AGAIN, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mallam Sanusi Lamido is at the centre-stage of controversy with his recent volatile suggestion that the civil service work force should be reduced by half.
He had argued that the country was spending too much money on a negligible percentage of the population to the detriment of the overwhelming majority.
Sanusi had, at the Second Annual Capital Market Committee Retreat held recently in Warri, Delta State, stated that the country spent 70 per cent of its earnings on salaries and entitlements of civil servants and should, therefore, be stopped.
“You have to fire half of the civil service because the revenue of the government is supposed to be for 167 million Nigerians. Any society where government spends 70 per cent of its revenue on its civil service has a problem. It is unsustainable,” he said.
It is a known fact that Sanusi is a controversial man in all respects, for he thrives in controversies, going by his actions, comments and policies since he became the CBN Governor in 2009.
His latest comment has incurred the wrath of Nigerians and the organised labour, culminating into the call on the Federal Government to remove him from office.
The Nigeria Labour Congress also reacted. “Since assumption of office, as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, all Sanusi’s major pronouncements have been either directly anti-people or ruinous to the Nigerian economy.
“While President Jonathan is promising to create more jobs, Lamido Sanusi is calling for mass sack of civil servants in a country with one of the highest numbers of the unemployed, which has indeed led to gross deprivation and the current state of insecurity in Nigeria.
“It is obvious Sanusi was never qualified for the office of CBN governor in the first instance, and he must be asked to leave the office as he has shown more than enough incompetence and contempt for the Nigerian people”, NLC said, in a statement signed by its President, Abdulwahed Omar.
Similarly, the Civil Liberties Organisation described Sanusi’s call as “a backward statement”, the Trade Union Congress said it is “ridiculous and should be ignored”, RATTAWU described it as “unfortunate and unbelievable”, while the Association of Civil Servants of Nigeria said the CBN governor’s statement is “condemnable” because it will lead to job losses and suffering to the teeming populace.
The Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Victor Ogene, observed that Sanusi enjoyed controversies and never practised what he preached and was only heating up the polity with his “frequent controversial utterances”.
According to him, the recommendation for the sacking of 50 per cent of the civil servants and reduction in the number of National Assembly members is in conflict with what Sanusi has done at the CBN when he employed over 1,000 workers, raising the bank’s workers’ strength to 6,015 from 5,023.
“Sanusi should have healed himself first, what he preaches in the public is inconsistent with what he does at CBN. He is an economist with bias in political turbulence,” Ogene stated.
The Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, however, feels otherwise and has dismissed the call for the sacking of Sanusi.
The party said NLC’s call was only aimed at winning back peoples’ support after the leadership betrayed the masses when it unceremoniously surrendered at the peak of the popular revolt against the hike in fuel prices, early in the year.
On the other hand, the Minister of Labour, Chukwuemeka Wogu, had allayed the workers’ fear, saying that there will be no sacking in that the Federal Government would rather create more jobs for Nigerians.
For me and perhaps, many Nigerians, it is a Herculean task to situate Sanusi – going by his numerous volatile comments – whether he’s a politician, Muslim cleric, traditional ruler, social critic, public servant, political analyst or even human rights activist.
But one thing is certain – Sanusi enjoys media hype as well as all the hues and cries that come with his gale of controversies – making the people to insinuate that he’s merely seeking attention.
Sanusi’s controversial outbursts are legion. He fired the first shot by criticizing the late President Umaru Yar’Adua – during his screening at the Senate for the CBN job – when he said the President’s seven-point agenda is a wasteful exercise and suggested that it should be compressed into a two–point agenda.
Many people had wondered why a political appointee will have the audacity to challenge the same nominating authority – where many will tremble and worship.
That is Sanusi for you, controversy personified.
We can recall that he once boasted that some of the bank chiefs would go to jail. Not long, the CBN carried out its special examination of the nation’s banks to determine their solvency. After the audit, it unilaterally dismissed the CEOs of three additional insolvent banks and injected an additional N200 billion into them.
Sanusi then published a list of the names of debtors of non-performing loans held by Nigerian banks and defended the extensive reforms that he had initiated since taking office, dubbed as the “Sanusi tsunami”.
His radical approach at implementing the blueprint has pitched him against some powerful interests. He’ll never budge.
At another instance, during the Lagos Town hall meeting organised by the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, he strongly warned that the country was heading for an economic doom if government continued to subsidise fuel.
Amid protests, criticism and resistance against fuel subsidy removal, Sanusi had argued that the limited resources of government should rather be allocated to supporting production.
Again, in the interview with The Financial Times of London, he had linked activities of the militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram, with the 13 per cent derivation fund being given to oil-producing states.
He said: “I have long held the view that ethnic and religious violence in Nigeria has its roots in poverty and deprivation and perceived marginalisation.
Mr. ADEWALE KUPOLUYI wrote from the Federal University of Agric., Abeokuta, Ogun State.