From the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), one single limitation to their optimal performance is lack of independence and autonomy.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg Television Africa, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who was suspended Thursday from office as governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by President Goodluck Jonathan, had emphasised the need for independence of the apex bank if it must discharge well its responsibilities. He said that any undermining of the CBN’s independence may hurt the economy.
Sanusi said: “The CBN is a very strong institution that needs a strong leader and I think one of the things we have achieved over the last four or five years is to show that we can have an independent Central Bank in Africa.
“It is extremely important from the fiscal side, it is extremely important from the governance side, that the governor of the Central Bank is able to speak independently of political authority and raise an alarm and concerns, and give constructive criticism and advice.”
Incidentally, it appears it was that belief in the independence of CBN from all forms of meddlesomeness that may have brought him into collision with the powers that be.
Sanusi’s suspension may have been a fall out of the upheaval that trailed his allegations and inconsistency over the non-remittance of oil revenues to the Federation Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
He may have stirred the hornets’ nest in September last year, when he alleged in a letter to President Jonathan, that the NNPC had failed to remit $49.8 billion in oil proceeds to the Federation Account over a 19-month period.
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo made reference to the letter as an example of the theft of public funds going on under the Jonathan administration in his controversial missive to the President.
NNPC, however, accused Sanusi of acting out of ignorance and mischief, as it claimed that the figures bandied in the letter by Sanusi were still being reconciled by all the relevant stakeholders, including officials of CBN.
In reaction to public outcry over the issue, the Senate last December asked its Committee on Finance, chaired by Ahmed Makarfi ,to investigate the issue. When he first appeared before the Committee in December, Sanusi said only $12 billion was yet to be reconciled out of the earlier $49.8 billion he had alleged was unremitted.
However, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, minister of Finance and coordinating minister for the economy, had said it was $10.8 billion that was yet to be reconciled and not $12.8 billion.
While the NNPC insisted that the $10.8 billion had been judiciously spent, Sanusi once again came up with a fresh $20 billion allegation, which may have riled and embarrassed his employers.
Earlier this year, Sanusi had reportedly engaged the President in a slanging match over an allegation that the former leaked the letter he wrote to Jonathan to former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
The alleged exchange of words followed the order by the President, asking Sanusi to resign. The now-suspended CBN boss had turned down the order, saying that he would not be forced out of office until June, when his tenure was expected to elapse.
Observers strongly believe that the suspension had the imprimatur of some powerful cabals in the system who may be feeling
NWACHUKWUuncomfortable with the gale of allegations he was dishing out.
Reacting to the suspension, Oby Ezekwesili, a former World Bank vice president for Africa, said: “For CBN governor to be suspended when serious issue of missing $20 billion that he raised remains unresolved, shows intolerance for accountability.”
Does it mean Sanusi is being shoved aside to pave the way for the alleged fraud to thrive without let? Could it be that the alleged missing money is being kept to prosecute the Jonathan now-veiled re-election bid? Is Abuja trying to lay credence to the insinuation in some quarters that the NNPC is Mr. President’s ATM? Why the desperation? Does it mean the establishment wants to gag critics? What then happens to the issues raised by Sanusi? It is our hope that answers to these questions will be public in no time at all.