A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday fixed May 20 for ruling on the suit filed by the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, challenging his suspension by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The president had on February 19 suspended Sanusi from office and claimed that he was suspended based on reports by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) which accused him financial recklessness.
Not satisfied with his suspension, Sanusi had through his counsel, Kola Awodein (SAN), approached the court challenging his suspension and praying for an order of reinstatement.
Jonathan, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Inspector General of Police (IG) were joined as first to third respondents respectively.
All the respondents objected to the court’s jurisdiction to hear the matter.
In their filed preliminary objection, they urged the court to dismiss the suit.
Arguing the originating summons, Sanusi’s lawyer, Awodein told the court that the CBN Act effectively prohibited the president from suspending the CBN governor.
He argued that the intention of the legislature who enacted the CBN Act was not to give powers to the executive to suspend a governor of the apex bank.
Rather, he argued that the intention of the Act was to make the CBN operationally independent so that there would not be any undue interference from the executive.
Awodein further submitted that the defendants had unlawfully interfered with the operational independence with the suspension of the CBN governor and that the interference posed grave consequences to the monetary policies of the country.
He further argued that the suspension could make nonsense of the nation’s monetary policies, adding that the president could only do what was permitted by the law, otherwise, there would be chaos and that the suspension might lead to uncertainties in the nation’s monetary system.
He further submitted that the president lacked the power to suspend the governor of CBN regardless of the reason.
He however added that if at all the president needed to suspend Sanusi, he should have done it properly.
Counsel to the president, Mr. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), in his response to Sanusi’s argument said the CBN governor was suspended for awarding contracts beyond his approval limit.
He argued that for the suspended governor to be properly investigated, he must step aside.
He also argued that Section 2 of the CBN Act was clear on the functions of the apex bank but instead of carrying out such functions, Sanusi was going about doing some other things that were not included in his functions.
He therefore urged the court to dismiss Sanusi’s case for lacking in merit.
Ajogwu told the court to steer clear of the case because it had no jurisdiction to venture into hearing of such a case.
The counsel submitted that Sanusiâ€™s case was a labour-related matter because it bordered on employment, insisting that the appropriate place to hear such a case was the National Industrial Court (NIC).
Ajogwu argued that the plaintiff was shying away from the fact with his claim that he (Sanusi) was not an employee of the president but the CBN.
He said the power to appoint was constitutionally vested on the president and by the provisions of the same constitution, the president had power to suspend.
â€œLet the truth be told here that Sanusi was asked to go on suspension by the president having been indicted and queried on the N163 billion contract scam.
â€œAs a matter of fact, the plaintiff has been indicted and queried four months before he embarked on his frivolous and baseless allegations of missing money in the NNPC in the bid to divert attention from his pending indictment.â€
In his own submission, counsel to the AGF, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), argued that the suspension of the plaintiff was in order and urged the court to so hold.
He also said the federal high court did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the case because issues raised therein bordered on employee-employer relationship.
He urged the court to strike out the case instead of referring it to the industrial court.
He added that the president did not just suspend the CBN governor rather it was based on hard facts that the plaintiff could not extricate himself from.
He further stated that the plaintiff had agreed that he was duly suspended and an acting governor appointed.
Ozekhome also argued that the CBN Act did not address the issue of suspension.
He cited Section (2)(b) which he said only provided for dismissal having taken for granted the issue of suspension.
He noted that it was implied that whoever employed could suspend adding that the CBN Act did not forbid suspension.
“What is not prohibited by a statute is definitely allowed,” he added.
He also submitted that there was no contrary intention in the CBN Act that the governor could not be suspended.
He further submitted that the CBN governor was not an island on his own and that he was responsible to the President who signed his letter of appointment and determined his remuneration.
He however submitted that the suspension of Sanusi was in order.
Counsel to the police also aligned himself with the submission of the two counsel and urged the court to uphold the suspension of Sanusi.