The Nigeria Governors' Forum, NGF, on Tuesday lambasted President Goodluck Jonathan for suspending Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido, weeks after he blew the whistle on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, for allegedly diverting not less than $20billion of the country's oil revenues.
The apparently angry governors said at the end of their meeting in Abuja, which ended in the early hours of Tuesday, that the president's action was meant to divert attention from the ongoing national discourse on the missing millions.
They faulted Mr. Jonathan for the action, saying he lacked the power to unilaterally send the CBN governor on suspension.
The President had insisted during a televised media chat on Monday that he had oversight powers over the CBN and therefore had absolute power to suspend Mr. Sanusi.
But the governors disagreed, saying the President's action was a clear breach of the CBN Act 2007, which demands the president to consult the Nigerian senate before activating any process that might lead to the removal of the bank's governor.
"The suspension of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, by Mr. President is in clear breach of the Nigerian Constitution and the CBN Act, 2007," the governors said in a communique read to journalists by their chairman, Rotimi Amaechi.
"The suspension is aimed at diverting attention from the current national discourse on the missing $20billion from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Account, allegations of corruption and questionable accountability."
The governors demanded accountability on the missing billions, and backed "the call of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Senate Committee on Finance for a forensic audit of the NNPC Account".
The governors also condemned the Federal Government for failing to convene the meeting of the National Economic Council, NEC, in the last seven months, an action they believe was hindering the constitutional opportunity to discuss the state of the nation's economy.
They appealed to the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, to accelerate hearing on constitutional cases such as those on the Excess Crude Account and illegal deduction of oil subsidy.
The Forum also deliberated on the deadly insurgency in the North-East geopolitical zone and urged the Federal Government to be more responsive to its responsibility of protecting lives and tackle the spate of terrorism attacks in Borno State.
"We expect that the Federal Government should wake up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property in the country, especially in the North-East," they said.
The Forum, however, commended the Federal Government's efforts at curbing Boko Haram insurgents in the North and urged the government to up their strategies.
While condemning the current spate of killings in the North- East, it applauded the effort of the Nigerian military and other security agencies, which were tackling the insurgents.
The governors also accused the Federal Government of illegally plotting to impeach Governor Tanko Al- Makura of Nasarawa, describing the action as a renewed assault on constitutional democracy.
The NGF is an umbrella association of the 36 elected state governors of the federation, irrespective of party affiliation.
Tuesday's meeting was attended by governors of Rivers, Nasarawa, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kano, Lagos and Imo, while Osun, Borno and Edo were represented by their deputies.
A former Governor of Kwara, Bukola Saraki, now a senator, also made a brief appearance at the meeting. Mr. Saraki was Mr. Amaechi's immediate predecessor as chairman of the Forum.
Read full communique below.
ISSUED AT THE END OF THE 3RD MEETING OF THE NIGERIA GOVERNORS' FORUM HELD ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24 2014, AT THE RIVERS STATE GOVERNOR'S LODGE, ASOKORO, ABUJA
We, members of the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF), at our meeting today, at the Rivers State Governor's Lodge, Abuja deliberated on a number of issues and resolved as follows:
1. The suspension of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, by Mr. President is in clear breach of the Nigerian Constitution and the CBN Act, 2007. The suspension is aimed at diverting attention from the current national discourse on the missing $20billion from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Account, allegations of corruption and questionable accountability. We support the call of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Senate Committee on Finance for a forensic audit of the NNPC Account.
2. Forum reiterates its concern about the deliberate refusal of the presidency to convene the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting for seven months. This has emasculated the constitutional opportunity to discuss the perilous state of the Nigerian economy thus plunging the nation into an economic and political crisis. In addition, members appeal to the Judiciary particularly the Supreme Court to accelerate the hearing on the constitutional cases especially the case of the Excess Crude Account (ECA) and illegal deductions on oil subsidy.
3. Members condemn in totality the current spate of killings in the North East. We commend the Nigerian military and other security agencies in their effort to quell this. However, we expect that the federal government should wake up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property in the country especially in the North East.
4. It has come to our notice that the presidency is plotting to illegally impeach the Governor of Nasarawa State, Mr. Umaru Tanko Al-Makura. We condemn this renewed assault on constitutional democracy.
Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi
Chairman, Nigeria Governors' Forum
February 24th, 2014