Nigeria’s security services have detained the country’s suspended central bank chief as part of an investigation into his office, the national domestic security agency said on Saturday.
The arrest of Central Bank of Nigeria governor Godwin Emefiele came shortly after new President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government suspended him following nearly a decade in the post.
Tinubu, who came to power at the end of last month following a highly contested February presidential election, had promised reforms to help Africa’s largest economy emerge from financial troubles.
“The Department of State Services (DSS) hereby confirms that Mr Godwin Emefiele, the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is now in its custody for some investigative reasons,” the DSS internal security agency said in a statement.
The DSS did not give any further details, but one of Tinubu’s government spokesmen earlier said that Emefiele had been suspended immediately as part of an “ongoing investigation of his office and the planned reforms in the financial sector”.
The bank’s deputy governor will step into the director’s role pending the conclusion of investigations, the statement said.
The central bank did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Emefiele was under fire recently, including over a policy by former president Muhammadu Buhari to replace old naira currency notes with new ones to prevent corruption during this year’s election and curtail cash ransom payments after kidnappings.
The policy led to a huge naira cash shortage across Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, where many people rely on cash payments in the informal economy to survive.
Emefiele had also attempted to run against Tinubu in the ruling All Progressives Congress or APC party primaries to be the party candidate for the presidency. He eventually stepped aside.
A former Lagos governor, Tinubu already stoked controversy on his May 29 inauguration day by immediately calling for an end to long-standing government subsidies to keep petrol prices artificially low.
Fuel prices almost tripled across Nigeria, after Tinubu announced that subsidies were “gone” on the day he took office.
Most analysts say the subsidies needed to end to help the government save billions of dollars in expenses at a time when it has already been struggling to keep up vital oil production.
But the subsidy removal triggered a rapid spike in transportation costs, sending food prices soaring, while electricity has become more costly for those using generators for power at home and business.
The subsidy issue is one of a host of issues facing Nigeria’s new leader, including a security crisis with the armed forces battling jihadists, heavily armed criminal gangs and separatist militants in different parts of the country.