The Lamido-Jonathan conundrum – Mobolaji Sanusi

”The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”———-Winston Churchill

Ordinarily, blue-bloods anywhere in the world are usually conceited. But when it goes with luminosity and articulacy, its inherent gait of courage says something about their hauteur. Not many people can stand a swaggering person, nonetheless, an intelligent Hausa/Fulani from the royal family of Kano traditional feudal hue. Generally, any prince, by privilege of birth, is not expected to take orders from anybody, but from infancy is used to others taking instructions from him. Such royalty is conventionally conversant with being revered and courted by the high and mighty in the society, especially those in his sphere of authority. It was with this air that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi suddenly found himself in the position of Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). And with his untamed valour, egotistic bluster and sometimes audaciously nauseating policies and actions, he garnered ample admirers and foes by the time he was suspended from office last Friday by his nemesis and perhaps, unsuspecting numero uno foe, President Goodluck Jonathan.

The president, while fielding questions from a panel of journalists during the Presidential media chat in Abuja earlier in the week, declared: “But Sanusi is still the governor of the CBN and people must know that. That is why there can never be a substantive governor until the issue is sorted out. Sanusi can come back tomorrow to continue his work because the issues raised are the issues that the board of the CBN with the Financial Reporting Council, the authorities that have powers to look into the financial transactions of the CBN, will deal with…’’ The president spoke about one relatively unknown 2012 audit report that demanded that Lamido steps aside if it must be properly looked into. But the same president kept Stella Oduah perpetually in office as Minister of Aviation when she was mentioned as the arrow-head of a grossly over-inflated two armoured BMW cars purchased at a time the aviation sector was (and still is) bleeding from lack of infrastructure.

Perhaps, an objective onlooker would be forced to ask: Why was Oduah not compelled to step aside by the president as he did in the prevailing circumstance when the panel that recommended ‘administrative caution’ was investigating that serious accusation against a minister of a very important ministry of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Something akin to this also happened when a civil society group reportedly accused another female oil minister that is still serving the president of being an alleged wastrel anytime she was travelling by air through exorbitant aircraft hire both within and outside the country. The president looked the other way at that crucial period. Diezani Allison-Maduekwe, the Minister of Petroleum was exercising oversight function over the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that is facing subsidy mismanagement crisis and has not been told by the same president to step aside. Whatever Mr President says about the probability of Lamido returning to office after not being found guilty of any infraction, this column and discernible Nigerians know that as far as the CBN governorship is concerned and going by traditional official aversion for dissents, it is sure that the embattled Kano prince is history.

But besides the fact that the president is not coming to equity with clean hands in the way and manner Lamido was suspended, this column does not think that any sitting CBN governor should be robed with the garb of being above the law – not even if such person is a Fulani prince from Kano State. The column is not oblivious of Section 11 of the CBN Act, 2007, stating when the Governor or any of his Deputies can cease to remain in office not to include suspension by the President. The only mention of the word ‘suspension’ is in section 11(1)(d) and that relates to the removal of the Governor when he or she is disqualified or suspended from practising his or her profession in Nigeria. Furthermore in section 11(1) (f), the only occasion the President can recommend the removal of the Governor or exercise any disciplinary control over him or her is when the president’s recommendation is supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate. This is the conundrum facing the president in his desperate bid to cut to size his unusually voluble CBN governor that has turned the apex bank into a platform for feudal activism.

Despite these, this column agrees with the president that in exercise of his oversight functions, he has the power of ensuring that the CBN or other institutions of government do not become an island on its own. As the president said, “the issues of suspension and removal are very different.” And save for such power of oversight, Lamido would have unilaterally and arbitrarily printed N5000 denomination currency notes and changed the face of the naira today. But to the credit of Mr President, he listened to public aversion for the move and quickly nipped it the bud. Unfortunately, the Islamic bigotry in Lamido triumphed over the public when he foisted Islamic banking system on the nation. The beauty of democracy in the brewing suspension saga is that the beleaguered prince has gone to court to challenge his suspension and whatever comes out of the Temple of Justice will go a long way in simmering the widening public tension over the matter. Such judgment when delivered will definitely open a new vista in the management and general affairs of the nation’s apex bank.

However, one thing that is good is that the CBN Governor really helped in bringing to the fore so many hidden rot in the nation’s financial system. He exposed how NNPC through NPDC took oil blocks belonging to the federation and then transferred the operation of the blocks to inexperienced private agents lacking the required funds for the exercise. The prince revealed that NNPC failed to remit $20billion dollars into the federation’s account. It is absurd that the president said he could not look into the allegations because of inconsistencies in figures. Through his reported memo to the Senate Committee dated February12, 2014, Lamido showed that NNPC sells our petroleum for a fixed price of $10 a barrel which is a paltry percentage of its market price and that the corporation allows documents to be destroyed after one year, leading to the cover-up of monumental fraud.

Though Lamido raised the alarm over fraud in the fuel subsidy regime at a Public Hearing in the House of Representatives some years back, his supposed open campaign for the removal of the same subsidy portrayed as an unstable character that says one thing in the morning only to change such at night before going to bed. The circumstance of his removal, though painful, is a reminder to Jonathan not to toy with the sanctity of the CBN. He should remember the example of Idi Amin Dada of Uganda in 1971, whose order to Joseph Mubiru, Central Bank Governor, to print more money was turned down. He eventually killed Mubiru but that could not solve the problems that his selfish interference caused that country’s apex bank till today. Though the Kano prince has been removed, the issues he raised about looting in NNPC, subsidy pilfering and the economy generally must be resolved by the president. More importantly, his removal if not properly handled might signal the beginning of a wobbling CBN in the country.

The views expressed above are solely that of the writer and not of Omojuwa.com or its associates.


Credit: The Nation

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