Sanusi: Estranged ally of a resentful government

Sanusi might be everything supporters of president Jonathan’s apparent vindictive action against his five years ally say he is- Proud, reckless and unrestrained; strutting around like a feudal lord and lacking in grace to resign from a government whose policies he disagreed with. But then, Sanusi at the end is a Nigerian. And it is for this reason I think his comparison with central bank governors of other nations where the governors of their apex banks will not openly castigate their Government can be very odious. What we have in some of those societies is enlightened leadership governed by laws and restrained by established institutions from witch hunting their best including whistle blowers.

But here as Saro Wiwa reminded us in his satire about the pervasive corruption in our land, ‘Africa kills its sun’. Sanusi in spite of his objectionable style was while in office our nation’s pride wherever he went in the world. He was a recipient of two global awards: the global award for Central Bank Governor of the Year, as well as for Central Bank Governor of the Year for Africa. He was also listed by The TIME magazine in its TIMES 100 list of most influential people of 2011.

As it is always the case in Africa where leaders have no regard for public opinion and where leaders openly boast of their absolute power to sacrifice the messenger, the focus of Sanusi’s crusade-unremitted 20 billion dollar oil revenue, has changed to how much he deployed as promotional outlays, spent on private guards, lunch for police men, legal and professional fees, intervention projects and other unarguably questionable donations.

And with shocking finality, the AGF has put an end to the debate. ‘NNPC is required to pay into the Federation Account the ‘net revenue’ as opposed to the ‘gross revenue’. He is “of the respectful view that only the net revenue from the upstream petroleum operations of the NPDC should be paid into the federation account by the NNPC. This is more so as the federating units do not contribute to the funding of upstream petroleum operations of the NNPC and its subsidiary.” Government is therefore free to treat NNPC account as ATM as an opposition leader has observed.

The hunter has become the hunted. And part of the rough tactics of a government unnerved by Sanusi initial 49.8 billion dollars gaffe, was dusting up the eight months old Financial Council Report and other investigating bodies, which according to government “indicate clearly that Mallam Sanusi Lamido  Sanusi’s tenure has been characterized by various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct which are inconsistent with the administration’s vision of a Central Bank propelled by the core values of focused economic management and prudence”. Sanusi whose only curious ambition is to become the emir of Kano now has to fight for his integrity.

The case of Sanusi who still insists ‘You can suspend an individual, but you cannot suspend the truth’ is akin to the proverbial man on the tiger’s back. For close to five years he has been an accessory to government assault on Nigerians through half truths, fraudulent theories and outright falsehood. Precisely because Sanusi has tried to provide credibility for government anti people policies, his reckless donation of huge sums of money to universities and victims of natural disasters which were outside his core area of banking was ignored just like his obnoxious mannerism.

In the battle between the executive and the national assembly as to which arm was more corrupt, Sanusi was secretly hailed by the executive as he revealed to shocked Nigerians that the national assembly was gulping 25% of our annual budget while the later insisted there was much less to steal in its budget of N150b compared to an executive that presides over 50% of the nation’s budget.

In his banking reforms, whatever was the motive behind the August 2009 Sanusi led Central Bank intervention in Afribank, Intercontinental Bank, Union Bank, Oceanic Bank and Finbank , the outcome was a tragedy for thousands of Nigerians who were rendered jobless and thousands more who lost their life savings and gratuities invested in shares of the affected banks. The major beneficiary of Sanusi ‘banking Tsunami’ turned out to be known PDP members and their friends. They reaped from the tragedy of helpless Nigerians by buying the banks after Sanusi’s injection of about 400 billion of public fund while ordinary investors with less than 200,000 shares were left with nothing. Until Sanusi unceremonious removal by government last week, he remained indifferent to the right of the public to know how much of the non performing loans were paid back by those who are closely associated with those in government.

Sanusi was also solidly behind government fraudulent privatization of the downstream sector of the oil industry. After a near monopoly for diesel market had been created for a few government favourites, who in turn swiftly proceed to build the largest tank farm in the world, cost of diesel which should ordinarily be cheaper on account of being a mere byproduct of refined petroleum shot up to about N170 per litre. Sanusi and Okonjo Iweala justified government assault on Nigerians on the fraudulent thesis that it was only the middle class who use diesel- powered generators that would suffer from a government policy designed to impose hardship on Nigerians. As it has turned out, the carcasses of Michellin, Dunlop and others that collapsed partly because of energy crisis and the flooding of the nation with substandard goods by beneficiaries of government import licence and wavers policy attest to the monumental fraud of such bogus claims.

Another government falsehood Sanusi dressed in garment of truth was the claim that the economy would collapse if the fuel subsidy was not removed. As it has turned out, it was all a ruse to cover up the theft of about N1.7 trillion by some of PDP appointed fuel importers who fraudulently forged papers to claim millions without importing a pint of fuel. It is on record that Sanusi staked everything as an economist to support this fraud in spite of the insistence of world class economists like the late professor Samuel Aluko that there was nothing like fuel subsidy but government imposition of petroleum tax on helpless Nigerians. Aluko drew a parallel between cost of imported Guinness beer from Britain and home brewed Guinness of the same quantity and quality to dismiss government fraudulent claim openly canvassed by Sanusi, Okonjo Iweala and other government apologists.

It is dangerous and suicidal when friends fight. Sanusi has been part of Jonathan government for five years and they know how to hurt each other. Having attacked Sanusi’s integrity, the government that has so much to hide has equally becomes very desperate. The government only on Monday directed Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) to audit the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). This is the same body whose report was said to be the basis of Sanusi’s suspension. This new probe is also coming shortly after an auditing by auditing giants, Coopers and Lybrand. Probing CBN whose 2013 audited account is ready afresh is far more important to government than NNPC whose account has not been audited for five years.

And as to the ‘missing’ 20 billion dollars, as far as government is concerned, the AGF has provided an alibi. But these are clear signs of panic and desperation. Like my good friend Chief Mike Ozechome, one of the latest combative defenders of president Jonathan’s response to Sanusi irritation said on Monday, ‘he who comes to equity must come with clean hands’. I think that equally applies to a government considered as one of the most corrupt in our nation’s history.

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