Leadership (Abuja)

13 May 2014

Nigeria: Financial Probe - Sanusi Wins Round Two

Photo: The Vanguard
Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido

It was another sweet victory for suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday barred the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) from further investigating him.

Justice Tsoho made this order while delivering judgment in a suit filed by the suspended CBN governor against the FRCN and its executive secretary, Jim Osanyade Obase.

The court described the action taken by the FRCN so far as biased, malicious, premeditated, frivolous, deliberately skewed, malafide and abuse of executive power.

The judge also held there is clear evidence that FRCN's bid to investigate Sanusi's tenure at CBN is tainted with bias and motivated by bad faith.

Justice Tsoho's verdict is coming three months after the president, Goodluck Jonathan, suspended Sanusi on allegations of financial recklessness.

He has denied the allegations, saying he had followed approved procedures while doing his job.

The CBN governor had gone before the court challenging his invitation to appear before the investigating panel set up by the FRCN.

Sanusi had urged the court to declare that FRCN constituting itself into investigating body in the manner contained in newspaper advertorials of March 24, 2014, acted ultra vires, and that the conduct, action, decision, and conclusion in respect of the plaintiff particularly as it manifested in a brief note of June 7, 2013, sent to the president were ultra vires and contravened the rule of natural justice.

He further wanted an order restraining the defendants and their agents in any form from conducting/continuing any investigation, inquiry, hearing or proceeding whatsoever, as advertised in newspapers, as the defendants do not have power to conduct such investigation.

Sanusi also asked the court to set aside and nullify any report, conclusion and recommendation based on any purported investigation conducted as advertised in newspapers.

But in a counter-affidavit and preliminary objection filed by FRCN, the council argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the suit as the plaintiff has not exhausted the internal mechanism of resolution of grievances before taking this matter before the court.

The FRCN further submitted that the investigation panel, other than the decision to invite the plaintiff, has not arrived at any other conclusion in respect of the investigation of the activities of the CBN for the financial year of 2011 and 2012 .

In his judgment on Monday, Justice Tsoho said that although the FRCN is saddled with ensuring good governance in financial matters, their posturing

shows that they are already prejudiced.

The court also disagreed with FRCN's argument that their recommendation to the presidency was merely advisory, holding that it was obvious that they had already decided Sanusi's fate even before their investigation.

Justice Tsoho held that FRCN's declaration in a Briefing Note dated June 7 and submitted to President Jonathan were ultra vires (outside) their powers as contained in the FRCN Act, 2011.

He said the defendants, including FRCN's executive secretary, having reached a conclusion as to Sanusi's culpability as governor of CBN, as indicated in the briefing note and newspaper publications, can no longer conduct any investigation on the same matter.

"The language of the briefing note (transmitted by the FRCN to the presidency) conveys a sense of the defendant desperately goading the presidency to deal with the plaintiff," Judge Tsoho said.

"The plaintiff submitting himself for investigation (by FRCN) is like the cockroach finding itself in the midst of fowl. Such a cockroach cannot be innocent," he

added.

Justice Tsoho said the defendants went against the principles of natural justice by not giving Sanusi the chance to defend himself before they issued a report on the basis of which he was suspended.

The court noted that the CBN chief was not called upon to make representations at any panel before his suspension.

Benue Guber: Supreme Court throws out Ugbah's appeal against Gov. Suswam

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court in Abuja yesterday turned down a request by Professor Steve Ugbah, the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (now All Progressives Congress) in Benue State in the 2011 gubernatorial election to review its judgement that affirmed the election of Governor Gabriel Suswam of the state.

The court in its judgement said the appeal lacks merit and dismissed it.

Ugbah, through his counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), had approached the court for a review of the judgement of the court in November 2013 which affirmed the election of Governor Suswam.

A panel of seven justices of the apex court led by Justice Clara Ogunbiyi held that it is evident that the constitutional effect of section 285(6) and (7) has been well pronounced by the court.

Justice Ogunbiyi in the consolidated appeal held that the application is purely an accademic exercise, frivolous, vexatious and abuse of court process.

The court further awarded N1million each as punitive costs against Prof. Ugbah in favour of Governor Suswam, Peoples Democratic Party, and the Independent National Electoral Commission.

"There shall also be punitive costs awarded against the applicants' counsel and it is assessed at N1million in favour of each set of the respondents.

"The application is thereby dismissed with N1million cost in favour of each set of respondents against the applicants' counsel," the judge ruled.

The apex court had struck out an application to set aside its judgment which upheld the election of the Benue State governor, Suswam.

Reacting to the judgement yesterday shortly after it was delivered, Comrade Philip Agbese of the Coalition for Good Governance, who was in court with more than 200 supporters at the court premses described the judgement as a victory to the governor, the people of Benue State and the judiciary.

The application was seeking a fresh hearing of the petition filed against Suswam's election by the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate in the state, Prof. Steve Ugba.

The panel of five justices of the apex court, with Justice Muntaka Coomasie presiding, held that the application to set aside the judgment was incompetent.

The court said Ugba did not file the June 8 judgment of the Supreme Court which he sought to set aside.

The apex court, however, allowed a motion seeking to change the name of one of the parties in the appeal from ACN to All Progressives Congress (APC).

The Supreme Court on June 8 had upheld the election of Suswam and dismissed the appeal by Ugbah, which prayed the court to order the state's governorship election tribunal to commence hearing of his petition seeking to unseat Suswam despite the fact that the 180 days provided for by the constitution had lapsed.

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InFocus

Nigeria's Sanusi Wins Round Two in Court Case

Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido

A Lagos Federal High Court has upheld the suit of suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, challenging the power of the Financial Reporting Council ... Read more »