THOSE in the legal profession knew from the outset that the 2007 Act of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, was basically flawed by allowing the Governor of the Bank to also occupy the position of Chairman of its Board of Directors.
We foresaw the dangers of a power-drunk governor exploiting this structural weakness in wreaking havoc on the nationâ€™s financial system. That was one of the major reasons why the 7th National Assembly tried in 2012 to amend the CBN Act.
The lawmakers were convinced that the law, as it was (and still is) neither contained enough checks and balances, nor promoted transparency and accountability.
The process of amendment, currently kept in abeyance, was being fiercely resisted by the suspended Governor of the Bank, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who continued to mobilise public sentiments through media campaigns and, in several cases, by donating cash and projects, using public funds. What many Nigerians did not know, and are just finding out, rather painfully, is that Sanusi has been abusing the national treasury over which he was appointed to watch.
When on Thursday, February 20, 2014, the Presidency announced the suspension of Sanusi from office, his immediate reaction was rather curious. â€œI am surprised, it took Government so long to take this actionâ€, he was quoted to have said.
The suspended governor knew what he was talking about. Indeed, he was inadvertently drawing attention to the fact that he had been under investigation for quite some time now; that, as far back as June 2013, the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, FRCN, had submitted a report to the President which indicted him of various acts of fraud and mismanagement of the CBN, found him guilty of â€œfinancial recklessness and misconductâ€ and recommended, among others, that the President should, by evoking Section II(2) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007, â€œcause the Governor and the Deputy Governor to cease from holding office in the CBNâ€.
But before going into some of the shocking revelations of the FRCN report, the question is: Why are some Nigerians shedding tears for the suspended governor? The answer is simple. First, we, Nigerians, are a very gullible people. We hardly learn by our experiences.
Even those of us who proclaim, with confidence, that we can never be tricked by conmen or money-doublers or such fraudsters find ourselves, every now and then, victims of these men and women. The suspended CBN governor wears the appearance of an innocent professional; he is articulate and always sanctimonious in talk.
Until the revelations, by the FRCN report, of the sordid and shameful events that led to the Presidentâ€™s decision to suspend Sanusi, many Nigerians believed that he was a man who could never contemplate anything indecent, not to talk of fraud.
The truth, however, is that Sanusi plotted and strategised for everything right from when he was appointed governor of the CBN in 2009. From that time, he knew where he was going and what he wanted. His main strategy was to attack, weaken or circumvent all those he thought might stand in his way â€“ his professional colleagues in the banking industry, the National Assembly and then the President.
Rather fortunately for Sanusi, the flawed 2007 CBN Act was an effective weapon in his hands. With it, he combined the tactics of intimidation, harassment and blackmail in combating all possible obstacles in his way.
Soon after assuming office, Sanusi attacked the nationâ€™s commercial banks and removed their Managing Directors, an action which many described as an unlawful intimidation. But the CBN governor defended his decision by citing provisions of the CBN Act which gave him the powers to do so.
Then Sanusi moved on to the National Assembly and applied a different strategy, that of blackmail. He announced to Nigerians that 25.41 percent of the nationâ€™s budget was expended on legislatorsâ€™ salaries and allowances.
It is needless to say that the lawmakers were embarrassed to the core. Senators struggled to convince Nigerians that only 3.5 per cent was spent on legislatorsâ€™ salaries and allowances. But, how many Nigerians listened to them? Sanusiâ€™s figures had stuck to their memories and that, for them, was the end of the matter.
Sanusi also took up President Jonathan. When the CBN governor accused the NNPC of failure to remit $49.8 billion to the Federation Account and deliberately leaked his letter to the press, there was pressure on him from Nigerians and the Presidency to resign his appointment.
It was reported that Sanusi, not only refused to resign, but also challenged the President on a heated telephone conversation that he could not be removed by the President except by two-third of the Senate, as required by law.
As Sanusi tackled his perceived opponents, using one strategy or the other, he operated as a sovereign and parallel government, committing a series of illegal acts as listed in the FRCN report. While by law the President cannot and does not spend money unless duly appropriated for by the National Assembly, Sanusi claimed that he had no such constraints and hence was able to dole out funds for projects without appropriation and outside the CBN mandate.
The style of the CBN governor has been that of an unrestrained spendthrift who moves from one launch occasion to another dishing out public funds.
When all the smoke and gimmicks have evaporated, Sanusi must be made to face the reality that he has committed serious breaches of the law for which he must be brought to book. That brings to the fore one remarkable thing about President Jonathan.
Although the President may appear slow in acting his machinery of justice and fair play, like the wheel of the law, will certainly always catch up with all those who have transgressed against the nation. Sanusi should not escape justice.
Mr. JOHN AINOFENOKHAIi, a political analyst, wrote from Benin City, Edo State.