Premium Times (Abuja)

21 February 2014

Nigeria: Revealed: Jonathan's First Query to CBN Governor, Sanusi

Photo: THIS DAY
Reserve Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi.

The face-off between President Jonathan and Mr. Sanusi actually began in 2012 after Mr. Sanusi granted an interview considered critical of the administration

Contrary to widespread believe that Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, first ran into trouble with President Goodluck Jonathan late last year when he wrote a letter accusing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation of diverting N8 trillion of Nigeria's oil revenue, PREMIUM TIMES can report today that Mr. Sanusi first incurred the wrath of the presidency in 2012 when he granted a newspaper interview criticizing the administration's handling of the Boko Haram insurgency.

Mr. Sanusi had granted an interview to the Financial Times of London in 2012 blaming widespread poverty in the North for Boko Haram's success in recruiting members. That interview, this newspaper can report, terribly irked Mr. Jonathan and earned Mr. Sanusi a query from the presidency.

Investigations by PREMIUM TIMES showed that not long after it published Mr. Sansui's interview, the Financial Times did an analysis on Nigeria's economy and passed a damning verdict on the Federal Government.

Embarrassed by both the interview and the analysis of the London-based newspaper, President Jonathan ordered the former National Security Adviser, NSA, late Owoye Andrew Azazi, to query Mr. Sanusi.

During the controversial interview, the CBN governor had among other things, criticised the uneven distribution of wealth in the country, saying some parts of Nigeria were by far richer than others.

Mr. Sanusi had while fielding questions said, "There is clearly a direct link between the very uneven nature of distribution of resources and the rising level of violence.

"When you look at the figures and look at the size of the population in the north, you can see that there is a structural imbalance of enormous proportions. Those states simply do not have enough money to meet basic needs while some states have too much money.

"The imbalance is so stark because the state still depends on oil for more than 80 per cent of its revenues."

However, in its analysis of Mr. Sanusi's interview, the Financial Times on January 27, 2012 wrote: "Nigeria has made little headway raising taxes for example from agriculture, which accounts for 42 per cent of GDP. Northern Nigeria's economy has traditionally depended on the government more than the south.

"Many of the industries set up as part of earlier efforts to promote national balance have gone bust or been sold off during a decade of liberal market reforms, power shortages and infrastructure collapse."

The analysis continued, "According to official figures, the leading oil producing state, Rivers, received N1, 053 billion between 1999 and 2008 in federal allocations.

"By contrast the North-eastern states of Yobe and Borno, where the Boko Haram sect was created, received N175bn and N213bn respectively. Broken down on a per capita basis, the contrast is even starker.

In 2008 the 18.97m people who lived in the six states in the north-east received on average N1, 156 per person."

But a few days after the analysis was published and following presidential directive, Mr. Azazi issued a query to Mr. Sanusi, dated February 2, 2012.

A copy of the query which was exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, referenced: NSA/A/229/C and titled, "Recent Interview with Financial Times," was copied to the Director General, Department of State Services, Ita Ekpenyong.

Among other things, the NSA stated that the query was necessitated by statements credited to Mr. Sanus during an interview with the London-based newspaper.

The query reads, "In the interview, you were alleged to have made statements to the following effects: That, the uneven pattern of distribution of resources is directly linked to the rising level of violence in Nigeria.

"That, it is now necessary to focus funds on regenerating other regions of Nigeria; other than the Niger Delta. That, additional federal funds allocation to the Niger delta states has created 'a structural imbalance of enormous proportions,' with some states not having enough money and others having too much.

"That, when the theft of oil by profiteers is considered, this imbalance between the oil producing states of the South-South (or Niger Delta states) and states in the North is compounded."

The query also drew Mr. Sanusi's attention to his statement that the derivation funds paid to oil producing states, above the normal federal allocations created new disparity in state resource, fostered resentment and encouraged terrorism.

The CBN governor was also reminded that his assertions directly attributed the activities of Boko Haram sect to the revenue allocation formula used by the government.

The query continued, "Not only is there no empirical evidence to support such a statement, conventional wisdom in Nigeria refutes that assertion. Experts obviously have provided numerous explanations for the emergence of Boko Haram activities and the general consensus is that there are no silver bullets.

"Your statements to the Financial Times do not only have no basis in fact but they are divisive, inflammatory, inciting and inappropriate of a senior officer of the Federal Government whose responsibility includes national stability and state continuity.

"This statement has already caused a lot of angst among the populace and raised significant questions as to your intent and motives. These statements bring disrepute to the administration and current and past leadership of Nigeria.

"While I understand your right to free speech and some of the independence your office enjoys, I must also caution you that as an officer of the Government of Nigeria and one entrusted to promote state stability, your utterances through this interview are not in the interest of Nigeria's national security.

"I encourage you to explore and pursue approaches that will ameliorate the problems that your statements have caused, including a retraction or clarifying statements, possibly through the same medium of interview."

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Mr. Sanusi failed to respond to the query, saying he was not answerable to Mr. Azazi and that he would only respond to a direct query from President Jonathan.

Presidency sources say the President did not forgive Mr. Sanusi ever since and had waited patiently for an opportunity to unload him from the administration.

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