Lagos — The stage is set for a showdown between the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mallam Lamido Sanusi and the Presidency over when he will step down from office. Sanusi is insisting he would remain in office till June 2 when his tenure expires.
Sanusi's insistence on staying in office till June this year followed the storm provoked by President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly ordering him to resign as reported by a national newspaper yesterday over allegedly leaking a letter Sanusi wrote to him (President) claiming that $49.8bn oil revenue was missing.
Sanusi's position has received support from lawyers who said that the President lacks the constitutional powers to direct the Governor of the Central Bank to resign from office. Most of the lawyers, who spoke to Vanguard, yesterday, maintained that only a two-third majority of the Senate can validly sack the CBN governor from office.
The senators on their part, however, told Vanguard that the President was yet to inform the senate of his decision to remove Sanusi as the CBN Governor.
On their part, Economic operators called on the President to follow due process, in his attempt to remove Sanusi from office. They said while the President has the power to fire Sanusi, he should do so according to the terms and conditions of the office.
CBN sources confirmed to Vanguard that Sanusi has made up his mind to resist any attempt to force him out of office before June 2 when his tenure expires.
This position was further confirmed by the CBN's spokesman, Mr. Ugo Okoroafor. According to him, Mallam Sanusi told members of the management at a meeting on Wednesday that he would be in office till June and did not even indicate that he might proceed on any terminal leave before completing his tenure.
Okoroafor's words: "He told us at the meeting we held, yesterday, that he will be leaving in June and did not give any indication that he would proceed on retirement leave before that time."
Sanusi is relying on CBN Act 2007 which defines the tenure, appointment and removal of the CBN governor.
What the law says
Section 11(2f) of the CBN Act 2007, says: "The Governor, Deputy Governor or Director shall cease to hold office in the Bank if he: (a) becomes of unsound mind or, owing to ill health, is incapable of carrying out his duties; (b) is convicted of any criminal offence by a court of competent jurisdiction except for traffic offences or contempt proceedings arising in connection with the execution or intended execution of any power or duty conferred under this Act or the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act; (c) is guilty of a serious misconduct in relation to his duties under this Act; (d) is disqualified or suspended from practicing his profession in Nigeria by order of a competent authority made in respect of him personally; (e) becomes bankrupt; (f) is removed by the President: Provided that the removal of the Governor shall be supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed.
Sanusi: presidency keeps mum
The Presidency, yesterday, kept mum over reports that the president had asked the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to resign. Though the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati had promised to react to the story before the end of the day, several attempts to reach him, last night failed.
President yet to inform Senate
The Senate, yesterday, said it had not received any communication from President Goodluck Jonathan over his alleged plan to sack Sanusi over his role in the alleged missing $49.8 billion and so, would reserve its position on whether it would support or kick against the alleged planned action.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Information and Media, Enyinaya Abaribe, told Vanguard that the Senate would not want to be dragged into the controversial issue since there was no correspondence from the president to that effect.
He said: "The Senate will resume on Tuesday and we have no such information before us. Until we resume and get communicated by Mr President on the issue, we cannot take any position on that yet. For now, I am sure we don't have any such information. Until we resume and such information comes before us, we cannot as a Senate respond to that."
Speaking in the same vein, Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Ita Enang, PDP, Akwa Ibom North East, said: "Well, I am not aware of that and so I cannot comment on an issue I am not aware of. Besides, there is no letter or indication to that effect to my knowledge. I cannot say anything about the leaked letter because I do not know how all that came about. I am sure Nigerians will want to know even as the damage has already been done.
But Senator Solomon Ewuga, APC, Nasarawa North observed that sacking of the CBN boss was within the purview of the president even as he refused to comment further.
"It is within the power of Mr President and so I have nothing to contribute to that. Besides, I don't like telephone interview and so leave me out of that matter for now," he said.
Lawyers back Sanusi
Sanusi's resistance has received the backing of legal practitioners across the country. A cross section of senior legal practitioners that spoke to Vanguard, yesterday, maintained that only a two-third majority of the Senate can validly sack the CBN governor from office. They said that the President has no such powers under the law to Sack Sanusi, adding that President Jonathan would be acting beyond his constitutionally guaranteed powers should he insist on relieving the CBN governor of his duties without recourse to due process.
Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, said: "The CBN governor was right in his position. Although, he was appointed by the president, however, that appointment was ratified by the National Assembly. His removal is supposed to be ratified by the same body.
"Meanwhile, from what we gathered, the government is making the move to remove the CBN Governor from office because of the revelation he made on the non-remittance of oil revenue to the federation account by some government agencies.
"The CBN governor is due to retire in four months time, so what was the urge from the President to want to remove him from office now by all means?"
According to Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Festus Keyamo, "President Jonathan does not have such powers. The CBN Governor can only be removed by two-third majority of the Senate. Therefore, President Goodluck Jonathan will be acting illegally if indeed there is any truth in the report that he asked the CBN Governor to resign."
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr Sebastian Hon, said: "The President lacks the powers to compel the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to resign. However, if Sanusi wants to resign today he can do so on his own. He has his tenure of employment and the procedure for removing him from office must be followed.
"The President cannot ask him to resign, except for good reason; he cannot be removed from office. By the way, has the President come out to ask the CBN Governor to resign? I have also read the Newspaper report and I think it is still within the realm of speculation. Why don't we wait till the President comes out to formally ask the CBN Governor to resign? In any case, even if the President eventually makes such request, the CBN Governor has the right to reject the directive and insist that due process of the law must be followed."
