The Nigerian Senate has passed two bills for an Act to amend the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Act and other related matters thereto, 2023, and an Act to amend the CBN (Establishment) Act 2007 to make the apex bank more transparent and accountable in its operations.
The bills aim to bar the governor and the deputy governor of the central bank from partisan politics; remove the governor as chairman of the CBN board; create an office of the chairman and expand the board members among others.
The bills were sponsored by Nwokocha Darlington, a senator representing Abia Central, and Karimi Sunday Steve, representing Kogi West.
The Senate, during plenary on Wednesday, agreed that the CBN laws have to be amended to reposition the apex bank to perform its role, especially as the country faces economic challenges, including the foreign exchange crisis.
Leading the debate, Steve explained that the bills seek to amend section 62 on the constitution of the board, to expand it to bring in other critical members, including the auditor-general of the federation and chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria.
He said the bills were also to amend section Section 9 to bar the CBN governor and deputy governor from participating in politics and Section 7 to stop the CBN governor from giving responsibility to any other staff member to act on his behalf, other than the most senior, the deputy governor.
The bills further propose to mandate the Salaries and Wages Commission to determine the remuneration of CBN staff, although some lawmakers kicked against this amendment.
Also leading the debate, Nwokocha said his proposed bill seeks to amend Sections 6(1), (2); 8(1) (2) (3) (4) (5), 12 (1) (2) (3),13 (1)(2) (3) (4) and paragraph 8 of the first schedule to the Act to strengthen the bank and make provision for the appointment of a chairman of the board, provide for responsibility to quicken and deepen execution of the bank’s mandate.
“This bill seeks to provide for, among other things, separate the head of management from the head of the governing board in line with national and international good corporate governance practices, enshrine real-time controls and effective accountability in the conduct of central banking in Nigeria.
“It also seeks to establish the position of the chairman of the board of the CBN with cognate qualifications and experience suitable for achieving the renewed objectives of the bank”, he said.
Contributing to the debate, Kaka Shehu Lawan, the senator representing Borno Central, said the bill was timely, and the law needed to be amended. He decried that the CBN has given loans to the government of up to N27 trillion without the approval of the National Assembly.
Also contributing, Lola Ashiru representing Kwara South, decried that the naira was diminishing every day to the extent that respect was being lost. He urged that the amendment should be expanded to ban the use of dollars for trade.
Aminu Tambuwal, representing Sokoto South, said the bills would strengthen the institution of the CBN and address the lapses and lacuna that have been detected in the implementation of the Act, particularly on it being transparent and ensuring that it carries out its responsibility.
“The CBN governor came out unashamedly to campaign as president. More disappointing is that authorities of that time didn’t caution him, and that was a bastardisation of the CBN office,” he cried.
Barau Jibrin, the deputy Senate president, commanded the bills while emphasising the need to reposition the laws to put the apex bank in the best position to perform its roles.