The sacking of Sanusi

Last Thursday, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was tossed out of office unceremoniously. While on official assignment in Niamey, Niger Republic, Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Media, Dr Reuben Abati, in a few paragraphed press release, disclosed Sanusi’s suspension with immediate effect. Abati emphasised that the CBN helmsman was put on the brink based on the recommendations of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN). The council implicated Sanusiin “financial recklessness and misconduct.”

A bullish Presidency has already sent the name of his replacement to the Nigerian Senate for endorsement. On his return to Nigeria the same day, Sanusi called his removal illegal, null and void, citing the provisions of the CBN Act. In chats with CNBC Africa and Sahara reporters, he said he would challenge his “removal” in court, notwithstanding the fact that he will never wish to return to his job. His sole aim, according to him, would be to protect the institution of the CBN.

The sacking of Sanusi has been widely criticised, especially by the opposition All Progressives Change (APC). They accused the President of double standard, ulterior motive and insincerity since his suspension was preceded by his allegation that NNPC failed to remit $20billion to the federation account. The feeling is widespread that he was nailed because he blew the whistle on the outrageous corruption going on in the wild corporation called the NNPC. Sanusi later told the media that the President can suspend him but he can never be able to suspend the truth.

Checkpointcharley agrees that the sacking of Sanusi is a targeted action and persecution. His implication in financial recklessness is a calculated effort by Jonathan not to appear to be acting arbitrarily. He needed something to achieve his aim. In the part of Nigeria I come from, you don’t just kill a dog. To kill one, you have to justify it by giving the dog a bad name. Having said this, I fail to exonerate Sanusi. I am not privy to the information at the disposal of the President. He is yet to make that public. So the fact remains that Sanusi has a case to answer. Only the judiciary can make pronouncement on his innocence or otherwise. He does not have a lesser case to answer merely because his accusers are those looking for his downfall. It does not suffice as immunity from answering the allegations against him. Neither does it place him above the law.

I am also unable to see the illegality in his “removal”. Sanusi has not been removed from office. He was only suspended so that he can answer allegations against him. Jonathan does not need a recourse to Section 11(2) of the CBN Act, which demands a two-thirds of the Senate to approve the removal of the CBN. Head or toe, Sanusi’s term will expire in June.  Therefore, the forwarding of the name of his successor to the Senate for approval is timely and standard practice globally. You don’t wait for his tenure to expire or the last moment to name a successor. This ensures domestic and international confidence in the country’s apex bank and market.

Even though there is nothing illegal in the suspension of Sanusi, the President would find it hard to absolvehimself from accusations that he misused the powers vested in him by taking out a central bank governor, who caused his government much embarrassment – with respect to the disclosure that big wigs at the NNPC converted money meant for the treasury. Sanusi paid the

price by daring to speak the truth in a country where such is very costly.
Nigerians now expect Jonathan to as well suspend those at the NNPC and order a full probe. The world must be laughing at us that $20 billion is missing and the President is yet to take action. Sanusi blew the whistle out of patriotism. We also now expect him to continue to cooperate with the Senate investigation into the missing funds and an eventual panel of inquiry which may be set up by Jonathan, if ever.

Sanusi may have done very well in his direction of Nigeria’s fiscal and monetary policies while at the CBN. His biggest shortcoming however was that he allowed his future political ambition to derail him. He politicized and polarized the office of the Governor of the central bank. At some point, it seemed he was secretly campaigning for the APC. Sanusi was not wise. He deviated from his constitutional duties and started playing to the gallery. A central bank governor is part of the government and he should not be seen as working against the interest of a government, whose economic and financial policies he promotes.

Nigerians are grateful to him for the leaks. Nevertheless, there are other ways a man that occupies his office should have gone about it without drawing a battle line against the President, who is his boss; Sanusi’s unguarded public utterances bordered often on insubordination.
In any case, we thank him for the service. And wish him the very best in his future political career.

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