The House of Representatives witnessed a rowdy session on Thusday over the suspension of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, by President Goodluck Jonathan and the nomination of his replacement.
At the end of the rowdy session, however, the House passed a motion condemning Sanusi’s suspension, just as several groups, including the All Peoples Congress and the Centre for Social Justice declared the president’s action legal.
Thursday’s rowdy session followed a motion of urgent national importance moved by the minority whip of the House, Samson Osagie, who contended that the president had powers only to remove the CBN governor but could not suspend him.
Usage frowned at the suspension of the CBN governor at a time when he had opened a can of worms about missing funds in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
“There are funds that are alleged to have been missing and we have not found those funds; the man who is making the allegations, whether he is corrupt or not, is being removed from office,” he observed.
Osagie maintained that under the CBN Act, “the CBN Governor cannot be suspended, he can only be removed.”
He said further: “The truth must be told that under the circumstance, the issue of the missing funds ought to have been resolved…and if Sanusi is found to have blown an alarm that is misplaced, then you can sack him”.
Osagie’s motion, however, sailed throughout in spite of the rowdy session, with the House mandating a joint committee to compile A list of all resolutions which had indicted public officials for the president to take action.
Also reacting to the CBN governor’s suspension, the All Progressives Congress, APC, said the move by the President is illegal , poorly thought-out and in bad taste, noting too that it is the clearest indication that President Jonathan, whose body language does not abhor corruption, is willing to silence any whistle-blower, no matter his or her status.
Speaking on behalf of the party, interim national publicity secretary, Lai Mohammed, said while Section 11 (f) of the CBN Act 2007 empowers the President to remove the CBN Governor, the section is clear that he can only do so if he has the support of two-thirds majority of the Senate.
The CBN Act in section 11 specifically provides that:
11. – (1) A person shall not remain a Governor, Deputy Governor or Director of the Bank if he is –
(a) a member of any Federal or State legislative house; or
(b) a Director, officer or employee of any bank licensed under the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act.
(2) The Governor, Deputy Governor or Director shall cease to hold office in the Bank if he –
(a) becomes of unsound mind or, owing to ill health, is incapable of carrying out his duties;
(b) is convicted of any criminal offence by a court of competent jurisdiction except for traffic offences or contempt proceedings arising in connection with the execution or intended execution of any power or duty conferred under this Act or the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act;
(c) is guilty of a serious misconduct in relation to his duties under this Act;
(d) is disqualified or suspended from practicing his profession in Nigeria by order of a competent authority made in respect of him personally;
(e) becomes bankrupt;
(f) is removed by the President:
Provided that the removal of the Governor shall be supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed.(underlining supplied).
According to the APC, the reasons given by the presidency for Sanusi’s suspension are as puerile as they are unprecedented, and amount to calling the dog a bad name just to hang it.
“Why has it taken almost five years of Sanusi’s tenure for the President to realize the irregularities of CBN under Sanusi? Why is the President acting on questionable allegations against Sanusi at a time the CBN Governor has opened the can of worms in the NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation)? Why has a President, who has always treated glaring corruption allegations against his political appointees with so much levity, now so quick to move against a CBN Governor who has never been accused, let alone indicted of corruption?” the party queried.
The APC also expressed serious concerns at the implication of Sanusi’s suspension for the nation’s economy, especially on the value of the Naira; local and international investments; the stock market; inflation and the overall health of the economy.
“Coming at a time when the economy was already under pressure due to internal and external factors and is in need of significant investments in several sectors, such as power and manufacturing to maintain its economic growth rates, the uncertainty caused by the suspension will leave both local and international investors questioning the economic direction of the country and therefore their investment approach to Nigeria,” it stressed.
In the same vein, the Centre for Social Justice, CSJ, has said that there is no legal basis of the President’s action considering that the suspension cannot be justified under any of the subsections in Section 11 of the CBN Act.
“To the best of our knowledge, the Senate has not delivered any prayer to the President for Sanusi’s removal. The law only recognizes removal as the term “suspension” is unknown to the CBN Act. If the “far reaching irregularities and breaches of enabling laws, due process and mandate” have not been investigated as indicated in the presidential statement, then the removal was based on mere conjecture without even a prima facie evidence of the allegations,” the CSJ said.
The group also notes that suspending the CBN Governor at a time he raised serious allegations of corruption against the NNPC and its opaque procedures is an apparent endorsement of corruption, a validation of fiscal impunity and assault of incalculable proportions on the rule of law.
The CSJ therefore advised the President to reverse the suspension, recall the suspended bank Governor and tread the path of legality.
Even as the uproar attending Sanusi’s suspension continued, the President swiftly nominated the managing director of Zenith Bank Plc, Godwin Emefiele as his replacement.
In a letter to the Senate President, David Mark, for approval of the nomination, the president said the request was in view of the fact that the tenure of the incumbent would end on June 1.
The letter was read by the deputy senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary.
The letter read in part: “Pursuant to the provisions of section 8(1) and (2) of the CBN Act of 2007, I hereby forward the name of Mr Godwin Emefiele for your kind consideration and confirmation.”
The president had earlier appointed the most senior deputy governor in the bank, Sarah Alade, as acting Governor, pending the confirmation of Emefiele’s nomination.
In a separate letter, the president asked the Senate to confirm Mr Adelabu Adekola as a deputy governor with CBN.
The president expressed the hope that the letters would be handled in the usual expeditious tradition of the Senate.
Meanwhile, Sanusi has vowed to challenge his suspension in court, saying that the move impinges on the independence of the CBN.
Speaking to the cable news network, CNBC Africa, in Niamey, the Nigerien capital, where he was attending a conference of the West African currency zone with other governors of the Central Banks in West African as at the time the news of his suspension broke, Sanusi said he would want the court to establish once and for all if the President has the powers to do what he has done.
“It has never been my desire to hold on to a job. However, I believe if the CBN governor cannot be removed from office, then he cannot be suspended. He can be queried, but the exercise of the arbitrary decision to remove him must be challenged,” the suspended bank chief said.