The Independent National Electoral Commission on Monday warned of serious implications should Godwin Emefiele proceed with his presidential ambition.
Mr Emefiele obtained the presidential nomination form of the ruling All Progressives Congress last week, although he attributed the N100 million paid for the forms to a group of farmers lobbying him to run for office. However, documents filed before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court by Mr Emefiele’s lawyers Mike Ozekhome Chambers showed the CBN chief had been actively seeking to be president.
INEC spokesman in a statement said the electoral office has been monitoring Mr Emefiele’s political activities and addressed growing concerns about the sanctity of election materials being stockpiled at CBN’s facilities across the country.
“The strategic partnership between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which enables the Commission to store its election sensitive materials with the CBN, has been in place for many years and beneficial in several ways.
“Indeed, there have been various reports that the CBN Governor is nursing an intention to run for the office of President. But, he is yet to formally declare his intention to run for the office of president as of today.
“However, if and when he eventually does, the Commission [will] look at the implications and take a decision on what becomes of the long-standing strategic partnership with the CBN,” spokesman Rotimi Oyekanmi said.
A spokesman for the CBN did not immediately return enquiries about the matter, and Mr Emefiele busied calls to his three mobile lines Monday afternoon.
Officials said INEC has partnered CBN for decades on critical election materials logistics, but might be forced to find alternatives should Mr Emefiele run for president without resigning his position at CBN.
Ballot papers and biometric equipment are amongst materials considered sensitive and highly sought by criminals seeking to influence election at different levels.
Officials did not immediately comment on what INEC would do about upcoming elections in Osun and Ekiti, even as the ruling party seeks to keep power in both states.
The governor has been under intense public scrutiny and condemnation after exposing himself as a partisan political operative of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) with intention to be elected president in February 2023.
President Muhammadu Buhari has rebuffed calls to demand Mr Emefiele’s resignation and avert further damage to CBN’s reputation as the country’s preeminent financial sector regulator.
Experts said Mr Emefiele’s now-public ambition to be president has thrown the country into uncharted traits as no incumbent CBN governor has ever sought partisan political office.
Mr Emefiele has argued internally and to his lawyers that he should be allowed to run for president because of what he described as “the best performance of any CBN governor”, although the country has experienced historic inflation and other economic crises during his leadership of the central bank that began in June 2014.
A section of the CBN law blocks the governor from external activities, either paid or unpaid, but Mr Emefiele argued before a federal judge that the section should not apply to him. A decision on his argument is expected later this week.