21 February 2014

Nigeria's Anti-Graft Central Banker to Fight Suspension in Court

Anti-corruption activists signaled dismay and financial markets reacted nervously when Nigeria's central bank governor Lamido Sanusi was fired. He will take legal action because he is "concerned about the precedent."

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ousted Central banker Lamido Sanusi on Thursday (20.0202014) accusing him of "financial recklessness and misconduct" and instructed his deputy Sarah Alade to act in his place.

52-year-old Sanusi had openly accused the Nigerian government of failing to tackle corruption. He has alleged that the state-run Nigieran National Petroleum Corporation. (NNPC) had failed to remit $20 billion (14.5 billion euros) it owed to federal government coffers.

Sanusi is regarded as one of the most important players in the fight against corruption in Africa's most populous nation. NGOs active in this field and opposition politicians consider his dismissal as a setback in efforts to bring greater transparency and respect for the rule of law to Nigeria.

Auwal Ibrahim Musa is chair of Zero Corruption Coalition and a partner of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International in Nigeria. He is convinced that Sanusi's removal was politically motivated. Sanusi's tenure would have expired in June anyway, but Jonathan decided to sack him now to stop him from uncovering any more wrong-doings, Musa told DW. Musa also said that Jonathan had exceeded his authority. "We condemn this suspension, because according to the constitution the president doesn't have the right to fire the governor of the central bank. Only the National Assembly has that right," Musa said.

Observers suspect a political motive behind President Jonathan's decision to suspend the head of the central bank.

He also believes that the manner in which Sanusi is being treated will make corruption in Nigeria worse. "It will stop people from coming forward, telling the truth and exposing corruption. If the head of the central bank can be victimized, then nobody is safe," he said.

One step forward, two steps backwards

Sanusi has said he will challenge his suspension in court. He has no intention of returning to his old post, but wishes to clarify whether the president does, or does not, have the right to fire the head of the central bank.

"If we do not go to court then the head of the central bank will never be able to do his job properly again," Sanusi told DW.

Nasifi Abdullahi Darma is an economist and lecturer at the University of Abuja. He said that if Sanusi really did contravene central bank legislation, then he should be given the opportunity to explain his actions in front of the Senate. He assumes that Sanusi would not have leveled allegations against the government and others if he did not evidence to back them up.

Adetokunbo Mumuni is the director of Serap (Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project). He believes that Sanusi's suspension was intended to distract attention away from the missing double digit billion dollar sum which Sanusi had uncovered. "We are very worried," he said. There cannot be any progress, if the government does not unrelentingly fight corruption. "If government takes one step forward and then two steps backwards, then there won't be any progress at all," he told DW.

The naira dipped against the dollar when news of Lamido Sanusi's suspension broke.

Buba Galadima from Nigeria's opposition party All Progressives Congress (APC) also believes that Sanusi's dismal is linked to his disclosures about corruption. "I would have thought the Nigerian authorities would have awarded him a medal - instead they fired him," he said.

'Wrong signal' in the battle against corruption

The fear that corruption will now get worse could have a negative impact on investment in Nigeria. The financial markets reacted nervously to Sanusi's suspension. The Nigerian Central Bank briefly stopped trade in its fixed income and bond market. The Nigeria currency, the naira from 163 to 169 against the US dollar. Darma said Jonathan's move had sent "completely the wrong signal, which will have an adverse effect on Nigeria."

Foreign investors also have their concerns."It is regrettable that Sanusi is leaving, because he was clearly a reformer who had accomplished a lot," said Michael Monnerjahn, head of the German-African Business Association. But it was too early to say whether there would be setbacks in the fight against corruption, though that struggle "depends of course on individuals," he added.

Many observers doubt whether the legal action taken by Sanusi will lead anywhere. The Nigerian judiciary is also corrupt.

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