LAMIDO SANUSI: PATRIOT OR VILLAIN?
BY LES LEBA
Whistleblowers certainly have a role to play to promote accountability in public administration; however, when a nation’s Central Bank Governor turns whistleblower on an issue of substantial revenue misappropriation, then, alarm bells must ring, as the credibility of the administration, which the same Central Bank Governor serves would be called to question.
Consequently, in view of the adverse and far-reaching impact of the public statements of any Central Bank Governor, it may be considered as sabotage, or at best, reckless, if a false allegation of failure to remit a humongous sum of $49.8bn to the public treasury was made without due diligence or circumspection from such a strategic agency of government. Besides, even if Sanusi’s revelation was true, it will still be a clear demonstration of an absence of ministerial coordination between the NNPC, CBN and the Finance Ministry!
Undoubtedly, the integrity of the Nigerian government and the credibility of the CBN Governor must have been badly tarnished by Sanusi’s speedy somersault within two days, from an alleged revenue shortfall of $49bn to $12bn, and then up again to $20bn, in February 2014! One may be forgiven for asking if so much money could have been stolen while the CBN Governor slumbered or helplessly watched the perpetration of this fraud from January 2012 to July 2013!
In serious-minded economies elsewhere, the incumbent governor will be compelled by the publication of such obvious inconsistency to voluntarily resign and slip away with his tail between his legs! Thus, Sanusi’s obvious statistical faux pas and regular denouncements of the quality of governance in Nigeria may be pardoned as patriotic outbursts, if, he, himself, enshrined accountability in the management of the CBN. Not surprisingly, therefore, the populist view is that Sanusi stands on a higher moral ground than the government in which he serves; consequently, his suspension from office is seen as an attempt to muzzle and also punish him for alleged patriotic whistle-blowing on the misdirection of government revenue!
Conversely, however, apparently concerned with media report of CBN’s direct interventions in various sectors of the economy with billions of naira, the Presidency had in fact, invited the office of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) to carry out preliminary investigations into some of the perceived indiscretions of the CBN Governor! The FRC apparently submitted its findings to the Presidency by April 2013; i.e. five months before Lamido raised the false alarm of unremitted $49.8bn in his letter of September 25, 2013. Sanusi has since confirmed receiving a copy of the report of financial recklessness in CBN as far back as June 2013; however, he admitted late last week, in an interview with a national newspaper, that he did not respond to the allegations because he was not formally asked to do so, until he received his letter of suspension from office in February 2014!
We recall that in the September 2013 letter to President Jonathan, the CBN Governor had reported that the unlawful withholding of federation’s funds by NNPC had subsisted for many years, but he failed to explain why he chose to only bring up this matter for attention almost four months after the receipt of the damning report of the FRC! Some elder citizens will see this drama and recall the logjam of ‘YOU TAKA ME, I DABO YOU’ in the politics of the old middle belt; the slogan is loosely translated as “before you discredit me, I will damage you”!
Some of the more weighty allegations in the FRC’s report include an expenditure of N160bn ($1bn) direct intervention funds in several sectors, without legislative appropriation (i.e., CBN’s expenditure on projects were outside its mandate). The sum of N1.257bn was also spent on lunch for Police and private guards, while the sum of N38.233bn was allegedly also paid, for currency printing, to the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company in 2011, whereas inexplicably, the total turnover for NSPMC for that year was N29.370bn; the CBN was also reported to have failed to comply with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act!
It is surprising, however, that rather than state his own defence to the FRC’s damning report, Sanusi chose instead to challenge his suspension as CBN Governor; according to him, “in order to assert the autonomy of CBN from presidential interference.”
Indeed, if Sanusi’s statistics with regard to oil remittances are grossly unreliable, we may, belatedly question the validity of the statistical and accounting data adopted in 2009 for the classification of failed and performing loans and ultimately, also suspect the validity of the probably, unjustified takeover of some viable commercial banks, in confirmation of the newspaper scoop “Plot to Takeover Five Top Banks in Nigeria” in Vanguard’s edition of March 23, 2009, i.e. three months before Sanusi’s appointment in June 2009!
Regrettably, the above notwithstanding, Lamido’s strategic and preemptive propaganda and the covert mischief in his September 2013 letter to Jonathan, will still make it difficult to convince some Nigerians that Sanusi is the real villain in this drama!
However, one wonders if such public opinion would have been different, if Sanusi had been suspended or recommended to the Senate for removal before he wrote his controversial September 2013 letter to President Jonathan. It is clear, however, that with the existing political polarization of the legislature, the opposition would have gladly adopted any perceived enemy of Jonathan as a bosom friend!
Consequently, Mr. President must have been well advised on the adverse local and international impact of bringing the damning content of the FRC’s report on his government's Central Bank governor into the public domain!
In this event, it is commendable that Mr. President strategically avoided heating up the polity and scaring away investors by bidding his time and easing out the ebullient Governor a few months before his retirement, so as to also allow unfettered investigation into the FRC’s report. Even President Jonathan’s most ardent critics would agree that it would be impossible for proper investigation to be carried out on the FRC’s report, while Sanusi, as the accused, remained in control of the apex bank!
SAVE THE NAIRA, SAVE NIGERIANS!!