Prospect for an early resolution of the furore generated by the suspension of Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, was dashed on Wednesday when an Abuja Federal High Court refused an ex parte motion he filed in a bid to set aside his suspension by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The court instead ordered that the President should be put on notice, and fixed March 12 for both sides to argue the motion.
In the motion he filed on February 24, the CBN governor asked the court to reinstate him, and also make an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the President, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Inspector-General of Police from stopping or preventing him from performing the functions of his office and enjoying in full, the statutory powers and privileges attached to the office.
While urging the court to urgently grant the motion, Sanusi had argued that any delay might cause irreparable and serious damage and mischief on him in the exercise of his statutory duties as the CBN governor.
However, Justice Gabriel Kolawole on Wednesday, directed Sanusi to put the defendants on notice to enable them appear before the court to explain why the application should not be granted, stressing that he felt hesitant and constrained to grant Sanusi’s ex parte motion.
The judge explained that it was unsafe to grant far reaching interim orders, which have all the attributes of a mandatory injunction without giving the defendants a hearing.
Also, according to the judge, once the defendants have been served with the originating summons and motion on notice, the court would need to determine whether, considering the Third Alteration Act No. 20 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the Federal High Court has the jurisdiction to entertain the suit or not.
The court said it would rather review Sanusi’s ex parte motion and as a result, directed that the motion be served on Jonathan and the other defendants by March 12, when the application was fixed for hearing.
Should the court determine that it has the jurisdiction to hear the suit, it could declare the suspension unlawful, and order that the plaintiff be returned to perform his duties as the CBN governor.
In the event that the tenure has elapsed, the court could also order the defendants to pay the plaintiff’s remunerations and allowances, if the suspension involved the stoppage of remunerations and allowances.
Sanusi’s motion was supported by two exhibits attached and marked Exhibits AA1 and AA2.
Exhibit AA1 was a copy of a letter dated June 2009 and titled ‘Appointment as Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria’, which stated that as the apex banks governor, he was governed by the Central Bank Act No.7 of 2007 and other terms of service applicable in the CBN.
Exhibit AA2 is a letter dated February 19, 2014, addressed to Sanusi by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, with the title ‘Suspension from Office,’ which notified him of his suspension.
Sanusi in the motion linked his suspension to the discrepancies he reported in the remittances of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to the Federation Account.
He said he discovered certain discrepancies in respect of amounts repatriated to the Federation Account from the proceeds of crude oil sales between the period of January 2012 and July 2013, following which he expressed concern and also informed the National Assembly.
The discrepancies, according to him, “affect the revenue of the federation and the national economy.”
The CBN governor stressed that in purporting to suspend him from office, Jonathan was punishing him for the disclosures he made.
Sanusi argued that his suspension was illegal because the President did not approach nor obtain the support of the Senate before suspending him.
He disclosed that some Senators, particularly former governor of Kwara State, Senator Bukola Saraki, had informed him that Jonathan did not consult the upper legislative chamber before taking the action.
“I have been informed, and I verily believe the information given to me by Senator Bukola Saraki to be true and correct that the Senate did not give the President any support for my purported suspension and removal from office as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria,” he said.
He is also insisting that his purported suspension is contrary to provisions of the CBN Act relating to the appointment and removal of the bank’s governor.
“The suspension is an “unlawful interference in the administration and management of the apex bank and is illegal, null and void,” Sanusi said.
Jonathan, during a Presidential Media Chat on Monday, had said that Sanusi was still the governor of the CBN, and that he could only revert to the Senate if he intended to sack him completely.
Jonathan also denied Sanusi’s claim that the suspension was connected to his disclosures concerning the alleged $20bn missing funds from the NNPC.
The President also hinted at a possible prosecution of the CBN governor, in the event that ongoing investigations established a clear case of fraud against him.
Sanusi had earlier on Friday obtained an order of a Lagos Federal High Court, which restrained the State Security Service, the IGP and the AGF from arresting him.