Tuesday , 25 January 2022
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President: I’ve absolute powers to suspend CBN governor, orders audit of CBN’s accounts

SECRETARY to the Government to the Federation Anyim Pius Anyim has asked the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) to audit the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Acting on President Goodluck Jonathan’s directive, Anyim gave the FRCN six weeks to do job.

The audit is to examine the books showing how suspended CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has run the apex bank.

Sanusi was suspended last Thursday for alleged “misconduct” and “financial recklessness”. He denied any wrongdoing, challenging his accusers to open the books.

The presidential directive – to the FRCN – is believed to be a response to Sanusi’s stand on the row between him and the authorities.

The fresh audit is a follow-up to an earlier on by auditing giants Coopers and Lybrand.

Sanusi has accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of being unable to account for $20 billion oil revenue. The argument was still raging when he was suddenly suspended – an action the President defended last night.

Dr Jonathan said he has “absolute power” to suspend Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi from office.

According to him, it would have been inappropriate to have allowed Sanusi to remain in office while the report of the FRCN, which indicted the CBN 2012 audit report, was being considered. He said because Sanusi is the chairman of the CBN board of directors, it was mandatory for him to be out of office during investigation.

Dr. Jonathan spoke during the “Presidential Media chat” aired on national television.

“Yes, I have absolute power. The CBN is not well defined in the Nigerian Constitution,’’ he said, in response to a question by one of the panelists on the propriety of his action to suspend Sanusi.

Dr Sarah Alade, the most senior deputy governor was appointed to act for Sanusi. Zenith Bank Managing Director Godwin Emefiele has been nominated as CBN governor, to take office on June 2 when Sanusi’s tenure is due to end. The Senate is yet to confirm the appointment.

The President said Sanusi remained the CBN governor and would be allowed back to the office “today or tomorrow”, if he was cleared at the end of investigation.

According to him, the president has oversight functions over the bank. The action against Sanusi, he said, was delayed because of the need to consult widely and not to send a wrong signal.

“When dealing with the treasury of a nation, you have to be careful and consult widely,” Jonathan told the panel.

The President also spoke on the national conference, which he said would start on March 10, his plan to investigate alleged loss of $20b at the NNPC and the Boko Haram insurgency, among others.

Jonathan also faulted the argument that indicted deputy governors should have been suspended along with Sanusi, saying that the head was suspended in order not to interfere with ongoing investigation.

He said the CBN Act will be amended, if need be, to tally with international best practices.

But Jonathan stressed that he cannot direct Sanusi’s prosecution as the CBN Board and the FRCN have the responsibility.

On Sanusi’s prosecution, he said: “People must know how government functions. The government doesn’t just prosecute anybody. No; it is not done that way. Anybody could be accused of everything. Even in normal civil service operation, when you are suspected for fraud, the best …is to place you on suspension and the matter is investigated. At the end of investigation, why they place you on suspension is so that you don’t stay in that office and frustrate the process of investigation. So, government normally places such person on suspension without salary. And if it is a grievous offence, they place you on suspension without salary, but not sacked. Until when they conclude investigations; he may go back if he has no case to answer. If he has a case to answer, that is when they prosecute. “

“These are issues raised by a third party; the Financial Reporting Council is not a member of CBN. So, there could be some issues….probably there could be explanations. I am not saying everything raised there is incriminating on the CBN or Sanusi. No; nobody has said that. So, it will depend on when …It is the board of the CBN and the Financial Reporting Council that will look into those grey areas. And if Sanusi has no case to answer, how will you prosecute somebody that has no case to answer.

“But if he has a case to answer; it depends on the nature of the case. In the public service, there are some cases that if it is not criminal in nature, it is either act of negligence or probably miskick a process he was supposed to follow, he may not necessarily be prosecuted. There may be other sanctions or indictment. So, everything does not end up with prosecution.

“Prosecution can only come if a clear fraud is established. But if a fraud is not established, maybe somebody does not follow due process, or some other issues that are not clearly fraudulent, we may not necessarily prosecute him, even though the person is guilty. So, Nigerians should wait; they should not just talk about prosecution.

He added: “Forget whether it is Goodluck Jonathan, whether the President of Nigeria by virtue of the constitution of Nigeria has power to suspend the governor of CBN, I will tell you yes, the President has absolute powers to suspend the CBN Governor.

“The CBN is not even well defined in the Nigerian constitution. If you look at the Nigerian Constitution, Section 153 talks about executive bodies, like Federal Character Commission, Civil Service Commission, Independent National Electoral Commission, the Judicial Service Commission, about 14 of them and the Code of Conduct. These are clearly defined. The President appoints but the Senate must clear. For the president to remove anybody, he must go through the Senate. The President has oversight over the CBN; so if anybody tells you that the CBN is a different country, it is not true because for the CBN to change the colour of the Naira, the President must approve.”

“And what happens, for the CBN account, because normally when you audit the CBN, you publish it. So, for you to even publish the CBN audited account, the President must approve it. That means the President must accept the CBN’s audited account.”

