By Ben Agande, Emman Ovuakporie, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Joseph Erunke & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA — President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday announced the suspension of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi over alleged “various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct”.
In a statement in Abuja the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati said the suspension of The CBN governor was as a result of the reports of the Financial Reporting Council Of Nigeria and other Investigating bodies which he said indicate “far-reaching irregularities under Mallam Sanusi’s watch which have distracted the Central Bank away from the pursuit and achievement of its statutory mandate”.
The statement further Directed that 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 statement reads
“Having taken special notice of reports of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and other investigating bodies, which indicate clearly that Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s tenure has been characterized 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 Mallam 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 Mallam 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” the statement concluded.
National Assembly split
Members of the National Assembly were yesterday divided along partisan lines on the suspension from office of the governor of the Central Bank, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. While the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP controlled Senate gave official support for the action of the president, senators belonging to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, however, strongly objected to the action as they described it as an erosion of the powers of the Senate.
Strong efforts by PDP members of the House of Representatives to also endorse the president’s action was, however, thwarted by APC members of the House who out voted the PDP legislators in the motion on a vote to condemn the president’s action.
Despite the Senate’s assertion of the correctness of the president’s action in suspending the CBN governor, the House of Representatives in the motion said the president’s suspension of the nation’s top banker was an erosion of the powers of the Senate.
Senate spokesman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe who gave the official reaction of the legislative house said the president acted within the ambit of the CBN Act in suspending Sanusi from office.
“The President only suspended Sanusi, he did not sack him. So he acted accordingly.”
He, however, said the Senate had received communication from the president on a successor for Sanusi who is expected to formally leave office in June.
He said the president had forwarded Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the present managing director of Zenith Bank plc as the next governor of the CBN.
Besides Emefiele, a deputy governor was also submitted to the Senate for confirmation.
Reps counter Senate
The official position of the Senate was, however, countered by some APC senators including Senator Babajide Omoworare, APC, Osun East, who described the suspension as illegal and outside the powers of the president.
In a chat with newsmen, Omoworare said Sanusi’s suspension was illegal and contrary to the provisions of the CBN Act which prevents the president from doing anything to the CBN governor except removing him subject to the approval of two-thirds majority of the Senate.
”Democracy is not about ambushing but the President’s action today on the suspension of Sanusi is like ambushing democracy by not following the rule of law because the President has no powers to do so going by the provisions of the CBN Act. Thus, his action as far as I am concerned and I know as far as law abiding Nigerians are concerned, is illegal.
”Sanusi no doubt, has been the crown witness in the matter of alleged mismanagement of Nigeria’s oil proceeds to the tune of $49.8 billion within the last two years which made his suspension at this time very uncomfortable to Nigerians and her strategic foreign partners,” he insisted.
Apparently embittered by what they claimed as the selective fight against corruption as claimed by the president for the ouster of Sanusi, the House of Representatives yesterday mandated its committees on Justice, and Legislative Compliance to compile all reports and resolutions dealing with corruption by public officials which the president has yet to act on. The reports are to be brought to the attention of the president for him to act on them immediately.
Points of law
Following resumption yesterday, the House Minority Whip, Rep. Samson Osagie, ACN, Edo State upon a point of order brought a motion on the suspension of the CBN governor.
Osagie had barely finished reading his motion when Rep. Henry Ofongo, PDP, Bayelsa, raised another point of order to challenge him, but he was overruled by Speaker Aminu Tambuwal.
Osagie in his motion observed that section 11(7) of the CBN Act, 2007 upon which the president claimed to have acted did not contemplate the suspension of a CBN governor as he alleged that the president could only remove the governor if found wanting upon endorsement by two-thirds of the Senate.
As he spoke he was heckled by PDP members. Rep Henry Ofongo a PDP member who punctured him through a point of order faulted Osagie, saying the minority whip was bringing in issues from the CBN Act, which were not relevant to the matter at hand.
He was overruled by Speaker Tambuwal who told him to wait for his turn.
Uproar set in when 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.”
While Tambuwal ruled Igbokwe as being in order, the speaker, however, said Igbokwe’s assertions did not address the matter of the suspension.
The deputy majority leader, Rep. Leo Ogor on his part defended the suspension as the beginning of a process, and not an end in itself.
“For you to remove somebody, there has 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.
Following the conclusion of the debate, Speaker Tambuwal put question as to whether the House should condemn it and the ayes in the House carried the day.
Following the debate other APC House members spoke on the development.
The Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, APC, in his reaction expressed dismay saying:
“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 against corruption.
“For good reason the Central Bank 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 $20 billion 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!”
Also 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 investors’ confidence in the country’s economy.
“We have been talking about impunity. This (Sanusi’s suspension) 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.