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Published On: Tue, Feb 25th, 2014

Sanusi Remains CBN Governor-President Jonathan

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President Goodluck Jonthan (l) and Sanusi Lamido (r)

LAGOS FEBRUARY 25TH (URHOBOTODAY)-President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday evening finally opened up on the reasons for the suspension of Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, insisting that it was not borne out of politics or personal issues with the suspended governor as being peddled.
He said, instead, that it was borne out of his administration’s belief to do the right thing and ensure that an institution as sensitive as the CBN is free of any scandal or allegation that could undermine the country’s economic pursuits.
Disclosing this during a presidential chat he had with select media executives, Jonathan maintained that Sanusi remains the CBN Governor despite being suspended for alleged financial impropriety.
He said this was the reason he filled the position with a deputy governor in the financial institution as the acting governor, pending when issues against Sanusi are resolved by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) and the board of the CBN. He also said the suspension of Sanusi was made to give the two bodies the independence to investigate the allegations against him, since he is also the chairman of the CBN board.
“The issue of the Central Bank is unfortunate but on whether the president has powers to suspend, I will tell you yes! The president has absolute powers”, he said, noting that the president appoints, but must clear with the Senate to remove anybody in that capacity.
“The president has oversight functions over the CBN”, Jonathan added, saying that is the reason the president approves audited accounts of the CBN or any changes to be made on the country’s currency.
Sanusi is still the Governor of CBN and Nigerians must know that”, he announced.
According to Jonathan, the issue of suspension came up because the Act is anomalous. He said the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria came up with some grey areas following the auditing of the 2012 financial activities of the bank but that the sanction against Sanusi was long due to the delay in replying correspondences between him, Sanusi and the FRCN.
“If the grey areas are settled by the FRCN and they feel that the infractions are real, then I will go to the senate. I cannot say I am firing him”, he said in defence of his action.
He added that Nigerians need to be careful in passing comments and publishing stories about the suspension since it is sensitive and the FRCN is still investigating the allegations and Sanusi could be recalled if he is not found wanting.
He said the delay in the handling of the 2012 audited report was the reason the 2013 audited report was not ready against the rule that it should be ready within the first quarter of the year.
On the $20 billion allegation by Sanusi, the president said the issues started since February, when Sanusi mentioned $49 billion.
He said he got calls from all over the world with people asking if such huge amount, more than the aid to Africa, could disappear like that. He said Sanusi later gave conflicting figures.
“I don’t even know which one to believe anymore”, he said, declaring however that even if the amount is mere N1, it would be investigated and nobody indicted would go free.
He said he first issued Sanusi a query in April last year and another one in May, arguing that Sanusi was not fired because he blew the whistle on the missing $20 billion.
“In societies, we must respect the rule irrespective of whose ox is gored”, he said, adding that the CBN act needed to be amended as there were issues like the governor heading the board that needed to change. He also added that the sanction for Sanusi would depend on the nature of the case. He said last year, the National Assembly wanted to amend the CBN Act, but some wrong signals were sent that government wanted to amend the Act to subject it to its control.
“It was a private member bill. We pleaded with the National Assembly to step it down and they suspended it…There are aspects of the CBN that should be autonomous. Not every aspect…The issue of monetary policy, if the CBN wants to devalue the naira or strengthen it, they don’t need to take any permission from anybody”, he noted.
On the reason he did not also suspend the deputy governors indicted with Sanusi, he said they could not all be removed so as to keep the CBN running.
The president, who also cleared the air on the controversy surrounding kerosene subsidy, further said he was confident of the capability of the military to arrest terrorism against the statement credited to the Borno state governor that the Boko Haram members are more sophisticated than the Nigerian military.
“We are working very hard and there are successes, but nobody talks about successes, but the failures”, he said. He expressed hopes that terrorism in the country, though a global issue, would be resolved, as the committee set up to look into the issue of resolving with Boko Haram has resulted in several smaller committees. He however said the challenge the government had was that, unlike the militants in the Niger Delta, the Boko Haram members do not have an identity.
He also denied alleged plans by the government to declare full emergency in Borno State as claimed by the All Progressives Congress (APC). He expressed hopes that the country’s electricity challenges would be resolved soon with the successful privatisation of the sector.
President Jonathan also stated that those to be honoured during the centenary celebration of the country are people who have contributed enormously to the unity and development of the country. For those with the posthumous award, the honour goes to their children and grand children, he said.
He also denied that government was spending huge sums on funding of the centenary programme. He said, though, he could not give a figure to spent, the total cost would be borne by the private sector as the government would only be responsible for guests and heads of states and governments that would be visiting at that period.
He said the much-touted Centenary City is yet to be built because of the challenge of where to get land. He also said government is not going to spend on building the city, as funding for it would come from the private sector.
On the National Conference, he said he decided that issues involving the breaking up of Nigeria would not be discussed because no president would want to preside over the disintegration of his country. He said the briefing he received from the committee that travelled round the country relating to the confab was that out of the thousands of proposals submitted, only one person actually talked about disintegration.
“On the 3rd of March, we would announce the chairman, deputy chairman and secretary for the conference before we inaugurate participants later on the 10th. From then they would start work. If there are other changes you would know”, he said.
He also warned Nigerians against making provocative statements, saying a number of laws would be reviewed at the end of the conference. He expressed difficulty in accommodating all interest groups during the conference, saying this is why in most cases, only two participants are picked from groups in the country, including political parties.
On defecting governors of PDP, he said: “I would prefer that we don’t go to that area because I wouldn’t want to use that platform to market my party. I believe very clearly, that they are all elected by Nigerians. If a governor moves from party A to party B, he would not carry the people along. It depends on how people assess him, if he has done well for the state or not”.
He refused to state if he was seeking re-election. According to him, whether he declared now to run or not, the declaration would create more problems. Therefore, he said he would make his decision known at the right time.

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