Under Section 11 of the CBN Act 2007, the removal of the CBN Governor can occur under certain circumstances. These circumstances include:
- If he/she becomes a member of any Federal or State legislative house.
- If he/she becomes a director, officer, or employee of any bank
- If he/she becomes of unsound mind or incapable of carrying out their duties due to ill health.
- If the he/she is convicted of any criminal offense by a court of competent jurisdiction, except for traffic offenses or contempt proceedings related to the execution of their duties.
- If he/she is guilty of serious misconduct in relation to their duties under the CBN Act.
- If he/she is disqualified or suspended from practicing their profession in Nigeria by an order of a competent authority made in respect of them personally.
- If he/she becomes bankrupt.
- If he/she is removed by the President with support of two-thirds majority of the Senate.
Can the President suspend the CBN Governor?
On one side of the argument – is the argument that since the CBN Act does not explicitly give the President the power to suspend the CBN Governor he does not have that power. This is based on a rule of statutory interpretation called the literal rule.
The literal rule means that the words in a statute are given their ordinary and natural meaning, in an effort to respect the will of the Legislature. In this situation therefore since the power given to the President is to remove and not to suspend, then there is no power to suspend.
On the other side of the argument is that if the President has the power to remove (with Senate approval), then by implication he should have the power to also suspend (with Senate approval?), and therefore the power to suspend should be inferred into the CBN Act.
This outcome may be achieved by using the golden rule of statutory interpretation. The golden rule is a rule which allows the courts to assume that the Legislature intended that its legislative provision have a wider definition than its literal meaning, and so the grammatical and ordinary sense of a word can be modified to avoid the inconsistency or absurdity created by an application of the literal rule, but no farther.
Which is the correct approach that the courts would adopt in this case? The answer is – we do not know.
In 2014, we were presented with a great opportunity to test the law and find out which is the right position. In that year the then President Goodluck Jonathan did the same thing – suspended the then CBN Governor Sanusi on the grounds that there were reports of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and other investigating bodies, indicating various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct.
The then CBN Governor challenged this in court and a Federal High Court declined to rule on it, instead referring it to an industrial court. There is no indication that a separate suit was filed on this – or that an appeal was made.
So, the 2014 episode unfortunately did not resolve this one way or the other – as it does not appear that the case was heard on the merits.