down the website, a check by InfomediaNG as of Thursday, September 23, 2021, showed that abokifx was still live, but without live update and rates of currencies against the Nigerian currency
At the time of this update, it’s NGN750/$1 today March 13, 2023.
In October 2022, he announced naira redesign of NGN200, NGN500, and NGN1,000. The idea was for Nigerians to take their old naira notes to banks in exchange for the new notes.
Unfortunately, those who deposited the old notes were either not given the new notes or were given the amount that couldn’t sustain their businesses.
The policy has been described as currency confiscation by financial analysts, at the time of this update, the CBN was yet to release an update days after Supreme Court ruled that old and new naira notes should circulate side by side till December 31, 2023.
It would be unfair not to take a look at some of the good sides and successes Emefiele recorded at Zenith and the apex bank.
Positioning Zenith Bank for Competition
As the Group Managing Director and the Chief Executive Officer of Zenith, he deployed his leadership skill to compete favourably with the big three: First Bank, Union Bank, and United Bank for Africa (UBA) using Information Technology.
He didn’t only carry out banking services at the financial institution, he also won several laurels
For instance, his early years at Zenith witnessed a rise in the investment portfolio of the bank and began to announce intimidating net profits like the old players in the banking sectors.
The bank continues to build on the legacy he left behind, today, it has more than 500 branches spread across Nigeria.
Giant Strides At Single-Digit Loan
At the time, I was wondering if Nigeria had a Minister of Agriculture until Sabo Nanono was kicked out of office because the CBN under Emefiele-leadership played a prominent role in connecting with farmers more than the minister in charge of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Some of the agro-based policies and enterprising programmes the CBN introduced since he got to the office are:
The Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending got more boost under his management through its risk-sharing, insurance, technical assistance, rating, and by providing incentive mechanisms to farmers across Nigeria.
Through this, several billions of Naira of loan has been disbursed to farmers while the Nirsal Microfinance bank (NMFB) monitored the SME loans payment.
The National Collateral Registry of Nigeria is an initiative of the Godwin Emefiel-led CBN. It was created for the purpose of improving Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) access to credit facilities.
Known as Creative Industry Financing Initiative, CIFI was designed by the CBN under his leadership in order to provide long-term and low-interest financing for entrepreneurs and business owners whose major challenge is access to soft credit facility most especially the creative industry like music, fashion, movies, and Information Technology.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Development Scheme was designed to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerian youths by supporting them with single-digit loans to bring their business ideas to fruition.
Worried about the complaints by Nigerians that they could not get meters, the CBN under Emefiele’s leadership came up with the Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility to support power distribution companies. In March 2021, the apex bank disclosed that it disbursed over N120 billion to DisCos for the project.
The NEMSF credit facility wasn’t designed to import meters, but to majorly concentrate on the local manufacturing and assembly of meters through which jobs could also be created.
Over the years, farmers suffered inexcusable neglect from the government. It’s either that the supports from the government do not get to them or such supports were hijacked by selfish politicians.
Emefiele came up with the idea of the Agri-Business/Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme to majorly farmers.
A committee and inspection team were appointed to monitor the disbursement of such credit facilities and to check if farmers were using the loan for the purpose it was meant.
There were some skirmishes about AGSMEIS, but it has recorded success in some states and there are beneficiaries who have testified to the authenticity of the programme.
Other credit facility-induced programme created by the former GMD of Zenith are:
- The Non-Oil Export Stimulation Facility
- The Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme
- National Food Security Programme
- Export Development Facility
- The Paddy Aggregation Scheme
- Anchor Borrowers’ Programme
Godwin Emefiele was a successful teacher before venturing into banking, though he once said he would have studied Medicine.
At Zenith, he was a great manager which earned him the highest banking position at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
He started well, we hope he ends the current crisis in the forex market well so that his name would be written in gold if it requires stepping on toes to clean up shady deals allegedly involving the political class.
- Featured Image: Nairametrics
- N500 Billion Rock CBN Under Emefiele Leadership: Officials Accused of Stealing Money From CBN Vault