About eight qualified professionals are angling to take over the post of the Central Bank of Nigeria governor when Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the incumbent, retires in June, but President Goodluck Jonathan is keeping his choice close to his heart
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Jan. 20, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
WHO is going to be the next governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria? That has been the issue dominating discussions in many quarters as much the expected exit of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the incumbent governor, draws near. Sanusi, whose tenure expires officially June 2, has said that he was not going on terminal leave in March as was expected.
But this has not stopped those jostling to occupy his office at the end of his tenure from lobbying openly and secretly. President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to name a successor before then. Already, more than eight eminently qualified persons some of whom are bankers and politicians are in the race for the post. They are Mustafa Chike-Obi, managing director of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, former group managing director, Access Bank and Bisi Onasanya, managing director of the First Bank of Nigeria Plc. Others are Kingsley Moghalu, Tunde Lemo and Sarah Alade who are currently deputy directors at the CBN. Lemo is retiring this January but he has said that his retirement should not pose a problem should the federal government appoint him as the next CBN governor.
The others who are already holding political appointments who appear to be in the race are Olusegun Aganga, minister of industry, trade and investment and Yerima Ngama, minister of finance. The duo are said to be considered because of their performance in their respective ministries.
All the aspirants to the post of the CBN governor have their strengths and weaknesses. For Lemo, Moghalu, Alade they are favoured to clinch the post because they are seen as the insiders who will continue with the current policies of the CBN governor whom they have worked with for the past five years to consolidate the banking sector reforms. They also worked to salvage the sector from the problem partly caused by the global financial meltdown and improve risk management and corporate governance in the sector. If any of them are chosen, they will continue with policies that have helped to strengthen the banking sector by stablising the interest rate, exchange rate, foreign reserve, and reducing inflation from double digit to single digit of about 9 percent as at November 2013. But the recent bruhaha over the CBN letter to President Jonathan alleging that $49.8 billion was not remitted to the Federation Acccount may cast a slur on their chances of emerging as the new CBN governor. This is because they were supposed to be in the know of how revenues are collected and remitted to the federation account and should have been in a position to stop the CBN governor from sending out the letter when he did. This would have prevented any leakage which caused untold embarassment to the government and the country as a whole, especially as the joint revenue committee later proved that no money was missing as alleged from the federation account and that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, remitted all the revenue it collected on behalf of the country to government coffers.
This notwithstanding, Moghalu, Lemo and Alade could prove that they were not in the know about the letter. If that happens, any of them can confortable hold the fort at the apex bank. Lemo, for instance, is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN, as well as fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, CIB, with significant leadership and top management experience in both the public and private sectors spanning more than 26 years. He served as deputy governor in charge of operations of the CBN, where he supervised five departments. But what may count against Lemo is that he retired on Friday, January 10, after serving two terms of five years in his last position. A statement from the CBN on Wednesday, January 8, said even though his retirement would take effect from January 11, Lemo would step down on Friday, January 10, because it would be the last working day before his retirement date.
Alade, on the other hand, stands a better chance. She is the only woman on the Board of the CBN, where she holds sway as deputy governor in charge of economic policy. Alade has served on the teams of major economic policy studies, and has been involved in the preparation of the CBN’s monetary and credit policy proposals over the years. Being the only woman on the list, gender advocates such as Temitope Bamishaye, a banker, are rooting for Alade. She opined that the CBN was ripe enough for its first female governor, more so when someone of Alade’s experience and qualification was available. “If you look at the names mentioned, you will see that she is the only female and she is eminently qualified for the job. If the president is truly gender conscious as he has always claimed, then this is the time to prove it. If he appoints her, she will be the first female CBN governor in the history of Nigeria,” Bamishaye said.
Like Lemo and Alade, Moghalu is also a deputy governor of the CBN in charge of financial system stability, FSS, directorate. He is a member of the board of directors, the monetary policy committee of the CBN, and a member of the board of directors of AMCON. Prior to his appointment as deputy governor, he was chief executive officer of Sogato Strategies S. A., a risk management and corporate strategy consultancy firm in Geneva, Switzerland. What may count as a minus for Moghalu is the fact that he has only been in the CBN for three years since he was appointed in 2009.
If the searchlight for the next CBN governor misses the insiders in CBN, it is most likely to pin on one of the aspirants who are considered the outsiders. Even though those in this group are equally very qualified, critics see them as lackeys of President Jonathan who if appointed would not be able to make bold decisions like Sanusi.
One of the outsiders who has voiced his ambition to replace Sanusi if appointed is Aig-Imoukhuede, who is also a lawyer. He has served in different capacities where his contributions and insights have facilitated the achievement of development goals. He has good relationship with the Jonathan administration. He recently served as the chairman of the government investigative committee on petroleum subsidy. Analysts claimed that he must have been tipped for the post by the president and Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, coordinating minister of the economy as the next CBN boss.
Onasanya is also in the frame. What may count against him is the fact that Sanusi was also the chief executive of the same First Bank before his appointment as the CBN governor.
Aganga and Yemira provide a political twist to the equation. Despite the fact they also have enviable records, they are considered as presidential stooges who, like Aig-Imoukhuede, may not be ready to rock the boat.
Aganga was first nominated by Jonathan as minister of finance in April 2010. In July 2011, he was redeployed by the president to the ministry of trade and investment to make way for Okonjo-Iweala to return as the minister of finance. Aganga holds a degree from Oxford University and is also a chartered accountant. He had previously worked in Arthur Young in Nigeria, Ernst & Young in London UK, and Goldman Sachs International in London, where he was managing director, Hedge Funds. As finance minister, one of his key accomplishments was the establishment of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA, better known as the Sovereign Wealth Fund, SWF. What may serve as a drawback for him is his not being so well acquainted with the banking industry in Nigeria.
Ngama, on the other hand, has a rich professional experience. He has worked in several banks at top executive management positions. He also worked in National Deposit Insurance Corporation where he was the head of the bank analysis unit. He was appointed minister of state for finance by Jonathan in July 2011.
As Nigerians wait to see who will emerge as the 11th governor of the CBN, opinions are divided over who amongst the aspirants is the best qualified for the job. Kelvin Ubah, a bank official in Abuja, said even though all the aspirants have the experience, the president must ensure that the most suitable candidate gets the job. He advised the president to shun all forms of prejudice in order to make the right decision. “Sanusi is leaving behind big shoes that will be difficult to fill because he has made some remarkable progress in the CBN since he was appointed in 2011. Those who have been mentioned as likely replacement are well accomplished individuals in their own rights. The president must ensure that any one appointed must continue what Sanusi has started,” Ubah said.
Tope Fasua, an economist, said because the position of the CBN governor is very sensitive, Jonathan must take lots of factors into consideration before making an announcement. Although he believed that those in the ‘inside group’ might have an edge, he said the president should look beyond them to get an independent minded person like Sanusi. “Let’s not forget that this position is also a political one and so the president will appoint who he is comfortable with. Then considering that next year is an election year, he may not want somebody who would be as garrulous as Sanusi,” Fasua said.
Also assessing Alade’s chances, Fasua said she was in pole position to get the appointment because of her gender and from a part of the country that has not produced the CBN governor in a while. “She is on the threshold of history and the president may just use her to make that history as the first president to appoint a female CBN governor. Besides she is from region that has not produced a CBN governor for a while. Soludo was from the east and Sanusi is from the north and the she is from the south-west. So she stands a very good chance,” Fasua argued.
As debates continue about who is most favoured to clinch the CBN top job, only time will tell. For now, President Jonathan is holding the ace closely to his heart.