25 February 2014

Nigeria: Our Stand - Alison-Madueke, Not Sanusi, Should Face the Music

President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria says the National Assembly will look at the Central Bank of Nigeria Act and consider gray areas that may need ... ( Resource: The CBN Act May Be Amended -- Jonathan )


Within the four short days since President Goodluck Jonathan illegally suspended Central Bank of Nigeria governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the nation has suffered the debilitating effects of an emergency imposed on it. Instantly, the naira dipped at a rate never seen in 15 years. The stock market was hit and has shed at least N130billion since then. But the unkindest cut, it appears, has been the loss of investor confidence: foreign investors have been wary of investing in an economy where, at a whim, a politician could sack the governor of the country's central bank.

Sanusi's sin, which the president tried in vain to hide during the "Presidential Media Chat" last night, is that he has blown the whistle on fat crooks that have been plundering the nation through oil theft and phantom subsidies. Sanusi's letter to the president last September informing him of discrepancies in the remission of oil revenues had put a question mark on the whereabouts of trillions of naira. The letter leaked, prompting another letter to the president by former president Olusegun Obasanjo and an emergency reconciliation of accounts by the relevant ministers, the NNPC and the CBN in December. At the latter event, the figure of missing money went down to between $12billion and N10.8billion. Still, officials of Nigeria's citadel of corruption (NNPC) denied that any money was missing: the money, they said, was used to finance kerosene subsidy, protect pipelines and carry out other activities that few people noticed. Yet again, Sanusi has revealed that $20billion is still missing from the nation's oil revenue receipts.

Why President Jonathan and his henchmen have chosen to take sides with oil thieves while trying to disgrace the whistle-blower beats all imagination. Why is the president's sympathy with the treasury raiders instead of ordinary Nigerians whom he has sworn to protect? He stated last night that the CBN has been audited for 2012 and even 2013 but made no reference to the fact that the NNPC has not been audited in the past eight years. Petroleum resources minister Diezani Alison-Madueke and the NNPC have been criticized for the lack of transparency in the nation's oil industry. The quantity of crude exported from Nigeria remains unknown even to the president. Notorious militants in the Niger Delta have been enriched through dubious contracts for checking oil theft - they have been buying private jets - even as oil theft has heightened in the area. Moreover, the president is not bothered that all those indicted, two years ago, for bleeding the nation's treasury via importation of petroleum products at "subsidized" rates are still walking free.

We have little doubt, however, about the reason President Jonathan has chosen to shoot the messenger (like Sanusi) and ignore his message. He considers every criticism of his government or a member of his government as one coming from the opposition party now threatening to defeat his party in a free and fair poll next year. And every opposition, in the logic of the typical Nigerian power monger, must be crushed, no matter the truth he preaches.

For almost three years now, the president has presided over a government that has scant respect for the law and the constitution which he had sworn to uphold. Perhaps he has not been deliberately violating Nigerian law; he has little time to read the law. The tragedy lies in the kind of people who interpret it for him. That is why President Jonathan, apparently borrowing from former president Obasanjo (the epitome of lawlessness), has been courting anarchy. Only last year, he removed the president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Salami, and refused to reinstate him even after the National Judicial Council had determined that Salami should take his job back. Now, he has moved against the apex bank chief. In both cases, political considerations were undoubtedly behind the president's motive.

Not even his godfather Obasanjo weakened institutions of the state as much as he has in the last three years. Left unchecked, this president may go ahead to remove - or "suspend" - the INEC chairman at the point of declaring the results of the 2015 election. The chief justice of Nigeria, the Nigerian Senate, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, the EFCC -- none of these persons and institutions would be immune from desecration. Nothing would stop him from removing another CBN governor who refused to print any quantity of the Nigerian currency he desired.

President Jonathan must be called to order now that there is somebody left to speak truth to power. It is the reason Sanusi and other people have promised to approach a court of competent jurisdiction in this matter of removing the CBN governor by executive fiat. The court should expedite hearings and rule on it as soon as possible. No delay tactics. The CBN Act of 2007 is clear on the procedure to adopt in firing the CBN governor: the president must get the approval of at least two-thirds of members of the Senate. Whether his objective is to score a political point as 2015 approaches or to just to dent the image of a major opponent who has barely three months to vacate his seat, the president should be told to satisfy this basic requirement. In the meantime, let Nigerians be reminded that, until the court states otherwise, Nigeria has one CBN governor: Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

The president's promise, last night, to unmask the truth about the missing trillions does not excite us because he has never made use of any probe report. But he may wish to prove sceptics wrong today by asking Minister Alison-Madueke to step aside in the interim. To show that he has not been colluding with crooks who steal the nation's resources, he should keep this promise and ensure that all those so far indicted for stealing crude, subsidy funds or other public assets are put on trial and punished according to the law of the land. Nothing less will be acceptable.

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