Likewise, another SAN, Mr Jubrin Okutekpa, stated: "This is just like asking if President Jonathan has the powers to ask me to leave Nigeria. However, looking at it from another angle, President Jonathan has his fundamental right to expression. Just the same way people have been asking him to resign, with others, asking him not to contest election in 2015, so also has he asked the CBN Governor to resign.
"As to whether or not he has the power to fire the CBN Governor that will be a constitutional issue. Are we going to gag the President from expressing himself? No! He has a right to do so and I see the directive as a mere advice to the CBN Governor. Sanusi has a right not to comply with the directive.
"The President can say whatever he wants to say, but whether or not what he said has any binding effect is another issue. It is my view that the President asking the CBN Governor to resign has no constitutional effect on the CBN Governor. I see it as an advice that can be ignored.
Ladi Williams, SAN, however expressed a different view. He said: "The CBN governor holds the office at the pleasure of Mr. President; it is not an elective office. The president is being polite, requesting for his resignation, and he too should do the rightful and resign honourably. For whatever reasons the President had for asking him to go, that is now left for the president to decide. Public office is not office of anybody's father, people come and go. Until people are forced to leave the office, they don't do things honorably. As far as I am concerned he does not need any ratification from the Senate.
"The question I will pose is why are Africans like this? For the mere fact that the man is Mr. President, he should respect that office and resign honorably. Whether the President has good reasons or not, that does not matter. Suppose the man asked him not to step into the office, what would happen. Can he do that to President Olusegun Obasanjo, or can he try it with General Obasanjo? This is happening because the President is a complete gentleman."
Economic operators call for caution, due process
On their part, economic experts said that while the President has the power to fire Sanusi, he should do so according to the terms and conditions of the office. They, however, noted that the confrontation between the CBN Governor and the President was not good for the image of the country in the international community.
Managing Director, RiskGuard Africa, Mr. Yemi Soladoye said that President Jonathan can only operate within the section of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN's Act that deals with appointment and retirement of the CBN governor. According to Soladoye, the President has the power to appoint or fire any CBN governor based on the dictates of the CBN Act.
Maxi Okechukwu Unegbu, Managing Director/Chief Executive, Maxifund Securities Limited, also said that the President should have reported Sanusi to the National Assembly instead of asking him to resign.
According to Opeyemi Agabaje, Managing Director/Chief Executive, RTC Advisory Services Limited, the confrontation between the President and the CBN Governor was not good for the image of the country. "It is not good. The idea that the CBN Governor and the President are fighting is not good for our image in the international community."
National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, said that government should be careful in its pronouncements concerning the economy of the country so as not to make Nigeria a laughing stack in the comity of nations. He explained that the decision to ask the CBN boss to step down should be in line with the terms of his appointment, otherwise the country will be portrayed a nation that is not serious.
Similarly, Mr. Gbadebo Olatokunbo, Shareholders Activist and a founding member of Nigeria Shareholders Solidarity Association (NSSA) said: "It is very serious and dangerous for our economy for the CBN Governor to be sacked. This is a red signal to the world if it happens. The demand for the resignation of the CBN Governor is uncalled for because the Governor will soon leave the office. Nigeria will be in danger if that happens.
Chief Timothy Adesina, President, Nigerian Shareholders Solidarity Association (NSSA) said: "The position of Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is very delicate and sensitive because it can send negative signal to the international community about financial sector and economy.
Godwin Anono, Chairman, Professional Shareholders Association of Nigeria said: "The President has the right to hire and fire. If he feels that the person he hired does not perform to his expectation, he can decide to sack the person by recommending to the National Assembly for its ratification.The President and CBN Governor are like master and servant. So the President has the right to do so. It is not a big deal to sack the CBN Governor provided there are concrete evidences backing it."
Mr. Erem O Erem, Director, Valueline Securities & Investment, Limited, said, the" CBN Governor can be sacked when he is not performing or behaving as expected. He is a civil servant under a Ministry of Finance, though with some level of autonomy. The Governor talks too much and must be cautioned given his position."
Mr. Boniface Okezie, Chairman, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, said: "The President alone cannot remove Sanusi. He cannot do it without recourse to the senate. The President had the opportunity to remove Sanusi when he assumed office as the President of Nigeria. But he did not do it."
Some operators, however, insisted that the President's request for Sanusi's resignation was in order. President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, Alhaji Remi Bello, said: "President Jonathan appointed Sanusi as the CBN governor; he has the right to tell him to resign so that the economy is not jeopardized in a way. Sanusi is not in the middle of his tenure as the CBN governor, he is almost at the end of his term," he said.
The LCCI chief, however, predicts that although Sanusi's exit might affect the exchange rate of the naira to other currencies until a new appointee comes on board, yet interest rate may not change because it is unilaterally decided by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).
Similarly, Sir Sunny Nwosu, National Coordinator, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), said: "The removal of CBN Governor is long overdue. We the ISAN had called on the President before now for his removal.
Don't suspend Sanusi; APC advises FG
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has advised President Goodluck Jonathan to tread softly on his reported plan to force Sanusi to resign, because of the impact such will have on the nation's economy.
In a statement issued in Lagos, yesterday, by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said asking Sanusi to step down, on the basis of an allegation that he leaked the letter he wrote to the President, over the unremitted $49.8 billion oil revenue, does not bode well for an economy that is alread on crutches.
It warned that any move to suspend Sanusi and use security forces to prevent him from entering his office, as reported by the media, will even be worse, because it will mean that the President is willing to circumvent the provision of the law that the Governor of the CBN can only be removed by two-thirds of the Senate membership.