Premium Times (Abuja)

20 February 2014

Nigeria: House of Reps, Rejects Sanusi's Removal, Says It's 'Illegal, Unconstitutional'

Photo: THIS DAY
Reserve Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi.

The House of Representatives has rejected President Goodluck Jonathan's removal of Sanusi Lamido as governor of the Central Bank, dismissing the president's action as "illegal and unconstitutional".

Mr. Sanusi was suspended Thursday for what the president called "financial recklessness"; but many Nigerians believe he was punished for exposing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC's failure to account for $20 billion missing oil money, and how the government has failed to act on the matter.

Mr. Jonathan has already named Godwin Emefiele, the current chief executive officer of Zenith Bank, as new CBN chief, subject to the confirmation of the Senate.

But the House of Representatives on Thursday rejected the president's decision, and accused Mr. Jonathan of acting outside his power, in a direct message that reflected the sentiments expressed by many Nigerians.

Former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, said whatever might be the offence, Mr. Jonathan should have followed constitutional process "instead of exceeding the boundary of his powers."

"This is not about Sanusi as a person, or the person nominated to succeed him, Godwin Emefiele, who is a thoroughbred professional. It is about due process that should be upheld," Mr. Atiku said in a statement.

He advised Mr. Sanusi to challenge his suspension in court "in the interest of constitutionalism and the rule of law".

Lawmakers also accused Mr. Jonathan of hastening to fire Mr. Sanusi when the same president had failed to act on several of reports of the House of Representatives indicting corrupt officials of his administration.

Past investigations by the House indicted petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and officials of the NNPC. Mr. Jonathan has consistently refused to act on any of the reports.

The House committees on justice and legislative compliance are to compile the names of all officials of government indicted in its investigations, and forward same to the president for immediate compliance, the House resolved Thursday.

"In a democracy, the rule of law and not the rule of man is the only condition that can guarantee freedom and protect the rights of the citizen," said Minority Whip, Samson Osagie, who raised the matter for discussion hours after the presidency announced Mr. Sanusi's removal.

Mr. Osagie said the president breached the law establishing the CBN, as the approval of the Senate is required to order the removal of the CBN governor.

Mr. Sanusi has said he will challenge the president's directive in court.

While the Senate made no mention of the suspension order, beyond announcing Mr. Jonathan's new nominee to the post, the House of Representatives degenerated into chaos Thursday as lawmakers either kicked against or back Mr. Jonathan's move.

A few members, who backed the president, said he acted well within his mandate and was right to fire the defiant CBN governor.

Deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor (PDP-Delta) said the suspension was only a part of a process to the eventual removal of Mr. Sanusi.

"For you to remove somebody, there have to be a process, and the suspension is the beginning of that," he said.

That claim was countered by several members who said the decision was a slap on an institution that should be autonomous.

"For good reason the CBN Governors the world over are independent and autonomous. To remove him you need confirmation and buy-in of the Senate. You cannot do it through the back door," said Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila.

"It becomes more worrisome when you consider the timing and the fact that the CBN Governor has just blown the lid off a monumental scandal involving the disappearance of 20 billion dollars from our coffers."

Another lawmaker, Pally Iriase challenged Mr. Jonathan to disclose allegations of "various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct," he gave as reason for the CBN governor's suspension.

"We have been talking about impunity. This is yet another show of impunity by this administration. The suspension is personal and is not unconnected with the recent disclosure of missing money from the NNPC," Mr. Iraise said.

"It is a clear case of if you cannot shut him up, ship him out. It should be condemned in its totality."

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