President Muhammadu Buhari personally welcomed Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, from his annual leave during a function at the State House, Abuja, on Thursday, ending speculations about a tense relationship between them. The rumours followed attempts by the Department of State Services (DSS) to arrest the CBN governor on charges of terrorism financing, which many saw as a ploy to oust him.
The president’s warm welcome of Emefiele might have put paid to all the surreptitious moves.
Buhari spoke while receiving in audience Director General of the Arab Bank for Economic Development, Dr. Sid Ould Tah.
Emefiele and Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, had accompanied Tah on the visit to the president.
During the meeting, the president acknowledged the presence of Emefiele, saying, “The Governor of Central Bank, you are welcome. I am pleased you were well received.”
Buhari’s remarks elicited laughter from others present.
It was the first time the CBN governor was publicly meeting the president since his return from leave and also their first public meeting since the attempt by the DSS to obtain a court order to arrest Emefiele.
The apex bank’s governor had on Monday resumed office after his annual leave. But while he was away, in December, the secret service agency approached an Abuja court to try to obtain an order to arrest Emefiele over charges bordering on terrorism financing. Many believed the charges were trumped up.
However, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja stopped the DSS from arresting the CBN governor.
After the meeting, Buhari, while bidding his guest goodbye, again turned to shake Emefiele’s hand, saying, “Governor, you are welcome back.”
Speaking earlier during the meeting, Buhari stressed that no nation could develop without peace and tranquility. He said peace and development complemented each other.
According to statement issued by his media adviser, Femi Adesina, Buhari observed that the issues that affected one nation also affected others.
He stated, “This has been clearly demonstrated in our fight against the tyranny of terrorists that have spread across the entire West African sub-region, and beginning to emerge in our sister countries in some parts of East and Central Africa.”
The president, who on Tuesday in Nouakchott, Mauritania, received an award for Strengthening of the Peace in Africa from the Abu Dhabi Peace Forum, said the work of the Arab Bank for Economic Development “is very critical and, indeed, a major catalyst and tool for achieving our overall objective as leaders on the continent.”
Lauding the bank for its investment in Nigeria, the president pointed out its strides in the agricultural sector regarding food security systems, capacity building, and integrated infrastructure project.
He said the key focus of his administration had been security, economy and anti-corruption, noting that the three are critical “towards achieving our overall development objective, not just as a country, but more importantly as a continent.”
Noting that focus on agriculture and infrastructure allowed Nigeria to be resilient during the last two global economic and public health crises, the president urged the Arab Bank for Economic Development to review the amount of capital it could inject into various economies, “as this would lead to greater impact as we stare at the various issues that would confront our economies.”
Earlier in his speech, Zulum, who had interfaced with the bank at its headquarters, thanked the president for ensuring improvement of security in the North-east.
The governor added, “As we now get grants for livestock farming, gum Arabic production, infrastructure, and I believe Nigeria will still have more opportunities from the Arab Bank for Economic Development.”
On his part, Tah congratulated Buhari on his award on peace strengthening, saying it is a testimony to his efforts in promoting amity in Nigeria and Africa.
He said the bank had a strong relationship with Nigeria, and would love to do more in the areas of wheat cultivation, gum Arabic, veterinary support services, women and youth development, among others.
The CBN governor was back at the State House yesterday to see Buhari. He met with the president in a closed-door session in the afternoon before leaving the seat of government about 4.15pm.