The All Progressives Congress (APC) Sunday accused President Goodluck Jonathan of suspending Central Bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, to divert attention from the allegation of non-remittance of $20 billion by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the Federation Account. Sanusi, while appearing before the Senate Committee on Finance, had on February 4, accused the oil corporation of not remitting to the Federation Account $20 billion out of the $67 billion it realised from crude oil sale on behalf of the federation.
In a statement yesterday by its interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the way the presidency had been campaigning to malign Sanusi showed that it was working hard to sweep the issue under the carpet and to punish Sanusi for daring to expose the infraction.
Besides APC, more dignitaries and organisations, including House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal; Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi; and Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) yesterday criticised Sanusi's suspension, which they said could have deleterious effects on the nation's economy.
But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cautioned against attempts to politicise Sanusi's ouster from office, saying the issues leading to his suspension bordered on the management of the nation's economy and urged Nigerians to disregard those attempting to politicise or introduce sentiments to the matter.
APC said if the federal government had devoted half the energy being deployed to discredit Sanusi towards the investigation of the unremitted oil funds, the corruption case would have been solved by now.
"Irrespective of the tepid and unconvincing denial by the presidency, it is clear that the main reason the presidency moved against Sanusi is because he blew the lid on the $20 billion funds which the NNPC allegedly failed to remit to the Federation Account," APC said.
The party re-stated its earlier stand that Sanusi's suspension is unlawful and that it is another dangerous turn in the Jonathan administration's journey of impunity, lawlessness and double standard. It said the drop in the value of the naira and the fact that stocks of banks and those from other sectors of the economy had been bearish since the suspension of Sanusi, had shown the dangers inherent in politicising an office that should be insulated from political pressure.
"There are just short-term repercussions. The long-term fallout may be the scaring off of foreign investors by the perception of instability in the financial sector and the erosion of the CBN's autonomy. If and when that happens, a President who has so far failed to uplift his nation's economy would have succeeded in sabotaging it," it said.
The party asked the federal government to charge Sanusi to court, if indeed it is convinced of the veracity of the allegations, instead of convicting him on the pages of newspapers and mob-lynching him through paid hatchet men.
APC also said it would mobilise its members in the National Assembly to stall the passage of any aspect of the 2014 Appropriation Bill that would not impact positively on the lives of the masses.
Speaking to THISDAY yesterday on the plan by the party to interface with its governors and legislators over the debate for the passage of the 2014 budget, Mohammed said the aim was to expose the lapses in the budget as well as guide its lawmakers to block fraudulent allocation of public funds.
He said the seminar, which would hold in Ibadan this week under the auspices of the Progressive Governors' Forum (PGF), was part of APC's efforts to tailor the 2014 budget proposal to suit the needs of Nigerians. According to him, the meeting will evaluate the budgets both at the federal and state levels so as to tailor them to the needs and aspirations of the people.
Tambuwal also expressed concern about the suspension of Sanusi, warning that it could hurt the economy. He spoke with reporters in Abeokuta shortly after he had a closed-door meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was accompanied by Hon. Ajibola Muraino, Deputy Minority Leader, Sumaila Kawu and Hon. Aminu Sagari, among others.
The speaker said: "I am not an economist, but personally, that will definitely send wrong signals to investors because they (foreign investors) need to have confidence in the financial institutions, particularly the independence of financial institutions of the country before foreign investors may consider such a country worthy of investment. I have my concern about that."
On his visit to Obasanjo, he said: "Obasanjo is a leader not only in Nigeria but in Africa and it is only appropriate for us in positions of authority and leadership to occasionally come and consult baba on matters of national interest and that is what we are here for today.
"There are lots of issues in Nigeria today; of course there is issue on Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that we are considering in the House; we are doing constitution amendment in the House and host of other very key and important legislations before the parliament.
"So we needed to consult our leaders on such very important and vital legislations before we conclude what we are doing. From his wealth of experience, we needed some input from baba."
He added that as a PDP member, there was nothing wrong in his visiting a national leader of the party since Obasanjo is still in PDP like himself. Amaechi, like Tambuwal, expressed reservations over the suspension of Sanusi, saying the president does not have the power to oust the CBN governor.
