Senate considers bill to remove CBN governor as board chairman

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A bill that seeks to remove the governor of Nigeria’s apex bank, CBN, as chairman of its board, has scaled second reading at the Senate. The bill, sponsored by Sadiq Suleiman Umar (APC, Kwara North), seeks to amend the CBN Act to enable the appointment of a person other than the Governor as the chairman of its board. The bill would also divest the board of the powers of determining and fixing salaries and allowances of its members and considering and approving the bank’s annual budget of the bank. The CBN Act No. 7 of 2007 currently allows any incumbent governor of the bank to also serve as chairman of its board. The passage of the bill was a sequel to a debate on the provisions of the legislation and attempts by some senators to ‘kill’ the bill. The proposed bill comes months after political parties held presidential primaries and elected presidential candidates. Before the primaries in May and June, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, was branded as an aspirant for the presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) – an aspiration he did not deny.

The bill

Leading the debate, Mr Umar said the bill proposes that the new chairman of the board of the Central Bank will have powers to determine salaries and allowances of members, as the governor focuses strictly on administrative duties in the running of the apex bank.

The board, he explained, would be responsible for the annual budget of the bankers’ bank which he said is the global standard.

“It seeks to divest the governor of CBN, chairmanship of the Board as obtainable in other countries of the world,” he explained. “A different person with requisite qualification and required knowledge on monetary and financial policies should be made Chairman of the Board.”

He said separation of the two positions will enable any sitting CBN Governor to focus more on fiscal and monetary policies than the politics of the institution.

Deliberations

In her contribution, Betty Apiafi (PDP Rivers) suggested a holistic amendment of the CBN Act as she recalled how the current CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, attempted to contest for the presidency while in office during the 2022 presidential primary election – an act, she said “would not happen anywhere in the world” particularly because election materials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) materials are usually kept in the bank.

Having attempted to contest for the presidency, Mr Emefiele made many Nigerians lose confidence in the bank not to temper with sensitive election materials, she said.

At this point, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who presided over plenary, cautioned colleagues against linking the bill and the debate to Mr Emefiele’s presidential bid.

“It has nothing to do with what we’re discussing here.”

Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe (APGA, Abia South), James Manager (PDP, Delta South), Orji Kalu (APC, Abia North) and the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, opposed the bill.

They argued that more work needed to be done. Mr Omo-Agege particularly said the attention of the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Uba Sani, was required. Mr Sani was absent at the time. For a little while, there were arguments about whether to step down the bill or put it to a voice vote. While some senators wanted the bill passed, others opposed it. Mr Lawan , however, put the bill to a voice vote for second reading and the majority voted in favour of the bill. The legislation was referred to the banking committee for further legislative work and it will report back to the Senate in four weeks.

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