Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has justified his insistence on blowing the whistle on the purported missing cash from the Federation Account.
According to Sanusi, if courting controversy will lead to improved governance and transparency, he’s okay by it.
Speaking in Lagos on Monday night hours after he spilled the beans before Senators in Abuja, he said: “I love controversy”
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) yesterday accused him of raising false alarm.
Sanusi told the Senate committee on Finance that “it is established that of the $67billion crude shipped by the NNPC between January 2012 and July 2013, $47billion was remitted to the Federation Account.
“There is no dispute that $20billion has not been paid into any account into the CBN.”
Speaking of the Standard West African Investors’ conference in Lagos, he said the noise around him and the oil sector is good for the country because it has positive implications for the country and its citizens.
Sanusi got the backing yesterday of the President of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS), Ariyo Olushekun, who said: “It’s a huge amount of money, whether $10 billion or $20 billion or any amount, this runs into trillions of naira. Such figures should not be missing; every government agency should be able to account for the incomes through them.
“There should be continuous and regular reconciliation of accounts between the CBN and the NNPC as well as other agencies too.
“A situation where a certain amount, no matter the size, is missing, is not healthy for the economy and the citizenry.”
“A lot of good things are happening in some areas. Let’s not get carried away by all the bad news. Even what looks like bad news, is good. A lot of the noise that is happening in the country today around me, and the oil sector is good for the country.
“Because if at the end of the day, this leads to improved governance and oil revenues; if it leads to improved transparency; if it leads to people being called to explain what they have done with money, that is good for the system. People must not see controversy and noise as unnecessarily bad. I love controversy,” he said.
The Governor added that “Because if you think there has to be a change, and if you think a system needs to be improved, if you get too comfortable with the system, you should ask yourself, what has happened to you?.”
Sanusi explained that the problem with government revenues bothered on leakages. “If you look at government spending in 2013, it wasn’t much higher than what we had in 2012. And the fiscal policy is not in itself loose on the basis of government spending.
“The real challenge is that there are things we can do to block some of the revenue shortfalls in solving these problems like checking oil theft and bunkering, among others.”
Sanusi said people should learn to take bold and courageous steps in the course of doing their jobs.
“You need to step on a few toes. Annoy a few people. Allow people step on your toes and be annoyed once in a while,” he said.
Sanusi described Nigerians as resilient and hardworking. “And I tell you, we have in this country, tens of millions of ambitious and dynamic hardworking people. What we need is to be able to cross that hurdle of translating the vision into reality.
“Look beyond the short term, and see the potentials of this country in terms of the demographics, the population, the improving governance, and you will come to realise that this is one of the best investment destinations in Africa,” he told the investors.
He said the banking sector reforms were not targeted at any individual, but meant to see an improved and sustainable financial sector.
He said debtors whose names were published in newspapers would definitely come after him, after leaving office.
“We published all the names all the people that borrowed huge amounts from Nigerian banks and had not paid back. It was a list of who-is-who in Nigeria. I still have that list and I know they are still going to come back to me after I leave office. But whenever they hit me I will say, at least I got them,” he said.
He said banks don’t fail, but are destroyed.
Reviewing the CBN under his leadership, Sanusi said he had been able to build confidence in the sector by guaranteeing depositors’ funds. “Before now, if a bank fails, it is the fault of the people who put their money in the bank. If a bank fails, shareholders lose their money and customers lose money and the management walks away.
In this country, people just set up banks, fleece the depositors and walk away. They became multi-millionaires, captains of industries, set up new banks or moved into new industries,” he said.
The Governor said most of the big debtors did not know the difference between debt and equity. This class of debtors, he said, borrowed money from banks, without any intension of paying back. They knew that the worst that would happen is that the banks would be handed over to the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).
“Today, if there is one thing that has changed, it is that everybody now understands that the depositors will be protected. That as much as possible, we will make sure that the depositors are protected. People told me you cannot do that.
“What you are saying is that people can mismanage banks and you will stand behind the banks. And I said, you know what, immediately you give a banking licence, you have assumed a moral hazard. You have the primary moral responsibility to protect the depositors,” he said.
The CBN Governor said the hike in Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) was meant to bring stability to the financial system and protect shareholders’ funds.
“To protect the shareholders, you have to ensure that you take the risks that ensure that what you give them year-on-year is sustained. We want to get away with this boom and bust scenario where people give very high returns in one or two years, and the next year, the bank will collapse,” he said.