Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I Have all the Power to Suspend Sanusi -- President Jonathan

Contrary to the Constitution of the country, President Goodluck Jonathan, on Monday claimed that he has all the powers to suspend Mallam Sanusi Lamido as governor of Central Bank, saying he acted in connection with alleged corruption charges against Sanusi with regards to the running of the CBN under him.

Speaking during a media chat anchored by Imoni Amarere of AIT and others, that lasted 75minutes, he spoke on issues raging from the suspension of Sanusi as governor of the CBN. The president also addressed issues on defections by governors and senators from the PDP; the resurgence of Boko Haram attacks in the country, his 2015 presidential bid and the controversies surrounding subsidy on kerosene.

Where did you get the power to suspend the CBN governor?
“The issue of the Central Bank is quite unfortunate but I will respond based on the issues you raised. Forget whether it is Goodluck Jonathan; it is whether the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has powers to suspend the governor of CBN. I will tell you, yes, the President has absolute powers to suspend the CBN governor. CBN is not even well defined in the Nigerian constitution. If you look at the Nigerian constitution, section 153, talks about executive bodies like Federal Character Commission, Civil Service Commission, Judicial Service Commission, about 14 of them, the code of conduct, these are clearly defined and it says that the President appoints, but must clear with the National Assembly.

For the President to remove anybody, the president must go through Senate. CBN as the number one bank is not even well defined in the Nigerian constitution, but CBN law makes the provision that to appoint the governor, deputy governors, and the non-executive directors, the President appoints and sends to Senate but the President has oversight functions over cbn. But if somebody tells you that the CBN is a different country, it is not true because for the cbn governor to change the colour of the Naira, the President must approve and for the CBN account to be even published, the President must approve.

Sanusi is still the governor of CBN and people must know that and that is why there can never be a substantive governor until the issue is sorted out. Sanusi could come back tomorrow to continue his work because the issues raised are issues that the board of CBN with the Financial Reporting Counicl, the authority that has the power to look into the financial transactions of CBN will deal with.

“The issue of suspension came in because the CBN Act is somewhat anomalous. We have similar situations where the CBN governor is also the chairman of the board. The CBN governor is the chief executive of CBN and at the same time is chairman of the CBN board; so if there are allegations about the CBN governor, it becomes a problem for you to look into it. And there were issues raised based on the 2012 audit report and for you to look into those issues, for you to be sure of what you are doing, the CBN governor should just step aside.

Immediately the board and the Financial Reporting Council sorts out those grey areas, and if it does not affect him, he would come back to do his work. So, you cannot say now that you are going to Senate to ask for powers to suspend, then maybe in one week or so, if the board of the Financial Reporting Council… then you go back to the Senate, this man is coming back, no.

“It is when you want to remove the governor completely. Assuming that the board of CBN and Financial Reporting Council look into those grey areas and feel that the infractions are grave enough for Sanusi to leave completely, then I will have to go to Senate no matter the issues they raise. I cannot say that I am firing him, it is the Senate. So, I can place those issues before the Senate and if the Senate agrees with the report, and says yes, then he can leave. The issue of suspension and removal are quite different.”

Defections of governors
“I will prefer we do not go to that area to market my party. I want to use this platform to comment on contemporary issues. I believe one thing very clearly - that we are elected by Nigerians and the days when Mr President, Mr governor or Mr Senator imposes his will on Nigerians is over. Nigerians have been made to understand that their votes count.

The issue is that if the governor is doing very well, the people will definitely follow him, but if the people do not believe in him, they will go with their votes.”

Are you contesting and when are you going to declare your interest?
“If I tell you I am not contesting, there will be issues and if I say I am contesting, there will be issues. I know the political environment is hot now but at the appropriate time, you will know.

On why it took long for the CBN governor to be suspended, he said:
“People raised all kinds of issues that the suspension will affect the economy. When you are dealing with the treasury of the nation, you have to consult widely and take the necessary steps to ensure that it does not affect the economy. One little thing and if issues bordering on the capital market are not taken carefully, it can bring the economy down especially when the Central Bank is involved. When the financial statement was sent to me, I had to send the report to the FRC to seek their opinion. Even if I am the best accountant in the world, I still have to consult widely. It went back and forth. The first report that came to me, issues were raised. Then based on the issues raised, I raised a query to the CBN governor. Of course, the CBN governor now wrote back and I sent it back again to the FRC telling them the response of the CBN governor. It took them time, but what quickly made me to rush to take that decision? By now, the 2013 audit report ought to be published.

One of the things we had to do to stabilise the economy was to send the name of the next CBN governor to the Senate even though the tenure of Sanusi will expire in June in order to tell the international community that we have a succession plan. At any time, if they are through, Sanusi can even come back as CBN governor. So, we want to assure the international community that the succession plan will not affect the economy. It is quite a sensitive thing and you must handle it with care. I really want to use this opportunity to advise people. President Jonathan is a Nigerian, Sanusi is a Nigerian and having been governor of the CBN, he must have stepped on toes.”

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