The suspension, last week, of the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, by President Goodluck Jonathan presents the picture of a president on a mission to consolidate on his re-election bid by eliminating perceived enemies. Ojo M. Maduekwe writes
With the sacking of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, laced under the guise of suspension, it is obvious that President Goodluck Jonathan has no patience for any roadblock towards his second term ambition. Sanusi had until June to leave office, but the president couldnâ€™t wait four months. The more he waited the more damage Sanusi would have done to his presidency with the allegation of missing $20billion Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) revenue.
It all started in the last quarter of 2013, September to be prÃ©cised. In an unsigned letter dated September 25, 2013 and addressed to President Jonathan, Sanusi made some startling revelations that the NNPC did not remit $49.8 billion to the federation account, which was the proceed from crude oil sales between January 2012 and July 2013. The money was supposed to be 76 per cent of the value of crude oil lifting within the timeframe, put at $65.3 billion. According to Sanusi, the NNPC had only remitted $15.5 billion, which is 24 per cent of the total value of $65.3bn.
Though the NNPC refuted the allegation and said Sanusi misunderstood the workings for remitting crude oil sales revenue into the federation account, as being practiced by the oil and gas industry, the Sanusi disclosure elicited reactions from many quarters. Sanusi would later prove to be inconsistent with the figures, and recanted his initial calculations, bringing the figure down to $12 million. Even so, this was as well refuted by the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Before he was suspended, Sanusi had again alleged that NNPC owed the country $20 billion unremitted funds.
Sanusiâ€™s initial allegation was contained in a letter to the president, which was leaked to the press. This happened at the same period the presidency was being confronted with accusations by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, that the presidentâ€™s body language was encouraging corruption and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who had written an 18-page letter to the president, which was also leaked. Like Sanusi, Obasanjo also accused the president of leading the country to the precipice.
Thereâ€™s the belief that the president had reasons to worry. Notwithstanding the genuine alarm raised over official corruption, circumstances surrounding his allegation had made the presidency and many Nigerians to consider Sanusi as an extension of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and those who were opposed to the presidentâ€™s second term ambition.
It didnâ€™t help Sanusiâ€™s matter that on hearing of his suspension in Niger Republic, the person reported to have been at the airport to welcome him upon arrival into the country was a member of the APC and former Minister of the FCT, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. This has made some to question the motive behind Sanusiâ€™s outspokenness of the Jonathan administration.
The presidency was said to have viewed the alarm raised by Sanusi regarding the rot in the nationâ€™s oil powerhouse as not coming from someone genuinely interested in the wellbeing of the country but from someone being sponsored by the opposition, particularly the APC to bring down the government.
In many quarters, Sanusi, for being openly critical of the government was seen to have abandoned his primary duties as an economist and become a politician. Experts believed the person of a CBN governor all over the world is someone who does not side any political party.
More so, he is considered the hand behind the curtain; no one sees him but everyone feels the effectiveness of his policies through a flourishing economy. In many instances, Sanusi was said to have been more heard and seen than most politicians.
Sanusi was considered as an alternate government who queried others but couldnâ€™t be queried. He once bragged, and rightly so, that the president could not remove him as the CBN governor unless by a two-third majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed, as contained in Section 11 (f) of the Act. The CBN Act 2007 does not provide for suspension of the governor either.
President Jonathan, seeing that Sanusi wouldnâ€™t resign, had gone ahead to suspend him based on allegation of financial recklessness from a report of the Financial Reporting Council. From the FRC report that indicted him, Sanusi is being accused of not applying the same standards in the management of public funds, which he held others accountable to during his sweeping reform that saw eight bank heads removed and others still battling in court.
Meanwhile, Sanusi had said he might need to challenge the power of the president to suspend or sack him because, â€œif I donâ€™t, the next CBN governor will not be independent.â€
Sanusi is suspected to be perfecting plans on how best to get a redress in the court. Many agree that there is the need to have an independent CBN but not the type that gives enormous powers to the governor in a manner that he becomes accountable to none, leaving him to sometimes promote his personal interest. They suggested that the CBN Act be amended so as to subject the CBN to the National Assemblyâ€™s oversight.
In the interim, the general stand among many Nigerians from various quarters has been voiced by respected Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana.
According to Falana, â€œHaving regards to his irreconcilable differences with the Jonathan Administration on the operation and management of the Federation Account, Mr. Sanusi ought to have voluntarily resigned his appointment.â€
Choosing instead to remain in office to challenge the Jonathan administration, Falana said to that extent, â€œMr Sanusi has himself to blame for his suspension from office on account of alleged financial recklessness.â€ This is according to a statement signed by Falana and posted on Sahara Reporters.
Falana argued that since what the president did was suspend Sanusi and not sack him, â€œthe law presumes that he is still the substantive Governor of the CBN. Therefore, pending the end of his tenure or removal from office through the Senate, there is no basis for the appointment of a new CBN governor.â€
Nigerians are watching to see what the Senate would do regarding the nomination of the Zenith Bank Group Managing Director, Godwin Emefiele, submitted by the president, this week.
Falana said: â€œPresident Jonathan is advised to suspend the process for the replacement of the CBN governor by withdrawing the new nomination forwarded to the Senate as the nation cannot have a suspended governor and a substantive governor of the CBN at the same time. In the alternative, the Senate should put off any debate on the fresh nomination pending the end of the tenure of the suspended governor.â€
While calling on the federal government to allow the Auditor-General of the Federation to audit the accounts of the CBN and the NNPC by virtue of section 85 of the Constitution, which report would be submitted to the National Assembly for necessary action in line with the provisions of section 85(4) of the Constitution, Falana stated that â€œthe diversion of huge public funds from the Federation Account alleged by Mr Sanusi should not be swept under the carpet. At the same time, the allegations of financial recklessness levelled against Mr Sanusi ought to be investigated without any delay.â€
Although holding different positions, the motive for Sanusiâ€™s suspension is seen as no different from the ministers that were last year sacked by President Jonathan. In one fell swoop, the president sacked six senior and three junior ministers, all of whom were said to be stooges of his political opponents except the Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Bassey Ewa.
Among the deafening voices that have publicly condemned the presidentâ€™s action, former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Professor Tam David West, described Sanusiâ€™s suspension as a political suicide and great miscalculation for President Jonathan.
The suspension, according to him, is â€œa great miscalculation,â€ and one of the worst political mistakes President Goodluck Jonathan has made, adding that â€œIt is like a political suicide because his tenure ends in May which is around the corner. He should have allowed him to complete his tenure.â€
West said the presidentâ€™s action on a personality such as Sanusi, who is not a small fry, but has a very powerful political base in the country and loved and admired by many people across Nigeria, would do the president more damage than good.
â€œSanusi has made Nigeria proud. He has been decorated over 10 times as one of the best Central Bank Governors in the world. Nigeria should commend him instead of humiliating him. This wonâ€™t do President Jonathan any good. It amounts to political suicide for him.â€
One opponent down and probably more still to go, President Jonathan looks set to continue consolidating his 2015 ambition by removing appointees who are not loyal to him. But this Sanusiâ€™s suspension, according to political experts, rather than do any good to President Jonathanâ€™s ambition, would worsen the corruption perception that Nigerians may already have of the president.