The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is the highest monetary authority in Nigeria. Since its inception on 1st July 1958, it has been headed by 11 governors, including the current one. The current CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, is the 11th and the first governor to serve for two tenures since 1999. Governors come and go and changes and reforms are introduced. Let’s take a look at the current CBN governor and the 10 past governors to see their contributions to the banking sector and the Nigerian economy at large.
Mr. Godwin Emefiele (CON) Is the Current CBN Governor
Mr. Godwin Emefiele assumed office as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria on 3rd June 2014. Before he became the governor, Godwin worked in the commercial banking sector for 26 years. His last position was with Zenith Bank Plc, where he served as the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive officer. His service at Zenith Bank helped strengthen the bank’s position in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Godwin became the governor of CBN in June 2014. Since his tenure, he has made some remarkable impacts in the banking sector and the Nigerian economy as a whole. Some of the changes and achievements he has made so far include but are not restricted to the fact that his tenure saw the birth of eNaira. He introduced a multiple exchange rate regime in order to prevent the devaluation of the Nigerian Naira.
Emefiele started his second tenure with the approval of the Senate in 2019. With this, he serves as the first governor to go for a second tenure since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999.
List of Past CBN Governors
Here’s a list of the past CBN governors from 1958 to date. Their contributions to the sector, and what they moved on to after retirement will be discussed, too.
1. Roy Pentelow Fenton
- State of Origin: Britain
- Tenure Start: 24th July 1958
- Tenure End: 24th July 1963
Pentelow was the first governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the only expatriate that served as the CBN governor. As we have mentioned earlier, CBN was established in 1958 and began its operations fully in 1959. Roy was appointed the first governor at the establishment of the CBN.
There isn’t much information about him and what he moved on to after he retired from CBN in 1963.
2. Alhaji Aliyu Mai-Bornu
- State of Origin: Adamawa
- Tenure Start: 25th July 1963
- Tenure End: 22nd June 1967
Alhaji Aliyu was born in Yola to parents who are of Kanuri origin. He succeeded Pentelow as the CBN governor and was the first Nigerian to serve as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Before he was appointed as the CBN governor, Aliyu served as the Administrative Officer in the Northern Nigeria Public Service from 1957 to 1959. He was still serving in the Ministry of Finance and Trade and the Public Service Commission until 1959 when the Central Bank started operations. He was recruited as an Assistant Secretary with the Central Bank. He rose through the rank to Deputy Secretary, then to the Secretary. Then in 1962, he was appointed as the first Nigerian to become a Deputy Governor of CBN.
On 25th July 1963, Alhaji Mai-Bornu was appointed as the CBN governor and he served from 1963 to 1967. When he completed his tenure as the CBN governor, he was appointed as the General Manager and Director of the Nigerian Tobacco Company. Until his death on 23rd February 1970, Aliyu remained a member of the Nigerian Tobacco Company’s board of directors. He was remembered as a National hero as his portrait was featured in the 1000 naira note that came into existence on 12th October 2005.
3. Dr Clement Nyong Isong
- State of Origin: Cross River
- Tenure Start: 15th August 1967
- Tenure End: 24th September 1975
Dr. Clement Isong served as the CBN governor during the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon from 1967 to 1975. He took over from Alhaji Aliyu Mai-Bornu during the Nigerian Civil War. Before he was appointed the governor of CBN, Clement had worked in CBN as a Secretary and later on, Director of Research. Later in 1967, he was appointed by Yakubu Gowon to assume the position of the CBN Governor.
During his reign as the governor, there was an oil boom in Nigeria and the country avoided accumulating unsupported debts. After he retired from CBN in 1975, Isong ventured into politics and became the first civilian Governor of Cross River State. He served as the governor from 1979 to 1983 under the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). After his death in 2000, his portrait was featured, alongside Alhaji Aliyu Mai-Bornu, on the 1,000 Naira note that came into existence in 2005.
