— SSS seizes passports of suspended CBN gov, family
Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi will today sue President Goodluck Jonathan over his suspension as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), an impeccable source told Blueprint last night.
Sanusi, who briefed his lawyers in Lagos yesterday, shall file a suit at a High Court in Lagos this morning to challenge yesterday’s announcement by the federal government that he had been suspended from office over what Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Media, Dr Reuben Abati, described as “financial recklessness and misconduct as contained in reports of Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and other investigating bodies.”
The president ordered Sanusi to hand over to the most senior Deputy Governor of the CBN, Dr Sarah Alade, who would serve as Acting Governor until the conclusion of ongoing investigations into “breaches of enabling laws, due process and mandate of the CBN” by Sanusi.
The government has also nominated the Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr Godwin Emefiele, for confirmation by the National Assembly as the next governor of the CBN.
Emefiele yesterday met with Jonathan at the Presidential Villa in Abuja where he was briefed on his new assignment.
Sanusi arrived yesterday at Executive Jet private terminal at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos from Niamey, Niger Republic, aboard a chartered aircraft marked G-Sent.
The plane touched down at the airport unannounced around 3.15 p.m. and was ferried to an undisclosed destination.
Sanusi had left Abuja yesterday at 7 a.m. to attend a meeting of heads of the Central Bank of West African States in Niamey and was there for a few minutes when the Nigerian ambassador in Niger met him and broke the news of his suspension.
He was accompanied to the neighbouring country by his wife, Hajiya Sadiya, who was scheduled to receive an honorary award at the ongoing international colloquiem on hausa culture and literature.
The suspended governor’s 15-person entourage included some officials of the CBN, including Dr Alade, who the government appointed the acting governor of the apex bank.
In Niamey, Sanusi was said to have been advised by his family members not to return to Nigeria “until the fog cleared,” but he insisted on coming back immediately.
“He said he must come back to clear his name and challenge the illegality of his abrupt removal by the president,” the source said.
At the airport in Lagos, the international passports of Sanusi and his entourage, now comprising 11 people, were promptly seized by agents of the State Security Service (SSS), who said they were acting on “orders from above.”
A former minister of the Federal Capital Territory and chieftain of the opposition All Progressives Party (APC), Malam Nasir El-Rufai, who was travelling out of the country, saw Sanusi and his family waiting for the SSS to return their passports. He was said to have told the bank governor: “You don’t wait for these people. Let’s go into town. The passports issue will be cleared later.”
El-Rufai, who posponed his trip, escorted Sanusi and his family to a “safe house” in Lagos, from where they moved to the CBN’s guest house to stay for the night.
Our source said the embattled governor, together with El-Rufai, held a series of meetings with lawyers and agreed to challenge the suspension in court.
According to the source, “Malam (Sanusi) is not going to court in order to make it return him to his seat. He does not want that. He is challenging the impunity of the president’s action.
“He wants to show the Nigerians and the world that what President Jonathan did was illegal and morally reprehensible. And he wants to test the so-called independence of the Central Bank as enshrined in the CBN Act 2007.”
The statement issued by Abati on Sanusi’s suspension said: “Having taken special notice of reports of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and other investigating bodies, which indicate clearly that Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s tenure has been characterised by various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct which are inconsistent with the administration’s vision of a Central Bank propelled by the core values of focused economic management, prudence, transparency and financial discipline;
“Being also deeply concerned about far-reaching irregularities under Malam Sanusi’s watch which have distracted the Central Bank away from the pursuit and achievement of its statutory mandate; and being determined to urgently re-position the Central Bank of Nigeria for greater efficiency, respect for due process and accountability, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has ordered the immediate suspension of Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi from the Office of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“President Jonathan has further ordered that Mallam Sanusi should hand over to the most senior Deputy Governor of the CBN, Dr Sarah Alade, who will serve as Acting Governor until the conclusion of on-going investigations into breaches of enabling laws, due process and mandate of the CBN.
“The president expects that as Acting Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Alade will focus on the core mandate of the Bank and conduct its affairs with greater professionalism, prudence and propriety to restore domestic and international confidence in the country’s apex bank.
“The federal government of Nigeria reassures all stakeholders in Nigeria’s financial and monetary system that this decision has been taken in absolute good faith, in the overall interest of the Nigerian economy and in accordance with our laws and due process.
Elaborating on the suspension of the CBN governor, Dr Abati said the president took te decision as part of attempt to strengthen the CBN to ensure that that apex bank continues to be symbol for prudence, integrity and accountability.
Dr Abati also dismissed suggestion in some quarters that government should have allowed the CBN governor to complete his tenure considering the fact that his retirement is in June this year, saying, “In many countries of the world, you do not wait till the last minute before you appoint successor, particularly into a position in such a strategic institutions as the CBN.”
On the threat by Sanusi to challenge the illegality of his suspension, Abati said: “People who talk about illegality, they are referring to Second 11 Sub-section 2 of the CBN Act.
“Now under that provision, the reference is to removal of the CBN governor by the president and there is a qualification there saying that provided that removal is supported by 2/3rd majority of the Senate.
“But what the president has done, is not removal, it is suspension. You know you do not read the provision in isolation, you read them together and the interpretation Act, if you read all of these provisions together,the thrash point is that he who hires can also has the power to suspend. So, if you have the power to appoint, you also have the power to suspend. What has happened is not removal, it is suspension and that is perfectly within the purview of the law.”