IN his first reaction after being suspended as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi made some profound statements. In making reference to the allegations of profligacy and financial recklessness levelled against him by government, he strenuously drew a comparison between his compliance to rules and that of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The kernel of his statement was that since the NNPC which allegedly spent money on kerosene subsidy in contravention of a presidential directive has not been accused of â€˜financial recklessnessâ€™, it was ironical for the Federal Government to accuse him of same.
For effect, he added that unlike the CBN whose audits are up to date â€“even if serious queries have emanated therefrom â€” the NNPC on the other hand has not been audited since 2005. Simply interpreted, he was not alone in â€œfinancial recklessness.â€
It follows, therefore, that if President Goodluck Jonathan must suspend Sanusi, he must first fish out all the others like him who allegedly stole their institutions blind and embarked on unapproved and unjustifiable expenditures. Let me admit here that I agree with him. Why single out only one thief from the multitude?
But truth must be told. Since his appointment as CBN Governor nearly five years ago, Sanusi may not have adhered to those outdated conservative rules in financial management, but he has expanded the frontiers of that office. He was after-all THE GOVERNOR (emphasis mine) of the CBN, and Governors â€“whether elected or appointedâ€“ must live large.
Should we expect him to behave like his â€˜colleaguesâ€™ in the other 36 states of the Federation who have the misfortune of accounting to their respective Houses of Assembly and the electorate when he was not so encumbered? The CBN Act which he has variously quoted in defending his autonomy leaves the decision on what to do with the billions and trillions at his disposal, at his sole discretion.
The good thing is that Sanusi has used that discretion most prudently. At the last count, he has deployed over N150 billion to good works across Nigeria, like donating N100 million to victims of Boko Haram attacks in his native Kano State.
Other donations his critics have labelled as â€˜questionableâ€™ include N4 billion to Bayero University, Kano; N10 billion to Uthman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto; N500 million to the University of Benin. What cause can be more altruistic? Again, why accuse him of nepotism in donating to tertiary institutions in the North when the students in those Universities are not only of Fulani stock?
Thatâ€™s unfair for a man who aspires to become the Emir of his native Kano. Why should he not use what he has to pursue his needs? It makes more sense to concentrate on his catchment area, politically and traditionally. Or, how does a donation for the control of erosion in Nsude community of Enugu State, for instance, improve his chances for, say the governorship of Kano State or the Emirship of Kano?
So what if Kano got the lionâ€™s share of those philanthropic gestures, even if Yobe and Borno states â€“ the hotbeds of Boko Haram attacks â€“ did not attract the same monetary consolations from the CBN governor. Haba, Charity must start from home!
Instead of commending a man who has used public funds to execute public projects, government apologists prefer to say that the donations were ultra-vires as they were outside the powers and functions of the CBN. If I may ask, can anyone in good conscience claim that he misappropriated those billions used in supporting education? No.
When Alhaji Sabo Barkin Zuwo, Sanusiâ€™s kinsman and former governor of Kano State, was arrested in the wake of the 1983 coup, a large chunk of Naira wads were found packed in cartons under his bed in Government House, Kano. His defence was simple: It was governmentâ€™s money kept in Government House.
Like Barkin Zuwo, Sanusi is using his discretion in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility, period. He is using public funds to execute public projects. Such defence is still as relevant today as it was 30 years ago, whether one of those concerned was a half-educated politician and the other is the nationâ€™s foremost banker.
Rather than address issues bordering on his allegations that the NNPC had not remitted $49.8 billion of crude oil proceeds to the Federation Account, we are busy dissipating energy over the paltry N1.257 billion he expended in the last financial year on security outfits and in providing lunch for policemen.
That is one aspect of the allegation that has been blown out of proportion by those who are out to nail Sanusi, especially the self-styled human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome. In spending the sum, according to the loud-mouthed Constitutional lawyer, Sanusi violated global principles of public decorum expected of holders of such office.
Thatâ€™s his opinion, afterall Jonathan apologists like him told us that the allegation against the NNPC â€” a figure that was first revised to $10.8 billion and recently to $20 billion â€” is a deliberate ploy to portray the Federal Government in a bad light. How can that be?
Has Ozekhome forgotten the status of Sanusi as CBN Governor, as a blue-blooded grandson of a deposed Emir of Kano and, Insha Allah the Emir of Kano in-waiting? If he considers these, then N1.257 billion would not sound as outrageous as it does now.
For a man who single-handed approved and is executing over 63 â€˜intervention projectsâ€™ across Nigeria â€“with or without appropriation -Sanusi deserved all the private security he needs to protect himself. After all, when he becomes Emir, is he not going to feed the retinue of his dogaris across the vast Kano emirate and equip them with those multi-coloured babanrigas? Why wonâ€™t he start the dress rehearsal now?
Those who also criticize him for coming to work in his accoutrements as the Dan Majen Kano also miss the point. The office of CBN Governor has moved from those sully days when its occupants were only seen and rarely heard, except on crucial financial, monetary and economic matters.
They should realise that rather than diminish the institution, his traditional regalia actually added to its prestige. How, if I may ask, has his dressing affected his duty as the chief economic adviser of the Federal Government, a man who has succeeded in keeping the nationâ€™s inflation rate at a stable seven per cent of recent?
Must he always suit up like the lack-lustre Chukwuma Soludo, or wait till his removal from office â€“like Soludo did â€“ before becoming an active politician? That would be naÃ¯ve in a country where almost all top public office holders are politicians anyway. His decision to dole out N100 million to the All Progressives Congress to open up offices across the country is not only in furtherance of our cherished democracy, it will guarantee him a respectable place on its high echelons now that he is free from the scrutiny of busy bodies like Mike Ozekhome.
Finally, some people have tried to justify his removal from office when it is clear that only the Senate could remove him from office by a two-thirds vote. It is clear that President Jonathan over-stepped his bounds with an institution that our laws say is autonomous and above all other laws. Yes, the CBN Act says that the CBN is an island on its own, free from interference from the Villa, and definitely free from any form of official control and inspection.
If you doubt this, ask the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives or the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation which queried extravagant expenditure by the apex bank, like the N50m claimed to have been spent for the same purpose of renovating the Governorâ€™s official residence. Nobody told them to stop crying unnecessarily, over an issue they have no control over.
We are simply tarnishing Sanusiâ€™s good name, and that is very, very unfair, to say the least.
Mr. MATTHEW ADEJOH, a public analyst, wrote from Abuja.