ABUJA – The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, yesterday, re-affirmed his position that the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, should not be allowed to return to office.
The AGF, who earlier advised the ousted CBN governor to surrender himself to be investigated over allegation that he was grossly involved in sundry acts of “financial recklessness”, also challenged the powers of the National Industrial Court, NIC, to hear the suit seeking to restore Sanusi back to position.
Consequently, Adoke, yesterday, asked the President of the NIC, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, to hands-off Sanusi’s suit.
It was the argument of the AGF that the Industrial Court should not hear the suit since the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal is already seized with the facts of the case.
Sequel to Adoke’s contention, the NIC, yesterday shifted its planned hearing on the matter to June 13.
Specifically, the AGF, asked the NIC to abandon Sanusi’s matter and allow the appellate court to determine whether or not the Federal High Court in Abuja had the jurisdiction to transfer the case to the Industrial Court for adjudication despite that it had ab-initio declined jurisdiction on the matter.
It will be recalled that trial Justice Gabriel Kolawole had on May 20, held that the high court lacked the jurisdiction to reinstate the ousted CBN governor.
The Court stressed that the nature of Sanusi’s suit bothered on a dispute between an employer and his employee, which it said only the NIC has the statutory powers to adjudicate on.
However, before referring the case to the NIC, Justice Kolawole described as baseless, Sanusi’s claim that he was not an employee of the federal government but that of the CBN.
According to the high court, “It is not in dispute that the CBN is an agency of the federal government and a statutory body created by the National Assembly. The appointment of the plaintiff was made in-line with the CBN Act, by this, the plaintiff, qualifies as a public officer in the public service of the federation”.
The high court further struck out the name of the Inspector General of Police who Sanusi joined in the matter as the 3rd defendant.
President Goodluck Jonathan and the AGF were listed as 1st and 2nd defendants in the matter.
Specifically, Sanusi prayed the court to determine whether President Jonathan, had the constitutional powers to suspend him from office without firstly securing the approval of a two-third majority of the Senate.
Meantime, all the parties in the matter had since gone to the appeal court to challenge the high court verdict.
Whereas Sanusi is insisting that the high court wrongfully declined jurisdiction to reinstate him back to office, President Jonathan and the AGF are on the other hand contending that the matter ought to have been out rightly dismissed or struck-out, adding that Justice Kolawole had no powers to refer the case to the NIC.
Therefore, the AGF through his lawyer Chief Mike Ozhokome, SAN, yesterday, requested the NIC to stay the proceeding before it and await the outcome of the appeals.
However, Justice Adejumo who presided over the case yesterday, said he would not hands-off the case since it was directly transferred to the Industrial Court by another court of coordinate jurisdiction.
Justice Adejumo maintained that in the absence of any express order from the appellate court asking the NIC to suspend hearing on the matter, he said nothing stopped him from adjudicating on the dispute.
Thus, he directed all the parties to appear before him on the next adjourned date to address the court on the import of section 47 of the NIC Act, 2006, which gave the court the right to hear and determine any suit referred to it by a high court.
Meanwhile, adducing reasons why Sanusi should not be allowed to return to the CBN, the AGF, in an affidavit deposed to by one Dominic Ezerioha, maintained that Sanusi still has a case to answer in relation to the report of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, FRCN, which accused him of squandering over N163billion from the CBN treasury.
According to the AGF, the FRCN report, “indicated that the tenure of the Plaintiff as the Governor of the CBN was characterized by various acts of financial recklessness which are inconsistent with the 1st Defendant’s administration’s vision of a Central Bank propelled by the core values of focused economic management, prudence, transparency and financial discipline; The report of the FRCN and other reports indicated the following amongst others infractions committed by the Plaintiff.
“That the Plaintiff spent a whopping N1.257 Billion for lunch for policemen and hiring of private guards in 2012. That Plaintiff made N1.9bn bogus payments to some airlines for alleged currency distribution within Nigeria when such airlines are either unknown or fly only international routes.
“The Plaintiff allowed an account balance of N1.423bn for an unidentified customer since 2008, contrary to CBN guidelines. The Plaintiff allegedly spent N7.03b on facility management (Diesel) in one year alone.
“That the Plaintiff’s response to the President’s query was “a clear display of arrogance, incompetence, nonchalance, fraud, wastefulness, abuse of due process and deliberate efforts to misrepresent facts. The Plaintiff spent N9.24b in 2012 alone, allegedly for training and travel expenses.
“That the Plaintiff violated financial regulations and carried out activities with financial implications not related to the CBN’s mandate, all done with impunity. That the Plaintiff expended N1.67b on newspapers, periodicals and books in 2012 alone; while spending a bind-bungling N20.20b on “illegal and professional fees” in 2011 alone.
“That the Plaintiff approved billions of naira in ambiguous payments to invoices referred to as “Centre of Excellence” and “Contribution to Internal National Security,” and the CBN’s claim that it paid NGN38.233 Billion to the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company Plc in 2011 for the “printing of bank notes”, whereas the turnover of the entire printing and minting company group for that year was NGN29.370 Billion.
“That the Plaintiff ran sundry expenses of N1.197b in 2012 alone, whilst engaging himself in about 63 “intervention projects” across Nigeria, all without due process and compliance with extant laws.
“That the Plaintiff made humungous and unapproved donations of N10b to Uthman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, N5b to Bayero University Kano, N9.5b to ASCON Badagry; N500m to University of Benin, N250m to Sokoto State Government; N100m to Kano State Government, etc.
“That in view of the findings of the FRCN, the FRCN urged the President to exercise the powers conferred on him by the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007, and cause the Plaintiff to cease from holding office in the CBN and also direct the FRCN to carry out a full investigation of the activities of the CBN,” the AGF told the court.
Sanusi who was on February 20 ousted from office had gone to court to challenge the powers of President Jonathan to suspend him on the basis of the FRCN report.
He insisted that the action of the President ran contrary to provisions of the CBN Act relating to the appointment and removal of the CBN Governor, saying it was an “unlawful interference in the administration and management of the apex bank and is therefore illegal, null and void.”
Sanusi who is due for retirement in June, prayed the court to restrain the defendants from obstructing, disturbing, stopping or preventing him in any manner whatsoever from performing the functions of his office as governor of the CBN and enjoying in full, the statutory powers and privileges attached to the office.
Likewise, he alleged that the President illegally removed him from office following some discrepancies he discovered in respect of amounts repatriated to the federation account from the proceed of crude oil sales between the period of January, 2012 and July, 2013.
He told the court that his sin was that upon discovering the financial anomalies, he had cause to inform the National Assembly considering the fact that the revenue of the federation and the national economy was directly affected.
Besides, Sanusi argued that his suspension by President Jonathan was aimed at punishing him for the disclosures he made with regards to how revenue that accrued to the federation was being mismanaged, adding that the President did not approach or obtained the support of the Senate before taking the action against him.
Sanusi told the court that discussions he had with several lawmakers including Senator Bukola Saraki confirmed that the decision to oust him from office was unilaterally taken by the Presidency.