By Okey Ndiribe & Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA—Members of the House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Currency, yesterday, disagreed with the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, over the powers of the apex bank to disburse funds.
The disagreement arose due to CBN’s injection of N620 billion into some ailing banks in 2009 and donation of N125 million to victims of bomb explosions in Kano and Madalla as well as interventions in agriculture, manufacturing and sports sectors.
The committee members said while the lending to distressed banks, donations to victims of bomb explosions and lending to private sector organisations may be necessary, the legality of these actions were questionable as long as they had no legislative endorsement.
However, the CBN Governor argued that the apex bank’s actions were legal and in conformity with CBN Act as created by the National Assembly.
The committee’s inquiry was to establish the facts on the alleged expenditure of public funds by CBN and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, without the approval of the National Assembly.
Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, who canvassed the position of the parliament at the investigative hearing, accused CBN of operating on a “blank cheque” and refusing to follow due process of the law as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
Gbajabiamila stated that even in the United Kingdom and United States where apex banks intervened in the economy, they did so with the active participation of their parliaments.
According to him it was this collaboration that resulted in the Economic Stabilisation Act passed by the United States Congress in the heat of the global economic crisis.
He said CBN appeared to have been hiding under the loophole of institutional autonomy in carrying out these actions.
Gbajabiamila argued that distinction must be made between autonomy and accountability. He said it is desirable for CBN to be autonomous, but that it does not exempt the apex bank from being accountable.