The controversy surrounding the planned exit of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, deepened on Thursday with the governor insisting that he would not quit the post until his term expired on June 2, 2014.
In line with his vow, which many analysts see as a direct confrontation with President Goodluck Jonathan, Sanusi has said he will not proceed on his terminal leave in March as initially being speculated.
The President had reportedly asked the CBN governor to resign immediately because of the alleged deliberate leakage of the letter that Sanusi wrote to him in which the governor accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation of not remitting $49.8bn crude oil revenue to the Federation Account.
Sanusi was said to have denied leaking the letter to former President Olusegun Obasanjo or anyone for that matter, and allegedly told the President that he could only be removed by two-thirds of members of the Senate as required by law.
The governor reportedly told the President that the letter was available in the Presidential Villa, the Ministry of Finance and the CBN, and wondered how he could be accused of leaking it.
Sanusi reportedly told the President during their heated telephone exchange that he would not be forced out of office. He reiterated that only the voting by two-thirds of the Senate could remove him and not a presidential fiat.
Sources said on Thursday that Sanusi expressed his determination to remain in office until the expiration of his one-term tenure of five years on June 2 during a meeting with top management officers of the bank on Wednesday.
The Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Ugochukwu Okoroafor, who confirmed the development in Abuja on Thursday said the governor used the opportunity provided by the “family meeting” to clear doubts surrounding the expiration of his tenure.
“The CBN is an important organisation in the economy of this country and we have to be careful in whatever we do because our actions send a strong message to the economy as a whole.
“The governor had a meeting with officials of the central bank and it was like a family meeting; and in that meeting, he made it clear that he is not going anywhere until his tenure expires in June.
“He is not proceeding on retirement leave by March as being speculated; rather, he will be retiring on June 2 this year when he will be completing his five-year single tenure.”
According to Okoroafor, the CBN governor will formally announce his retirement in March, when his successor is expected to be named, and will remain in office until June 2.
Both chambers of the National Assembly declined comments on the alleged plan by the Federal Government to sack Sanusi.
The spokesperson for the Senate, Eyinnaya Abaribe, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Zakari Mohammed, said the National Assembly would not be dragged into “a mere rumour.”
Also yesterday, the All Progressives Congress (APC) advised Jonathan not to force Sanusi out of office because of such an action’s implication for the economy.
The opposition party said the President should not destroy the institution.
In a statement by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the party said “asking the CBN governor to step down, on the basis of a mere allegation that he leaked the letter he wrote to the President, over the unremitted $49.8billion oil revenue does not bode well for an economy that is already on crutches”.
It warned that any move to suspend Sanusi and use security forces to prevent him from entering his office, would mean that the President is willing to circumvent the provision of the law that the governor of the CBN can only be removed by two-thirds of the Senate membership.
The APC said suspending Sanusi would be a replay of the damage that President Jonathan did to the judiciary when he suspended Justice Ayo Salami until his retirement, and he could easily re-enact such a scenario if, for example, he feels that the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has offended him.
‘’Our worry here is that the President should not destroy our institutions before he leaves office,’’ the party said.
It said the party’s main reason for commenting on the planned removal of Sanusi, either through forced retirement or via suspension, is the impact that a crisis of confidence between the President and the CBN Governor will have on the nation’s economy.
‘’These include a loss of confidence in the economic management of the country, leading to uncertainty among domestic and foreign investors; as well as pressure on the exchange rate as foreign portfolio investors in government bonds and the stock market make their exit, and the corresponding fall in the value of share prices.
‘’Overall, a protracted standoff between the President and the CBN Governor will spell bad news for economic growth and employment and increase poverty. This is why we advise President Jonathan against precipitating a crisis in the economy, and we urge all Nigerians to advise him against such,’’ the APC said.
In APC’s view there was nothing wrong in a CBN Governor alerting the President to any discrepancy he may have noticed in the remittance of revenue from oil, which is the mainstay of the economy, adding that such action is expected from any CBN Governor who is worth his salt.
It said there is no reason to believe that Sanusi leaked the letter he wrote to the President, especially because the CBN Governor wrote the letter in September and the letter was not leaked until December.
‘’It stands to reason that if the CBN Governor had wanted to leak the letter, he had no reason waiting for four months to do so. Also, the moment the letter was sent to Mr. President, it had gone beyond the purview of the CBN Governor and anyone with a reason to do so could as well have leaked the letter.
“For the President to have made the extraordinary move to force out the CBN Governor, even though he has a few months to the end of his tenure, smacks of vendetta and is capable of impacting negatively on the economy. Circumventing the law to force out the CBN Governor will amount to brigandage and reinforce the perception of the Jonathan Administration as one with a propensity for impunity,’’ the APC said.