By Emman Ovuakporie and Levinus nwabughiogu
ABUJA-MEMBERs of the House of Representatives have rejected the suspension of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Governor, Mr Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
Also apparently embittered by what legislators perceived as selective implementation or non-compliance with its resolution against some public officers over corrupt practices, the House has mandated its committees on Justice, and Legislative Compliance to compile all resolutions that have indicted any public officer for which President Goodluck Jonathan refused to act, and request the president to act on them immediately.
The Presidency Thursday suspended the apex bank boss in a statement signed by the Media and Publicity Adviser to the president Dr Reuben Abalti.
The house resumed plenary at about 11.05am and the second legislative business of the day was a motion under matters of national importance titled: Suspension of the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi sponsored by Rep Samson Osagie, PDP, Edo state.
The presiding officer, Aminu Tambuwal had immediately put it to voice vote and it was unanimously carried for debate.
Osagie had barely finished reading his motion when Rep Henry Ofongo,PDP, Bayelsa, raised a point of order challenging Osagie’s motion.
But the Speaker had overruled his point of order saying Ofongo had to wait till Osagie had made his submission.
This did not go down well with PDP legislators who in turns tried to tear Osagie’s motion apart.
In his argument, Rep Ralph Nnana Igbokwe, PDP, Imo had described the position as irrelevant bordering on the fact that “Mr President did the right thing by suspending Sanusi because the CBN was a government institution.
This development again led to a verbal war which dominated the House of Representatives plenary for almost 50mins with support and opposition to Sanusi’s suspension torn along party lines.
The Peoples Democratic Party ,PDP legislators in support and All Progressive Congress ,APC, lawmakers outrightly rejecting Sanusi’s suspension.
Osagie in his motion had observed that”the president on Thursday 20th of February announced through his special adviser Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben abalti the suspension of the CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi over the report made against him by the Financial Reporting Council and other investigative bodies.
According to Osagie, section 11(7) of the CBN Act, 2007 which gave the president powers to remove the Governor, subject to two-third majority approval of the Senate did not contemplate suspension, adding that it was also doubtful if Sanusi was given fair hearing in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
His motion was however punctured by noise from Rep Henry Ofongo , who through a point of order faulted Osagie that he was bringing in issues from the CBN Act, which were not relevant to the matter he was debating. The lawmaker was however asked to wait and present his points during the debate of the motion by Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal who was presiding over the plenary.
Anxieties subsequently set in, throwing the session into a momentary uproar when another lawmaker, Rep Ralph Nnanna Igbokwe also raised a point of order, drawing the attention of the House to the same section of the CBN Act earlier cited by Osagie which gave the President powers to appoint and remove the CBN Governor.
According to him, if CBN was a public institution, operating under the public service rules with Sanusi as a public officer heading the institution, he can be removed under such rules if found wanting in the discharge of his duties, urging the House “to resist every temptation not to act on the side of the law.”
Tambuwal though ruled that Igbokwe was in order, but he explained that his assertions did not resolve the issue of suspension not being contemplated in the Act, as contended by Osagie, and subsequently yielded the floor for the Deputy Minority Leader, Rep Leo Ogor who had indicated to speak against the motion to do so.
But before Ogor, Nkoyo Toyo through another point of order on matters of privilege warned that Sanusi, no doubt was an important personality, and a great Nigerian whose case should not be reduced to politicking on the floor of the House, a position the Speaker told members to note as they debate the issue.
Ogor in his submission defended the suspension as a beginning of a process, and not an end in itself. “For you to remove somebody, there have to be a process, and the suspension is the beginning of that,” the lawmaker stated amidst shouts of ‘No! ‘No!! No!!! from supporters of the motion.
When Tambuwal put question for voice votes on the motion, more members voted unanimously supported.
APC Reps reactions
The Minority Leader of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, APC, Lagos has expressed dismay at the suspension of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as CBN Governor.
He said such action can be legally queried , “I am concerned about its legality. Whilst it can be argued that an employer has the right to suspend an employee, the question here is whether this is a suspension or a removal in the guise of suspension.”
Gbajabiamila further described the suspension as an attack on CBN autonomy and setback for the fight on corruption.
“For good reason the CBN Governor world over is independent and autonomous. To remove him you need confirmation and buy-in of the Senate. You cannot do it through the back door. If you read carefully the reasons advanced by the Presidency then it becomes clear that this is a removal and not a suspension and therefore illegal and unconstitutional.”
“It becomes more worrisome when you consider the timing and the fact that the CBN Governor has just blown the lid off a monumental scandal involving the disappearance of 20billion dollars from our coffers. The message being sent out is not the best . There can be no worse attack on the autonomy of the apex financial institution as envisaged by the constitution. For God’s sake the man only has 3 months left!”
Alsi in a direct response to Sanusi’s suspension, Rep . Pally Iriase (Edo/APC) in a chat with newsmen challenged President Jonathan to disclose allegations of “various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct,” he gave as reason for Sanusi’s suspension.
Iriase said the suspension which he described as “hasty” could dent foreign investor confidence in the country’s economy.
“We have been talking about impunity. This (Sanusi’s suspention) is yet another show of impunity by this administration. The suspension is personal and is not unconnected with the recent disclosure of missing money from the NNPC.
“It is a clear case of if you cannot shut him up, ship him out. It should be condemned in its totality.” Iriase said.
The Edo born lawmaker debunked insinuation that Sanusi had been doing the bidding of the APC by “embarrassing the government” with disclosure of missing oil revenue.
“If the bidding of APC is to have a robust economy, a responsible government that is corruption free, then Nigerians should be happy. Sanusi’s suspension is simply a case of the administration shooting itself on the foot.” he stated.