As a controversial figure, it is, perhaps, not surprising that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, suspended governor Central Bank of Nigeria, is ending five-year tenure in controversy
| By Olu Ojewale | Mar. 3, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
FOR almost five years in the saddle as the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was a study in controversy. So, it is typical that his suspension is causing so much controversy across the country. The federal government appeared to have upset the apple cart when it announced the suspension of Sanusi on Thursday, February 19. In a typical fashion, Sanusi while reacting to his suspension he said: “You can suspend an individual but you can’t suspend the truth.” He said was not bothered about the suspension as an individual, because he was proud of his achievements and legacies. But in order to protect the independence of the CBN as an institution, he would challenge the action in court. “There is the view by some people on whether the president has the authority to remove or suspend the Central Bank governor, or whether the action is not illegal. I am not interested. As an individual, I was invited to serve my country, and I have always known that at any point the government feels it is time to go, I will go. But, in terms of the institution, it would be helpful to establish the principle by the court, and I think that is the step I intend to take,” Sanusi said.
Indeed, the suspension has been attracting diverse reactions from a lot of people across the country. Members of the opposition claimed that it was intended to cover up some allegations made by the suspended CBN governor on the missing oil money. Even the National Assembly is equally divided over the matter. At its rowdy session on Thursday, February 20, the House of Representatives could not reach a consensus on Thursday, February 20, had a rowdy session over the suspension. The debate started when Samson Osagie minority whip and member of the All Progressive Congress, Edo State, raised a point of order on the suspension of Sanusi. Osagie argued that the CBN Act of 2007 as amended does not empower the president or anybody else to suspend the CBN governor. He said section 11 (7) of the Act only empowered the president to remove the governor, subject to the approval of two-third majority of the Senate. The legislator argued that the allegation of financial recklessness reported by the Accounting Standards Board upon which Sanusi was suspended did not indicate if he was given fair hearing. But Ralph Igbokwe, a member of the ruling Peoples Domcratic Party, PDP, from Imo State, said that Section 11 of the CBN Act, empowers the president to suspend the CBN governor. The House later mandated its committees on justice and legislative compliance to compile all resolutions of the House indicting public officers but on which action had not been taken. However, the Senate said the president acted within the ambit of his statutory functions by suspending Sanusi. Enyinnaya Abaribe, spokesman of the Senate, in reaction to the suspension, said the president acted within the law as president. “The President only suspended Sanusi, he did not sack him. So he acted accordingly,” he said.
Sanusi’s suspension was justified by Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, who spoke to State House correspondents. He said the president had found out that Sanusi’s tenure as the CBN governor was characterised by acts of financial recklessness and misconduct which were inconsistent with his administration’s vision. According to him, the Presidency was not comfortable with Sanusi’s recent utterances, which forced the president to suspend him from office “as part of attempt to strengthen the CBN to ensure that the apex bank continues to be symbol for prudence, integrity and accountability.”
For instance, Abati said last year, when the CBN submitted its financial statement for the year which ended December 31, 2012, a query was raised on some of the issues in the financial statement and the CBN governor was asked to clarify the issues in the first week of May 2013. He said the CBN response which came in June, was then forwarded to the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria. “The Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria by its act is empowered to review the accounts of the CBN and if there is cause for investigation to conduct such investigation and if there is need also to invite other bodies to further investigate, the law makes allowance for that and that took place. Some of the outcomes of that process relates to the issues raised about financial recklessness,” he said.
The president’s spokesman said some of the sins committed by the CBN under Sanusi included “the persistent refusal and negligence to comply with public procurement act in the procurement practices of the CBN; unlawful expenditure by the CBN on intervention projects across the country deploying huge sums of money as the CBN did under the watch of Mallam Sanusi without appropriation and outside the CBN’s statutory mandate.” According to Abati, the expenditure of public funds by “any organ of government must be based on clear legal mandate, prudent constraint and overriding national interest.”
Under the alleged financial infraction and act of financial recklessness committed by the CBN, the bank allegedly spent N3.086 billion on “promotional activities” in 2012 (up from N1.084 billion in 2011). The wisdom for such spending was queried because the CBN is not in competition with any other institution in Nigeria. “The CBN claimed to have expended N20.202 billion on ‘Legal and Professional Fees’ in 2011 beyond all reasonable standards of prudence and accountability; Between expenses on ‘Private Guards’ and ‘Lunch for Policemen’, the CBN claimed to have spent N1.257 billion in 2012;
“While Section 6(3)(c) of the CBN Act 2007 provides that the board of the CBN is to make recommendations to Mr. President on the rate of remuneration to Auditors, the bank has consistently observed this provision in breach and even went to the extent of changing one of the Joint External Auditors without notifying the office of the President,” government allegations said in part.
Abati said the president decided to suspend Sanusi, “having taken special notice of reports of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and other investigating bodies, which indicate clearly that Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s tenure has been characterised by various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct which are inconsistent with the administration’s vision of a Central Bank propelled by the core values of focused economic management, prudence, transparency and financial discipline.” He also disabused the minds of critics that it was to frustrate the National Assembly investigation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. Abati said: “Indeed we look forward to a situation whereby Mr. Sanusi will continue to assist the legislature in their investigations and will continue to testify because what government is interested in really is transparency and accountability and anything that will further promote that objective is perfectly welcome.” The suspended CBN governor had acted as a whistle blower when he alerted the nation that the NNPC had failed to remit $48.9billion to the federation account. The unremitted money went down to $20 billion, which the National Assembly is currently investigating.
Reacting to the government’s allegations about his financial recklessness, Sanusi told a foreign correspondent: “Well, I don’t know what they are talking about. … I don’t think there’s any issue that’s being raised that has not been raised before; but you know we all know what this is about. This is about the consequences for the changes that I have made and this (suspension) is something that is long overdue. I’m surprised it took them so long. When I come back, I’ll see what those allegations are.”
Indeed, he said that the Financial Reporting Council looked through the CBN’s audited accounts some time ago and asked a few questions which were sent to the president, who gave no feedback.
Sanusi, in another interview said he considered the allegations levelled against him as “ridiculous.” He said, “I have not seen the details of the allegations but some of what I’ve read is very ridiculous. The CBN, as an institution, will respond to all the allegations because we’ve always operated in line with the rule of law.”
But whether the CBN response or Sanusi response would assuage damaged reputation is another keg of fish. In the meantime, President Jonathan has appointed Sarah Alade, the most senior deputy governor of the CBN, to act in the capacity “until the conclusion of on-going investigations into breaches of enabling laws, due process and mandate of the CBN.” This means that if the investigation does not end before June, there is no way Sanusi can return to his post because his tenure ends in June.
The president has also forwarded the name of his nominee for the CBN governor to the National Assembly for approval. He is Godwin Emefiele, managing director, Godwin Emefiele. Also forwarded to the National Assembly for confirmation is Adelabu Adekoya, an executive director of First Bank, to be confirmed as the deputy governor of the CBN.
Reported by Vincent Nzemeke