A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Yusuf Ali, in this interview with ALLWELL OKPI, says the timing of the suspension of Mr. Lamido Sanusi as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, shows there is a link between the suspension and Sanusi’s allegation of non-remittance of the sum of $20bn by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to the Federation Account
What do you think about the suspension of Lamido Sanusi as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria?
Our elders have a saying: if a witch cried yesterday and a child dies thereafter, you can always come to a conclusion that it was the witch that killed the child. I think it was not the best time to take that decision, even if there is power to take that decision. We have followed what has been happening from when it started and I think we should stop playing politics with sensitive national issues. Even at the best of times, our economy is not the best. We should not do anything that would make people who want to invest in this country begin to lose confidence in the country.
For Sanusi, who has barely four months to go, I don’t think he should have been suspended, even if he committed the advertised offences. Why did they wait until he had a confrontation with the President about resignation and other issues? Why did they wait until he said about $20bn of our money is being held somewhere outside the Federation Account? If you put all these together, you will see that the time is inappropriate. It’s not the best of times. So, one wasn’t surprised by what happened at the Nigerian Stock Exchange the day after the announcement. We must blame ourselves when policies don’t work out. There is the need for stability in our economic policies and handlers before people can have faith in the system, especially when you are talking about foreign direct investment and reparation by Nigerians in the Diaspora.
During his media chat on Monday, the President gave explanations for the suspension. Don’t you think that explains the timing?
The President will always have something to say. I’m not surprised that he had his own excuses. We are talking about the interest of the country. What they said they suspended him for were things he did in the past. What needed to be done was to make sure there is no recurrence. The man has about four months to go, so why should you create instability in the economic system by suspending him? This is more so for Sanusi who has been applauded all over the world for doing a good job in the last four years. The records are there.
But does that excuse him from being punished if he is found guilty of being reckless with public funds?
Those are allegations. Don’t jump into conclusion. He is presumed to be innocent until he is found guilty. The problem with Nigeria is that once somebody is accused of doing something, people take it as gospel truth. It’s not right. What they said about Sanusi was still an allegation. It doesn’t matter who made it. He still enjoys the presumption that he is innocent until those who are making the allegation prove it. Whether it’s recklessness or whatever else, it’s just an allegation. After all, nobody has called for the suspension of the heads of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation based on Sanusi’s allegations of missing funds. The President should also suspend the heads of the NNPC and investigate the allegation against them.
The President has already vowed to find the missing funds.
I’ve heard enough of that. In fact, it has been said several times by this administration and nothing has been done. They would say, ‘We would get to the bottom of this and that,’ and up till now we have not reached the bottom of any. Weren’t there promises that Oduahgate would be resolved and government would get to the bottom of it? What happened thereafter? During the subsidy scam probe, government said it would get to the bottom of it. What have you heard about it? That gives you a sign of what is going to happen to Sanusi’s allegations. It has become a cliché for our leaders. I’m not taken in by it at all.
Jonathan also said Sanusi might return to complete his tenure as CBN governor, if the probe ends before June.
Did he say when the probe will be over? There is no time set for the probe. It is indeterminate. Saying that in this country, where it takes us a long time to do simple things is laughable. Who are the members of the probe panel; what are the terms of reference; when are they supposed to submit their report? All these are not known. The government can programme the probe to outlast your tenure even if you have two years to go. Was it not done during the Ayo Salami saga?
If you were in the President’s shoes and such a report indicting the CBN governor was brought to you. Don’t you think the right thing to do is to suspend the CBN governor in order to transparently probe the report, since he is the chairman, board of CBN and also the chief executive?
If it was acted on when the report came out several months ago, it would have been different. Was he given a query? The first thing to do is to give a query. You don’t just suspend people, no matter what the allegation is.
But the President gave Sanusi a query earlier.
And so what happened thereafter? If they were going to make this thing public, they should have let people know what was going on. You don’t wait until the man has blown the whistle and after you had asked him to resign, you then suspend him. The reason you asked him to resign in the first place was not even based on this allegation. It was because it was alleged that he leaked the letter he wrote to the President about the missing money, to the former President and that that was why it was in the former President’s letter to the President. You can see the linkages. And his answer was very intelligible. He said, ‘This letter I wrote went into the hands of so many people. The Ministry of Information also had it.’ Why should they think he was the one that leaked the letter to the former President? If I were in the President’s shoes and this kind of report comes out, a query would be issued and it would not have any ulterior motive. If you do things at the right time, no eyebrow would be raised. Even if you do the right thing at the wrong time, there would be problem. I don’t even know whether what was done was a right thing.
Let’s talk about the legal implications of Sanusi’s suspension. Based on the constitution, does the President have the right to suspend the CBN governor, without the approval of the National Assembly?
Let me just say this straightaway. I’m aware there is a matter in court. I don’t really know the content of the matter relating to the suspension of the CBN governor. I think the less that is said about it, the better it would be for the judiciary to determine the case. That is the hallmark of the rule of law; things that have been subjected to the court, cease to be a matter of public opinion. During his media chat, the President should have told people, ‘The matter is in court, let’s see how it goes.’ Anything that is said now is just an opinion until the court says, ‘This is the way it is.’