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If I Were Sanusi Lamido Sanusi

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On Thursday, 20th February 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan suspended from office the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. The President cited financial recklessness and misconduct as the reasons for the suspension. These charges were based on the reports of the little-known Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (a Federal Government agency) which looked into the books of the apex bank. The suspension was the culmination of soured relationship between Aso Rock and Sanusi’s CBN. 

The details of what led to that soured relationship are well documented and need not be restated here. Suffice it to say that Aso Rock was miffed that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi made public a memo he reportedly sent to the President alerting him of a possible non-remittance of about $49.8 billion into the coffers of the Federation by the state-run oil octopus, the NNPC.  

Following inter-departmental accounts reconciliation, that figure was found to be not $49.8 billion but $10.8 billion. Sanusi accepted the figure at the time but later turned round to claim that the unremitted amount was actually $20 billion. This and the FRCN report fuelled the controversy, thus prompting the President to demand Sanusi’s resignation. Sanusi refused, saying that the President lacked the powers to either fire him or force his resignation.

The Senate has since commenced investigation into the matter of the unremitted $20 billion. However, while investigation was on-going in the Senate, the President suspended the CBN governor from office, three weeks after he sought approval from the Senate for his action. The suspension has attracted mixed reactions from the public. While some see the President’s action as proper, others see it as ill-advised and a surreptitious move to, not only thwart the Senate investigation, but also to cover up government-induced corruption in the NNPC. No less a body than the House of Representatives has passed a resolution condemning the suspension and urging the president to rescind the decision. Similarly, Kano State Emirates Council has also rejected the suspension.

Sanusi has since gone to court to challenge his suspension. While the controversy rages on about the legality of the Sanusi’s suspension, it is worthwhile to look at theSanusi Lamido Sanusi’s tenure at the Central Bank of Nigeria.

HIS ACHIEVEMENTS

There is no doubt that the man Sanusi Lamido Sanusi recorded some commendable achievements as the helmsman of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Below are some of them:

1.He brought a lasting remedy to the problem of bank distress in Nigeria. Bank chieftains who dipped their fingers into depositors’ funds were brought to book, although some would argue that his 2009 banking industry sanitization howitzer was politically motivated 

2.He was the CBN governor who introduced Nigeria to cashless economy, a policy that de-emphasized cash-based transaction in favour of e-payment system.Although still at its inchoate stage, the cashless policy aims to align Nigerian financial system with contemporary practice in developed countries

3.Sanusi also received accolades, local and international, for prudence, efficiency and transparency. Some however would argue that those were bought with cash from CBN coffers.

4.He was also the only CBN governor to date who had the guts to tell the truth no matter what

5.Finally, he was the CBN governor to date who challenged a corrupt government and exposed what is potentially the heist of the century. Many say this is what is responsible for his suspension.

CRITICISMS AGAINST HIM

Just as he has been variously commended for his achievements, he has also been condemned on the following grounds:

1.That he was the only CBNGovernor to date who made public the contents of his confidential memo to the President. Some accused the man of being talkative and not exercising discretion, thus violating  the age old banking ethics of confidentiality

2.He was also accused of being the CBN governor  who couldn’t get his figures right, judging from the way the amount he alleged was unremitted to government purse changed  from $50 billion to $10 and now $20 billion

3.That he was also the only CBN Governor in this country who donated state money to opposition political party while still serving the ruling government

4.Sanusi was also the first bank chief who has an anonymous customer  with a credit balance of over N1 billion, and without proper documentation, yet the bank did not deem it necessary to know the customer in question 

5.The only CBN governor to date who wanted to print N5,000 currency denomination in the hope that it would help him curb inflation. Though this move was eventually suspended, it generated so much controversy at the time on grounds that it had the potential to under-mind the cashless policy of the same bank.

6.Finally Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was also criticized for introducing Islamic banking in a multi-religious but dubiously secular country like Nigeria.

Media reports about the suspension of the CBN governor have largely been on moral and sentimental grounds. Those who are in sympathy with Sanusi have opined that he is being victimized for blowing the whistle on the alleged unremitted $20.8 billion. Such reports have even redefined “unremitted funds” to mean “stolen” or “missing funds”. But Sanusi’s allegation was clear and unambiguous. He said $20.8 billion was unremitted, not stolen or missing, but trust Nigerian journalists. Sensationalism appears to be a virtue, especially where the Presidency did not help matters with its timing of the suspension order.

What many fail to understand is that there is a world of difference between morality and legality. What may be morally wrong and abhorrent may not necessarily be unlawful or illegal. Conversely, what is lawful or legal may not also be morally right.Every employer/employee relationship has its inherent terms and conditions of service. An employee, any employee is required to go about his job according to prescribed code of rules, regulations and laws of the land. This is where I find problem with Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s style in his relationship with the Presidency.

No doubt, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was right in his handling of some issues as governor of CBN.  He was also wrong in others. He is a human being after all, but the area I find unacceptable is his being insubordinate to the authority of the office of the president. Section 8 (1) of the CBN Act 2007 confers on the President the power to appoint the Governor and Deputy Governors of the CBN subject to confirmation by the Senate on such terms and conditions as may be set out in their respective letters of appointment. 

Similarly Section 11 (2) of the same Act confers on the President the power to remove the Governor of the CBN provided the removal shall be supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed.The key words in this provision are “…provided the removal shall be supported by…..”; which means the President can remove the CBN Governor before getting Senate approval. All he has to do after removing him is to ensure that he gets two-thirds majority of the Senate to support the removal. This is where most people who question the President’s action get it wrong. In any case information available indicates that the President did indeed apprise the Senate of his intention three weeks before he suspended the CBN Governor.

In terms of reporting relationship, Section 8(5) of the Act has this to say “the Governor shall, from time to time -(a) keep the President informed of the affairs of the Bank including a report on its budget; and(b) make a formal report and presentation on the activities of the Bank and the performance of the economy to the relevant Committees of the National Assembly”.

It follows, then, that whereas the law and the terms of his employment required Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to report to the President and the National Assembly, the man for whatever reason, chose to make public the contents of his memo to the President. He might be right, morally,in so far as his motive was to alert the nation on the possibility of revenue being diverted from the Federation Account. But morality is not legality or lawfulness.His action amounted to gross insubordinateto the office of the President. That is unacceptable. That office ought to be respected regardless of who is occupying it. It is not about Goodluck Jonathan, it is about respect for the authority of the office of the President of the Federal Republic Nigeria.

If that insubordination was allowed to succeed, it would have set a very dangerous precedence. The office and authority of the President would be reduced, ridiculed, disrespected and insulted. As Nigerians we should not allow it.

What then should Sanusi Lamido Sanusi have done? In my opinion, the following options were available to him:

1.He could have honourably resigned his position as CBN governor when presented with a soft-landing by the President

2.After resigning his appointment, he could have petitioned the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Attorney General of the Federation intimating them of the money that was diverted, or illegally with-held, by NNPC

3.If by chance the ICPC and EFCC refuse to act presumably on the orders of the Presidency, Sanusi could have gone to court to procure an Order of Mandamus to compel them to investigate the matter. Instances of this approach abound. Chief Gani Fawehinmi obtained an order of mandamus against the Attorney General of Lagos State with respect to the right of private prosecution with regard to those he accused of killing Dele Giwa.

If I were in Sanusi’s shoes, the above is what I would have done. The bottom-line, then, is that Nigerians should learn to obey the laws of the land and follow due process regardless of their personal bias, prejudices and feelings about those in authority. I rest my case.

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