I have no regrets; I have no ill-feelings and with no sadness. I’m happy; I’m proud of what I have done.”
These were the words of Lamido Sanusi as he reacted to his suspension as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor by President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday.
Although it was learnt that he might challenge his suspension in court, Sanusi reminded the Jonathan administration: “You can suspend an individual but you can’t suspend the truth.”
Sanusi, who added that his suspension did not bother him, said his “biggest concern is for the system .”
He was attending a meeting of the West African Central Bank Governors in Niamey, Niger Republic when the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, announced his suspension.
Abati, in a statement in Abuja, said Jonathan took the decision because Sanusi’s tenure had been characterised by acts of financial recklessness and misconduct.
The presidential aide ,who claimed that such acts were inconsistent with the vision of the Jonathan administration, said the most senior CBN deputy governor, Dr. Sarah Alade, would act as the governor of the bank.
But the President later sent the name of the Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank, Godwin Emefiele, to the Senate for confirmation as the new CBN governor.
But unfazed Sanusi, whose tenure would end in June, said he was surprised that his suspension took too long to come.
He also said he would challenge his suspension (in court).
“Well, I don’t know what they are talking about. … I don’t think there’s any issue that’s being raised that has not been raised before; but you know we all know what this is about. This is about the consequences for the changes that I have made and this (suspension) is something that is long overdue. I’m surprised it took them so long,” he told the CNBC Africa.
“When I come back, I’ll see what those allegations are,” the Kano State-born banker added.
He claimed that the Financial Reporting Council looked through CBN’s audited accounts some time ago and asked a few questions which were sent to the President, who gave no feedback.
Highlighting low inflation, stable exchange rate, a reformed and well governed banking system, robust reserves, financial inclusion and independent central bank as some of his achievements, Sanusi said he hoped the CBN’s integrity would be protected.
He said, “Basically, my biggest concern is for the system and I hope that the Nigerian economy will not be hurt by this. I also hope the integrity of the central bank will be protected … I’ve been fortunate to have had an opportunity to do some good work on the bank on stability. I would not want to see all of that unravelled and no individual is worth it.
“You can suspend an individual, but you can’t suspend the truth. If this is all about the concerns around oil revenues in the oil sector, if this is going to bring back the $20bn unremitted oil money, then that is fine.”
Sanusi, in an interview he later granted an online news portal, Sahara Reporters, said he considered the allegations against him “ridiculous.”
He said,” I have not seen the details of the allegations but some of what I’ve read is very ridiculous . The CBN, as an institution, will respond to all the allegations because we’ve always operated in line with the rule of law.
“A week ago for example, the NNPC(Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation), came out on national television and agreed that they have spent $3.5bn on kerosene subsidy without appropriation. Nobody has called that financial recklessness but the CBN is audited every year.
“In fact, we have just concluded the audit for 2013. We are supposed to submit those accounts within two months of every financial year; we have a board meeting to approve the audited account on February 27, and to submit on February 28. This has been happening since I became CBN governor.
“The NNPC has not been audited since 2005 and yet nobody talks about financial recklessness in the corporation. Since I became CBN governor, I have constantly reduced operating cost and increased operating surplus.
For instance, the year before I became governor in 2008, the CBN contributed N8bn to the federal budget. By 2012, I contributed N80bn.
‘This year, I’m contributing N159bn, that is 20 times what was being contributed. For me, this is not something that comes as a surprise, the President has asked me to resign and I refused. I knew there was going to be a backlash. The important thing is that I don’t want to present myself as the focus. The issue on the ground is that between January 2012 and July 2013, there is $20bn that the NNPC sold crude oil and has not come back. I am questioning the NNPC’s right to keep that. I will challenge my suspension not because I want to go back.
“I have done everything expected of me; I have written letters and I have given all the documents. This is $20bn in 19 months period; we have not even talked about 2011 and 2010. We have to be sure we know what we are saying. I think people should be more angry about theft happening.”