According to Jonathan, suspension came in because the CBN Act is somehow anomalous. “We have similar issues with other organizations, not just the CBN, where the CBN Governor is also the Chairman of the CBN Board, the CBN governor is the Chief Executive of CBN and, at the same time, the chairman of the CBN Board. So, if there are allegations about the CBN governor, it becomes a problem for you to look into it,” the President said.

He went on: “So, no President will just wake up and a decision, especially when the CBN is involved, whether suspension or removal … you need to consult, you have to do all what it takes and make sure. Probably, I would have even stayed longer than now but when I just realised that in fact February 2013 that the CBN governor sent me the report of the 2012 audit, because the audit report is supposed to be published in the first quarter of the year. So from that time through April there has been correspondence to and fro.

He said he suspended Sanusi when he did because the 2013 audit report is supposed to be published this quarter, “but we have not even finished with 2012”. In fact, I had to give provisional approval to audit 2013 report because we have not finished with 2012″.

Jonathan said he sent the name of Sanusi’s successor immediately, because it is “one of the things we have to do to stablise the system” and to tell the international community that the succession is already there.

The suspension coincides with Sanusi’s alarm that $20b oil money was missing. The President said: “In terms of if the time is appropriate, there is no time that is even appropriate to suspend anybody. But if you need to be suspended, definitely you really have to be suspended.” The issue of $20 billion, well if you look at the issues, it started from February till now, so it is not as if something just came up now because Sanusi spoke about $20 billion. First of all, he spoke about $49.8 billion; everybody was alarmed. Finally, Sanusi said it was $12 billion; later on he said $20 billion.

“Whether it is $49.8 or $12 billion, but whatever, even if is one kobo or one dollar that has disappeared from NNPC, we will find out. That I guarantee you, but while doing that, we must follow the due process.”

On the National Conference, Jonathan said key officials of the conference would be announced on March 3. The conference will start on March 10.

“By our thinking, March 3, we will announce the names of the chairman, the deputy chairman and the secretary and, of course, we will also engage the administrative staff that will work with them and they will start work for at least a week before we invite others to join. And then, I will formally inaugurate it,” Jonathan said.

He also spoke about the country’s centenary celebration, which he said is solely funded by the private sector, except that he would host visiting heads of state.

“The purpose is definitely not to prevent disintegration. Nigeria will not disintegrate. Nigeria will not disintegrate,” he said.

On the Boko Haram insurgency and insecurity in the country, Jonathan said security agents should get kudos, rather than knocks.

On Borno Governor Shettima’s statement – that the Boko Haram fighters are better equipped and motivated – he said: “The statement is a little bit unfortunate because you don’t expect a governor to make that kind of statement and if the governor of Borno State feels that the Nigerian Armed Forces are not useful, he should tell Nigerians. I will pull them out for one month; whether he will stay in that his Government House; just one month, but I will fly back to take over the state.

“But if what he said is correct, I will pull out the military from Borno State for one month and I will go back and take over the state. A governor should be mindful of what he says.

“Yes, there are issues. No matter how frustrated you are, you don’t make this kind of statement.

He said he is not aware that a military administrator was to be sent to Borno State.

On kerosene subsidy, Jonathan said: “I don’t need to be briefed because I was involved. I was the Vice President to the late President (Umaru) Yar’Adua. At about 2008/2009, the international crude oil price dropped significantly; it was 48 dollars and we realised that at that time, the pump price of PMS was 70 to the litre. Of course, kerosine had been 50. And we realised that if we pulled out, Nigerians at that time would have bought PMS at 50 to 60 per litre. And we agreed that we were going to pull out, completely deregulate because if we had pulled out then, the pump price would have dropped. And if the pump price drop, no body will protest. And that is the best time. So those approvals were given. But along the line, the labour leaders were even the people who said, ‘look, this may be short-lived; let’s wait for another six months and if it is stable, then government can pull out’.

Yar’Adua made those approvals; so, we decided to just leave it that way. The petroleum law does not recognise the President but only the minister.

“So, what happened is that instead of keeping the pump price at N70, the President now brought the pump price from 70 to 65. If you look at the whole history, that was the first time the pump price of petrol was brought down. Nigerians would have probably been buying at 60 or 62. But the President brought it at 65 and it was announced and gazzetted.

“When people talk of kerosene that President approved, they would have also talked of PMS. Those are memos from the principal secretary to the President to commence authorising the minister to act. The president has no powers based on the law. But we know that before the minister will effect it, the President must give clearance. So, since the labour people came, every body left it at that stage. The law guiding the price of petroleum products, very clear, for you to increase or decrease the price of any petroleum product, the law says that you must advertise and inform Nigerians in some daily newspapers, state the date and time. If you listen very well, if we want to change the price of petrol, we may say Sunday night so that by Sunday 12 midnight, every station will change. So, somebody going to fill and getting photocopy of documents that were forgotten and starts circulating, I don’t know those issues. To answer your question, kerosene subsidy still remains. I don’t need to be briefed; there was a time that we announced that government had completely deregulated. It was not removed.”

-The Nation

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