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Corruption: Let Emir Sanusi defend himself

IN less than two years, the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, has been let off the anti-corruption hook twice. This is not because he has been adjudged innocent. No! Friends in high places, petrified that he may be consumed by the anti-graft inferno, which embers he helped to stoke, came to his rescue.

the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido II departing after a closed-door meeting with Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo at the VP’s Wing, Presiidential Villa, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

Each time I reflect on the fact that Sanusi would rely on the magnanimity of powerful Nigerians to extricate himself from the anti-corruption snare, I can’t help but marvel at the incredible metaphor of such a gauche strategy.

For those who may not know, a recap is germane here. The Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Commission recently accused Emir Sanusi of misappropriating N3.4 billion between 2014 when he was installed Emir of Kano and 2017.

The report, which accused Sanusi of abuse of due process in the award of contracts, financial recklessness and obstruction of the investigation, indicated that the Kano Emirate Council lavished unappropriated N1.4 billion and another N1.9 billion, equally unappropriated, on personal expenditures.

Personal expenditures

The expenditures, the Commission insisted, contravened Section 120 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), Section eight of the Kano State Emirate Council Special Fund Law 2004, and also violated Section 314 of the Penal Code as well as Section 26 of the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission Law 2008 (as amended).

On the obstruction of investigation charge, the Commission wrote: “Based on the available evidence, Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II continued to undermine the investigation through various means which include giving instruction to all officers invited for clarification to shun the commission’s invitation”, an act which, it claims, “offends the provisions of Section 25 of the Commission’s enabling Law 2008 (as amended)”.

These, no doubt, are grievous allegations but it was not the first time they would be made. When the issues came up in 2017, it took the intervention of several prominent Nigerians, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar; the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Saad Abubakar III, and businessmen Aliko Dangote and Aminu Dantata, who prevailed on the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, to save the Emir.

Also read: Emir Sanusi absent as Ganduje takes oath of office

Ganduje wrote the State House of Assembly that was already probing the allegations, begging the reluctant lawmakers to “temper justice with mercy”. But in so doing, the governor made it clear that Sanusi had a case to answer. “There is no gainsaying that Emir Muhammad Sunusi II has admitted all his faults and mistakes and agreed to make adjustments. I think of this juncture, we should allow peace as has been achieved to continue,” Ganduje wrote.

Sanusi never controverted the governor’s claim thereafter. But the Emir is not without his courtiers who insist that he is only a victim of his outspokenness. To be fair, his penchant for “speaking truth to power” is deniable. Not even the traditional institution took the sting out of him.

But what is sorely lacking in Sanusi’s personae is the capacity to tell himself the truth. Put differently, he lacks the discipline to walk his talk, to weigh himself on the same scale of probity with which he weighs others.

So, while those who sympathise with him see his travails from the prism of vendetta, the facts do not lend credence to such insinuation. What is at issue today just as it was two years ago is corruption. Whatever role Nigeria’s noxious partisan politics is playing is secondary.

The fact which has been carefully put in the public domain by legitimate authority is that Kano State Emirate Council’s N4.3 billion may have been misappropriated through the award of bogus contracts worth hundreds of millions of Naira to personal aides of Sanusi. Worse, over N2 billion was allegedly appropriated illegally as personal expenses.

And rather than helping in the investigations, Sanusi allegedly impeded the cause of justice by instigating his aides to ignore a summons from the anti-corruption agency.

On Monday, June 3, the Commission formally recommended that the Emir be suspended from office for obstructing financial crimes investigations.

Three days later, Ganduje queried Sanusi over the alleged misappropriation of N3.4 billion by the Kano Emirate Council under his watch and gave him 48 hours to respond. But just as it happened in 2017, Dangote, this time coopting Ekiti State governor and chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi, stepped in again to broker peace. But this is not all about a personality clash between Ganduje and Sanusi. This is an allegation of financial fraud made against one of Nigeria’s most trenchant anti-graft campaigners.

In fact, to say that Sanusi owes his standing in not only the Nigerian society but also the international community today to his anti-corruption posturing is to say the obvious. But it is not enough to pontificate on anti-corruption and delivers flowery speeches around the globe, Emir Sanusi should be able to walk his talk. That, he has not been able to do. For instance, in this extant case, rather than begging powerful Nigerians to come to his rescue, wouldn’t it have been better for Sanusi to produce the annual financial statement of the Emirate?

Wouldn’t it have been better if, at a time like this, all he needed to do was to publish the audited accounts of the Emirate in a national newspaper to shut up his “detractors?” But Sanusi has not done that. And the question is: Is he not the saint he claims to be.

Those who eulogise the Emir pretend to forget that his tenure as the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, the governor ended controversially. Just as the Kano Commission investigated and indicted him, the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, FRCN, also investigated Sanusi and released a damning report on the operations of the CBN under his watch.

The 13-page FRCN report which was based on Sanusi’s response to a query by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013, over the apex bank’s spending made very weighty allegations of financial impropriety against him. It was based on the findings and recommendations of the FRCN that Jonathan suspended Sanusi.

Acts of financial recklessness

While announcing Sanusi’s suspension, Reuben Abati, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, said Sanusi committed acts of financial recklessness and misconduct that are inconsistent with the vision of the apex bank.

The FRCN report claimed that Sanusi spent a whopping N1.257 billion for lunch for policemen and private guards in 2012, made bogus payments to airlines for currency distribution as well as held an account balance of N1.423 billion for an unidentified customer since 2008.

It also accused him of violating financial regulations and carrying out activities with financial implications not related to the CBN’s mandate.

Like the Kano anti-graft agency, the FRCN also recommended Sanusi’s suspension. So, it is déjà vu. Of course, Sanusi got away with it then because he was dealing with Jonathan.

Though he portrays himself as the defender of the wretched-of-earth, his ostentatious and flamboyant lifestyle betrays him. He was once quoted as saying that the two Rolls Royce limousines he uses were given to him as gifts, while his friends in the banking sector provided the private jet he uses for his foreign and local travels.

That may well be true. But for a traditional ruler who superintends over the affairs of a domain with some of the world’s poorest people, such ostentatiousness flies in the face of decency and common sense.

Sanusi may well survive this latest round of financial scandal as he did under Jonathan, but one thing is clear, his ability to turn the table against his accusers using the anti-corruption bogey is grossly diminished.

Yes, Ganduje is not himself an exemplar of probity in public office, but even those who want him out of office are beginning to ask the very innocuous question: Why Sanusi also?

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