4. Mallam Adamu Ciroma
- State of Origin: Yobe
- Tenure Start: 24th September 1975
- Tenure End: 28th June 1977
Mallam Adamu Ciroma was a politician and founding father of some major political parties in Nigeria like the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He has also contested as the presidential candidate of NPN and chairman of the party and has held various positions in government like the minister of industries, agriculture, and finance.
Ciroma was appointed as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria on 24 September 1975 and served till 28th, June 1977. After his retirement, he entered into politics where he served as the Minister of Finance under the Olusegun Obasanjo Administration from 1999 to 2003.
5. Mr. Olatunde Olabode Vincent
- State of Origin: Lagos
- Tenure Start: 28th June 1977
- Tenure End: 28th June 1982
Ola Vincent was a banker and an economist who took over from Mallam Adamu Ciroma. He served from 28th June 1977 to 28th June 1982. Before becoming the CBN governor, he worked as the Senior Assistant Secretary in the Nigerian Ministry of Finance. Ola worked as a Director at the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank. He also worked as an Adviser, Assistant General Manager, General Manager, and Deputy Governor at CBN. Vincent had other appointments before he was appointed the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
While he was in office, he did not record many scandals as his tenure went down successfully. When he retired in 1982, Olabode recommended the establishment of NDIC – Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation which came into existence in 1988. He chaired seminars that bordered on banking and later became a director at the Industrial and General Insurance (UGI) in 2008.
6. Alhaji Abdulkadir Ahmed
- State of Origin: Bauchi
- Tenure Start: 28th June 1982
- Tenure End: 30th September 1993
Ahmed succeeded Ola Vincent on 27th June 1982 as the Governor of CBN. He is one of the CBN Governors who held power the longest as he ruled for 11 years. His tenure covered the democratic governments of Shehu Shagari, Ernest Shonekan’s interim government, General Muhammadu Buhari, and Ibrahim Babangida’s military regimes. With the establishment of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation on 15th June 1988, he became the first chairman of the board.
During his reign as governor, Ahmed focused on debt reduction and led the country into such contracts that would help him achieve this aim. Between 1988 and 1993, he achieved this goal by reducing foreign debt by $5 billion at 32% face value of the debt purchased. However, a panel set by Sani Abacha concluded that a total of $12.4 billion was spent on non-essential projects instead of on the reduction of debt from 1988 to 1994. This claim was cleared by the Senate investigation committee of the year 2000 and the governor was exonerated of all charges.
After his tenure as the CBN governor elapsed, Ahmed returned to London with his family members. He later died in 1997 at the age of 81.
7. Dr. Paul Agbai Ogwuma OFR
- State of Origin: Abia
- Tenure Start: 1st October 1993
- Tenure End: 29th May 1999
Paul Agbai Ogwuma is a banker who served as the CBN governor from 1993 to 1999. His tenure covers the military regime of General Sani Abacha and General Abdulsalami Abubakar. After his studies abroad, he started his banking career in Nigeria under the united bank for Africa (UBA). From UBA, he moved to Union Bank of Nigeria where he retired as a Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director. He became the Governor of CBN in 1993, at a time CBN was struggling with the management of foreign exchange resources. There was a high rate of inflation and debt in the country at the time.
In his effort to restore confidence and clean up the financial system of the country, Ogwuma liquidated 20 distressed banks; he created improved security for both investors and depositors; he vied for the creation of the Nigeria Automated Clearing System (NACS) for clearing of cheques between banks.
However, during the regime of Abubakar in 1999, foreign reserves fell from $7.1 billion to $4 billion. Also, Ogwuma was unknowingly involved in fraud of a whooping sum of $242 million. The case was later tried and he was freed from all accusations. He was later found to be involved in the looting carried out by Sani Abacha during his regime, as Ogwuma authorized money transfers for the funding of fake security projects initiated by the then Head of State. There is no information on his current state and what he moved on to.
8. Chief Dr. Joseph Oladele Sanusi
- State of Origin: Ondo
- Tenure Start: 29th May 1999
- Tenure End: 29th May 2004
Dr. Joseph Oladele Sanusi is a chartered accountant who took over from Ogwuma and served as CBN governor from 29th May 1999 to 29th May 2004. Before his appointment, he had worked in the Department of Customs and Excise in Nigeria, as an Accountant in England; he joined CBN in 1966 and occupied several positions before leaving for UBA, where he worked as the Chief Executive and Managing Director. He also worked at the First Bank of Nigeria.
