There has been palpable controversy on the power of Nigeria’s President to suspend an incumbent Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

This came on the heels of the suspension of erstwhile CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu over alleged infractions.

CITY LAWYER has obtained a certified copy of the 93-page judgment of the Federal High Court on a lawsuit brought by one-time CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi over his suspension by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Aside from Jonathan who was sued as the 1st Defendant, the Attorney General of the Federation and Inspector General of Police were joined as 2nd and 3rd defendants.

While Sanusi was represented by Mr. Kola Awodein SAN as Lead Counsel, the 1st Defendant was represented by Prof. Fabian Ajogwu SAN as Lead Counsel. The Lead Counsel for the 2nd Defendant was Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN while Chief Solomon Umoh SAN led the legal team for the 3rd Defendant.

Delivering judgment in the case, Justice Gabriel Kolawole held that the kernel of the lawsuit was whether the President “has the vires to take and convey the decision in ‘Exhibit KA2’ by which the Plaintiff was suspended from office as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria pending the investigation of allegations which the said ‘Exhibit KA2’ describes as ‘far reaching breaches.’”

Justice Kolawole held that “I am wondering if it turns out that the first Defendant lacks the statutory or constitutional power to take the decision conveyed in ‘Exhibit KA2’ by which the Plaintiff was suspended from office as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, whether the weighty nature of the allegations which informed the decision in ‘Exhibit KA2’ will avail to legalize the said decision.”

The court noted that the Plaintiff’s counsel “strategically shifted to an alternative position in the event that the ‘hard line’ submissions canvassed that there is no power vested in the 1st Defendant by which he could suspend the Plaintiff as Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria by arguing that, ‘assuming there is any such power (which is wholly denied) we submit that that power, given the provisions of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, can only be exercised subject to 2/3 majority of the Senate.”

Construing the status of the CBN, Justice Kolawole held that “The Central Bank of Nigeria was not created pursuant to the Constitution. It was not mentioned, even as a ‘juristic person’ in the whole of the Constitution. The Central Bank of Nigeria’s name only featured in Section 251(1)(d) of CFRN 1999 as Amended.”

The court further held that although the CBN Governor is a “public officer” in the public service of the federation, “the Office of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria was neither created nor established or even recognized by the CFRN 1999 As Amended.”

Justice Kolawole held that insofar as the appointment of the CBN Governor lacks “constitutional status” or “flavor,” “it is to be taken as one of master/servant which is still cognizable by the National Industrial Court who has not been expressly or impliedly barred from entertaining cases involving the Federal Government or any of its agencies.”

He also held that the CBN is an “Agency” of the Federal Government of Nigeria, adding that “all its employees including the Plaintiff can only litigate issues in relation to their contract of appointments or employment at the National Industrial Court which from 4/3/11 upon the commencement of the 3rd Alteration Act, 2010 as an amendment to the CFRN 1999 As Amended (sic).”

Justice Kolawole held that the plaintiff had not furnished the court with any provisions of the Constitution relating to his appointment as CBN Governor which the court would consider in granting the reliefs sought, adding that the plaintiff’s contract of appointment is “made in furtherance to the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007.”

The court held that since the plaintiff’s contract of appointment “was not made pursuant to any provision of the Constitution in a way as to accord it a ‘constitutional status’ or ‘flavour,’ the Plaintiff can hardly seek to invoke the judicial powers of the Federal High Court in the exercise of its interpretative jurisdiction as prescribed in Section 251(1)(q) of the CFRN, 1999 As Amended.”

Justice Kolawole held that “the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the Plaintiff’s cause of action as an employee of a ‘statutory body.’ ie. the Central Bank of Nigeria.” He however held that “it will be inappropriate for me to delve into the Plaintiff’s case on the merit,” adding that such would be prejudicial to the parties and the National Industrial Court. He then transferred the matter the National Industrial Court for adjudication.

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