Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati has disclosed that the suspension of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi on Wednesday was purely based on the investigation being carried out by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria since May last year.
Abati who briefed State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, said that the suspension has nothing to do with the appearances of Sanusi or his claims before the Senate Investigative committee on the alleged missing money from the Federation Account.
Abati said that there is no cause for anxiety by the stakeholders and the international community as Nigeria’s monetary policy remains the same despite the suspension, adding that the government remains committed to the stability of the economy, stability of the naira and stability of the country’s monetary policies.
Stressing that the investigation on Sanusi Lamido’s financial recklessness is still on-going, he said that there is nothing wrong in naming a successor for his position months to the expiration of his tenure.
According to him, President Goodluck Jonathan has not flouted the CBN Act or any law as he did not ‘remove’ the CBN governor but ‘suspended’ him, adding that he who has the power to hire also has the power to suspend.
“On the suspension of the CBN governor, the statement was very clear that the president has had to take this decision as part of attempt to strengthen the CBN to ensure that that apex bank continues to be symbol for prudence, integrity and accountability.”
“That statement also made it clear that there has been issue regarding the financial recklessness and also violation of due process and the mandate of the CBN. And in that statement of course it was then made clear that with Mallam Sanusi proceeding on suspension, the most senior Deputy governor Dr. Sarah Alade will assume the office in an acting capacity until various reported breaches have been investigated and resolved.”
“Since that announcement there has been many inquiries particularly with regards to the point of financial recklessness and breaches, there has also been a lot of speculation in both local and foreign media. There has been an expression of anxiety.”
“On the issue of anxiety, I think nobody needs to be anxious this decision has not been taken on the country’s monetary policy, the monetary policy of the country remains the same and there is stability in the system and so investors in the Nigerian economy have no reason whatsoever to fear.”
“That decision was taken only with regards to internal governance issue within the central bank. In the statement issues raised were very clear that there are issues of internal governance. Government remains committed to the stability of the economy, stability of the naira and stability of the country’s monetary policies.”
“The lady who has taken over in acting capacity has been long within the system and so everyone can remain assured that there will be stability and that the institution will remain very strong.”
Abati noted that there were issues of financial recklessness and unprofessional conduct but that did not happen today. It is not as if this is a sudden development, but that it’s been a long process dating back to last year.”
“Last year when the CBN submitted it’s financial statement for the year ended 31st December 2012, a query was raised about some of the issues in the financial statement and the CBN governor was asked to offer some clarification with regards to these issues. This was around first week of May 2013. A response came from the CBN which was then forwarded to the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria.”
“And the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria by its Act is empowered to review the accounts of the CBN and if there is course for investigation, to conduct such investigation. And if there is need also to invite other bodies to further investigate, the law makes allowance for that.”
“And that took place. And some of the outcomes of that process relates to the issues raised about financial recklessness,” he added
Abati said that few of the allegations which Sanusi was being investigated for include the persistent refusal and negligence to comply with public procurement act in the procurement practices of the CBN; unlawful expenditure by the CBN on intervention projects across the country, deploying huge sums of money as the CBN did under the watch of Mallam Sanusi without appropriation and outside the CBN’s statutory mandate.
“It is said that the expenditure of public funds of course by any organ of government must be based on clear legal mandate, prudent constrain and overriding nation interest. And then financial infraction and act of financial recklessness committed by the CBN and reflected in its audited financial statement for 2012.”
“If you need more details I will be glad to provide those details because is a long list of infractions. But it is on the basis of all of this and to allow for further investigations that the CBN governor has been asked to step aside.”
He said that rather than alley the fear of government on those allegations, the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria confirmed concerns about the untidy manner in which the affairs of the CBN were conducted.
Abati said the suspension has nothing to do with Sanusi’s ongoing appearances in the National Assembly, noting that the government remains committed to ensuring integrity and accountability and discipline in every sector of the economy.
“And it encourages persons who have issues, who have things to say to expressed their rights through the freedom of expression under the constitution. Indeed the government of Nigeria is also interested in what the legislature is doing and do not be surprise if government goes further to initiate further audits as has been suggested in some quarters.”
“And indeed we look forward to a situation whereby Mr. Sanusi will continue to assist the legislature in their investigations and will continue to testify because what government is interested in really is transparency and accountability and anything that will further promote that objective is perfectly welcome.” He said
Abati said there was nothing untidy about the hurried manner in which Sanusi, whose tenure expires in June was sacked, adding that “You know there are two vacancies, the suspended governor was due to retire in June and with the retirement of former Deputy governor Tunde Lemo, there was also a vacancy at the deputy governor’s level.”
“In many countries of the world, you do not wait till the last minute before you appoint successor particularly into a position in such a strategic institutions as the CBN. You allow room for proper transition and for the market to get to know who the new persons are.”
“And with regards to the position of the CBN governor, I think announcing the nomination for that position is good for the market, it builds confidence, it reassures the market that there is no crisis, there is stability and that the institution is in good standing.”
Abati said that he was not aware of the alleged threat by Sanusi to challenge the illegality of his suspension or any order given for Sanusi’s arrest. “I’m not aware of any directive that he should be arrested as at this moment. But of course you know that under the enabling act of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, where an indictment is established and all that, the law could take its course but as at this moment, I’m not aware of any directive that he should be arrested.”
“The second one when you say the illegality of his suspension, I do not understand what you mean by that, although I am aware that some people are saying oh this is illegal but it is not.”
“People who talk about illegality, they are referring to Section 11 Sub Section 2 of the CBN Act. Now under that provision, the reference is to removal of the CBN governor by the president and there is a qualification there saying that provided that removal is supported by 2/3rd majority of the Senate.”
“But what the president has done, is not removal, it is suspension. You know you do not read the provision in isolation, you read them together and the interpretation Act, if you read all of these provisions together,the thrash point is that he who hires can also has the power to suspend.”
“So if you have the power to appoint, you also have the power to suspend. What has happened is not removal, it is suspension and that is perfectly within the purview of the law.”