His appointment as the Governor of CBN came in 1999 by President Olusegun Obasanjo and he served until his voluntary retirement in 2004. During his tenure, Oladele introduced foreign exchange controls to reduce the draining of foreign reserves. He revoked the license of Savannah Bank in 2002 because it did not comply with CBN obligations and did not have enough assets and liabilities. Oladele suspended the payments on Nigeria’s $33 billion foreign debts and tried to reschedule the payments. His reason for doing this was to control inflation as oil prices dropped.
After his retirement, Sanusi was appointed by Lafarge Cement Wapco as a member of the board of directors. He also received other appointments like Chairman of First Pension Funds Custodian, Standard Chartered Bank of Nigeria, STI Consulting and Global Biofuels, Santrust Securities, and Director of Marina foods and West African Portland Cement.
9. Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo
- State of Origin: Anambra
- Tenure Start: 29th May 2004
- Tenure End: 29th May 2009
Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo is a politician and professor in economics who took over from Oladele Sanusi as the governor of the CBN. He served from 29th May 2004 to 29th May 2009. Before his appointment, Chukwuma served as the Chief Executive and Deputy Chairman of the National Planning Commission. In May 2004, he was appointed as the Governor of CBN by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
While he was in office, he made many policies and efforts that affected the economy of Nigeria. Soludo made some financial sector reforms, one of which includes the merging and consolidation of 89 banks to 25 with a stronger capital base. He grew Nigeria’s foreign reserves from $10 billion to $62 billion and he kept the inflation pressure low and at a digit for 24 months.
Following his retirement from office, he ventured into politics. Soludo ran for Governor of Anambra State in 2009 under PDP but lost to Peter Obi of APGA. He switched from PDP to APGA for the 2014 elections but was disqualified while Willie Obiano won. Again, in 2021, he ran for Anambra State Governorship under APGA and won with the backing of Willie Obiano, whom he supported during his second tenure in 2017. Soludo is the current Governor of Anambra State.
10. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
- State of Origin: Kano
- Tenure Start: 3rd June 2009
- Tenure End: 20th February 2014
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is a merchant banker and religious leader. He took over from Chukwuma Soludo and reigned as the CBN governor from 3rd June 2009 to 20th February 2014. Before his appointment by President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, he had worked and occupied several positions in the banking sector. Some of the places he worked include Icon Limited (a subsidiary of Barings Bank and Morgan Guarantee Trust) as Head of Financial Services and Manager of the Office in Kano State; United Bank of Africa in Risk and Credit Management division, where he rose through ranks to the position of General Manager; as a board member and the Executive Director of Risk Management at First Bank of Nigeria; Chief Executive Director of First Bank.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was appointed by President Umaru Musa Yar’adua as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria on 3rd June 2009. He came into power during the global financial crisis. Sanusi led the Central Bank to rescue top-tier banks in the midst of this crisis with over ₦600 billion of public money. Chief Executives who had misused customers’ deposits were dismissed and imprisoned while banks guilty of financial crimes were seriously dealt with.
His other contributions include consolidation of banks through merging and acquisitions, he led the increase in investment in infrastructure and support for Small Medium Enterprise, introduced extensive banking reform called Sanusi Tsunami, he also introduced the cashless policy and Islamic Banking to Nigeria. The Islamic Banking policy was criticized by the Christian Association of Nigeria.
Some of these reforms introduced by Sanusi were appraised while others were criticized by the banking industry. He courted a lot of controversies, some of which include clashing with the National Assembly over the spending of 25% of the government revenue; advising the government to remove fuel subsidy as a result of corrupt practices in the sector; he also raised an alarm on the corrupt practices in the NNPC.
After his resignation, Sanusi became the Emir of Kano and reigned as Muhammadu Sanusi II from 2014 to 2020.