Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Nigeria: Sanusi suspension becomes test of will for Jonathan

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is challenging his suspension by President Goodluck Jonathan in the courts, and the case is becoming an overwhelmingly political clash as accusations are traded publicly.

Sanusi submitted a 36-point memorandum to Jonathan on 17 March which containing detailed rebuttals of the allegations against him contained in a Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria briefing note.

Jonathan’s February suspension of Sanusi was preceded by earlier attempts to get the governor to resign before the June 2014 end of his term. Initially, Sanusi said that he would not seek reinstatement to his post but would test the constitutional legitimacy of the suspension in court to establish a legal principle.

Having been sent a list of infractions at the bank under his management, Sanusi has analysed them and seems to have changed his strategy. He is now publicly asking Jonathan to reinstate him for the remaining three months of his tenure.

A long political and legal battle looms but it is certain that Jonathan will use every tactic to ensure that Sanusi does not get access to the governor’s office before his tenure formally ends. 

The trend of claims and counter-claims in the dispute suggests that there will not be an independent and credible effort to investigate the basis of Sanusi’s concerns about the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, which has been unable to account for failing to transfer some US$49.8 billion in revenues from January 2012 to July 2013 to the CBN accounts.

Acknowledging that he lacks the constitutional power to remove Sanusi from office, Jonathan says the governor is free to return to office once he disproves the ‘acts of financial recklessness’ allegations against him. These supposedly arose from recently received audits of CBN accounts.

Sanusi’s quick response to Jonathan’s allegations was to allege that there was a conspiracy supported by bank chiefs who are unhappy that they would have to open their books to independent auditors so that the missing billions can be tracked.

This view, relating to the role of Nigeria’s banks as likely intermediaries in corrupt flows of funds, has been voiced by Sanusi and other financial experts. Prior to his appointment as CBN governor, Sanusi was chief executive of First Bank Nigeria, through which billions of state oil earnings are transferred between state agencies and other institutions.

Sanusi will meet Justice Gabriel Kolawole later this week when he attends a rescheduled hearing on the case. 

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2014 Menas Associates

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