Godwin Emefiele and the Hullabaloo of Illegality.
By Olakunle Bamisile
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has come under heavy criticism over the All Progressives Congress’ Presidential Expression of Interest and Nomination forms for the Presidency of Nigeria reportedly obtained for him by farmers and friends. Though the CBN Governor has, in a series of tweets, debunked rumors that he had joined the presidential race, he has not escaped reproof from Nigerians. Some calling for his immediate resignation; some others calling for his immediate sack by President Buhari. Expression of absolute displeasure. Mr. Emefiele has not expressly stated that he is not going to contest as, in his tweet, he stated thus: “However, Should I answer their calls and decide to seek presidential nomination, I will use my own hard-earned savings from over 35 years of banking leadership to buy my own Nomination Forms, without proxies in an open and transparent manner in full compliance with the laws and Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria”. To confirm that to contest for the presidency of Nigeria is under consideration by him, he tweeted thus: “This is a serious decision that requires God’s Divine intervention: in the next few days the Almighty will so direct”. While Mr. Godwin Emefiele is waiting on God’s Divine intervention, Some Nigerians have provided their “legal” intervention, and this piece is another one.
Mr. Godwin Emefiele’s tweets reveals that he is waiting on God’s direction for his decision but many Nigerians, including Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu, are having absolutely none of it as they have instead directed the CBN Governor to disengage, resign, leave office or be sacked. It has widely beem opined, and brilliantly so, that: should Mr. Godwin Emefiele proceed to contest election while being CBN Governor, he would be swimming in illegality. These brilliant opinions are largely based on the CBN Act and Public Service Rules. The Peoples Democratic Party, in graciously expressing their disgust for the rumored presidential ambition, have even called for the arrest, investigation and prosecution of the CBN Governor.
Section 9 of the CBN Act provides that: 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. While people are at liberty to opine that politics is a part-time employment or vocation, it can well and reasonably be argued that contesting in a primary election, as Mr. Godwin Emefiele may want to do if God so directs, is neither a part-time employment or vocation within the purview of Section 9 of the CBN Act.
On the other hand, the grundnorm, organic law of the country and the fons et origo from which all other laws derive their validity, that is: the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, has lent its voice to the hullabaloo surrounding Mr. Godwin Emefiele’s rumored interest to run for President. Though the CBN Governor is waiting on God’s divine intervention, the Constitution has provided legal intervention in several sections therein.
Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (hereinafter referred to as Constitution) provides thus: “Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests…”, and ‘every person’ as used therein obviously includes Mr. Godwin Emefiele who is a bonafide citizen of Nigeria. As such, the freedom of Association of everyone, including Mr. Godwin Emefiele, is fundamental and cannot be freely discarded.
Furthermore, only the constitution can really disqualify a person from contesting election to the office of the president and the constitution has, in section 137 (1) (g), provided that: “being a person employed in the civil or public service of the Federation or of any State, he has not resigned, withdrawn or retired from the employment at least thirty days before the date of the election”. Therefore, by virtue of the constitution, though employed in the civil or public service of the Federation, Mr. Godwin Emefiele is eligible to contest for the office of the President of Nigeria.
The provisions of the constitution, in sections 131 and 137, is express on the qualifications and disqualifications of the President of Nigeria, and Mr. Godwin Emefiele is constitutionally qualified and under no disqualification whatsoever, including being CBN Governor. At least, until thirty days before the date of election.
While the CBN Act cannot be totally discarded, Section 9 thereof, being used to direct Mr. Godwin Emefiele to resign is being erroneously interpreted. Assuming but not conceding that Section 9 of the CBN Act works in this case, the issue of whether the CBN Act — an Act of the National Assembly — can disqualify a constitutionally qualified person like Mr. Godwin Emefiele will be thrown up for deliberation and determination.
It is therefore pertinent to reproduce the provision of Section 1 (3) of the constitution as follows: “If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void”, and this has received judicial fortification by the courts in a plethora of decided cases, including Ahmed & ORS v. Odutola and Nwaigwe & ORS v Nze Edwin Okere. The provision of the constitution is that the CBN Governor has until thirty days to resign, and any law inconsistent with that provision of the constitution may be struck out using the blue pencil rule.
Moreso, the words of my Lord, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad JSC (as he then was), in the case of Saraki v FRN is apposite. The Learned Justice stated thus: “The time honoured principle of law is that wherever and whenever the Constitution speaks any provision of an Act/Statute, on the same subject matter, must remain silent…”. The constitution has spoken on the subject matter regarding Mr. Godwin Emefiele; every other Act/Statute must therefore remain silent! The cases of AG Ogun State v. AG Federation (1982) 2 NCLR 166 and INEC v. Musa (2003) 3 NWLR (Pt.806) 72 also lends credence to this judicial pronouncement. In the case of INEC v. Musa, Learned Jurist, Ayoola JSC (as he then was) stated thus: “where the Constitution sets the condition for doing a thing, no legislation of the National Assembly or of a State House of Assembly can alter those Constitution in any way, directly or indirectly, unless, of course the Constitution itself as an attribute of its supremacy expressly so authorised”. The constitution has, in this case, set the condition for doing a thing (running for Presidency); therefore, no legislation of the National Assembly, including the CBN Act, can alter it in any way.
Therefore, I align myself with Mr. Godwin Emefiele’s tweet where he said this is a serious decision that requires God’s Divine intervention. He has also said the Almighty will so direct him. He should not dip himself into the pool of condemning opinions and hullabaloo of illegality. Run, if you so wish! Though the intervention of God, the supreme being, is incredibly germane, the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, has intervened.
The writer, Olakunle “Cardinal” Bamisile, is a Student of the Prestigious Faculty of Law of Lagos State University and may be reached via email@example.com and 07087263472.
This work is published under the free legal awareness project of Sabi Law Foundation (www.SabiLaw.org) funded by the law firm of Bezaleel Chambers International (www.BezaleelChambers.com). The writer was not paid or charged any publishing fee. You too can support the legal awareness projects and programs of Sabi Law Foundation by donating to us. Donate here and get our unique appreciation certificate or memento.
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