The governor, who spoke at Christ Church, Port Harcourt, during a service for the induction of the resident minister, said: "You can imagine how President Jonathan announced the sudden removal (suspension) of the CBN governor. He does not have such powers. He knows that nothing will happen that was why he took that action. So, I think the preachers should begin to preach what we call the liberation theology. You (church leaders) are supposed to have more responsibilities to hold government accountable."
"While we are talking about the problem and the ways to end religious wars in the country, others are busy stealing our money, maybe, they are using it to divert our attention. The issue of the missing $49.8 billion from the Federation account is still there. If you convert that money to naira, you will get N80 trillion and that money can solve the problems of this country for the next few years. And the federal government says they use the money for this and that. But, the constitution says, nobody can tamper with that money, the money must first of all be paid into the Federation Account before releasing the money. So that Rivers State or Imo State can have their share. But, the federal government has gone upfront to collect this money without actually following the due process as stipulated by law.
"The church can also examine and preach against the missing funds. Don't accuse PDP or APC; just accuse politicians of stealing money so that you can educate the people on the means to ask for accountability," he added. On its part, the ACF, while condemning the suspension of Sanusi, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to recall him to enable him defend himself against the allegations levelled against him.
The forum, in a statement yesterday at the end of a meeting in Kaduna, said Jonathan did not follow due process in suspending Sanusi.
According to the statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the forum, Alhaji Muhammed Ibrahim, the appointment of an acting CBN governor and the submission of the name of Zenith Bank Managing Director, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to the Senate as Lamido's replacement showed that the government had already decided to sack him.
The statement also urged authorities to ensure the safety of the embattled CBN governor as the security detail attached to him as well as his international passport had been withdrawn.
Amid the growing criticism, the PDP warned yesterday against the danger of politicising the suspension of Sanusi.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, however expressed its support for the CBN governor's suspension as it was in the best interest of Nigeria.
The party dismissed insinuations that the suspension was aimed at silencing whistle blowers and promoting corruption.
It said after a thorough analysis of the issues surrounding the suspension, "it was clear that the decision was in tandem with the commitment of the federal government to safeguard the CBN and the entire financial sector from abuses."
According to the party, the findings of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) revealed series of administrative recklessness in the CBN which are "very weighty and cannot be swept under the carpet of politics and sentiments."
Debunking suggestions that the suspension would negatively affect the economy, the PDP explained that instead, it had restored confidence in the financial sector and in government's ability to check abuses.
It therefore urged Nigerians not to be swayed by those seeking to play politics with the matter, adding that Sanusi should have nothing to fear if he has no skeleton in his cupboard.
Prof. Pat Utomi of the Lagos Business School also backed the suspension of Sanusi, whose initial appointment he described as "a huge mistake." According to him, Sanusi should never have been appointed as a central bank governor in the first place, adding: "It should not have happened." He explained that Sanusi lacks certain qualities that a central bank governor should possess.
"Sanusi's appointment was wrong in the first place. He was not suitable for the job. CBN governors all over the world are men of great discretion in actions, pronouncements and deeds.
"By his nature, he is not a man of discretion and should not have been appointed in the first place. I have said it at several fora that the man is a mistake for that position; he was not suitable for the job. Recent developments just vindicated my position. The system needs total overhauling, " Utomi told reporters yesterday in Abuja.
Meanwhile, a report yesterday by an online medium, Premium Times, showed that the FRC's recommendations, on which Jonathan based his suspension of Sanusi also called for the ouster of the three CBN deputy governors, including the interim Governor, Dr. Sarah Alade.
In paragraph 2g of its report, the FRC urged the president to exercise his powers and "cause the Governor (of CBN) and the Deputy Governors to cease from holding office in the CBN."
The council said the bank lied in its audit report to deceive the uninformed, and described the CBN financial statements as "highly abridged with poor disclosures of transactions and events".
Justifying the need for detailed investigation of all allegations of financial infractions levelled against the management, the council said a thorough investigation "cannot be successfully done if the principal officers (the governor and his deputy governors) are allowed to be in office."
But defending the retention of the CBN deputy governors, presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, was quoted to have said the government was at liberty to determine how to implement the recommendations of the FRC. "It is not practicable to dissolve the central bank at a go. Investigations are ongoing and once people believed to more culpable are identified, government will act appropriately," he said.