The suspended whistleblower governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, may have to think again if he hopes senior former colleagues will rally to his defence.
Sanusi was suspended last month by President Goodluck Jonathan after making explosive allegations about embezzlement on a massive scale at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The events, according to The Independent of the United Kingdom, alarmed investors and created a sense of scandal around the presidency of Jonathan.
The president suspended Sanusi, citing “fi-nancial recklessness and misconduct” at the CBN and ordered an investigation into him, but many in Nigeria suspect the governor’s fate was linked to the claims he had made on an allegedly missing $20 billion of oil revenue.
Speaking for the first time about the affair, one of Sanusi’s deputies, Kingsley Moghalu, distanced himself from his former boss and alleged that Sanusi overstepped his authority. Discussing the Sanusi affair in the sidelines of the Africa CEO Forum in Geneva, he told The Independent: “The lesson that can be drawn from it is the limits of Central Bank independence…
There is a very thin line between central bank independence and political posturing.” In support of President Jonathan’s government, he said: “The president of Nigeria and the government of Nigeria have never in my knowledge interfered with the function of the Central Bank.
And therefore I think we need to give them credit for respecting [its] independence.” He added: “The governor began to make very damaging public allegations against the government… allegations that have not been proven, after the president had sent him a presidential query about the finances of the Central Bank.
The government has given a reason for the suspension and that was… to enable an investigation into the allegations against him.” Preferring not to mention Sanusi by name, he went on to say: “Somebody in the Central Bank was taking on an activist political role.
That is not our function. Central banks over the world have clear functions and in your country [Britain] and any other civilised country I know that Central Bank governors operate within certain expectations and constraints and respect those expectations and constraints.”
He added that the CBN had managed to contain the market fallout from the president’s actions, pointing out that he and his fellow deputy governors were in agreement with Sanusi’s internationally well-regarded position as an inflation hawk in favour of high interest rates to keep a lid on prices. “Life is back to normal,” he claimed.
However, with the ghost of an investigation looming large over the most powerful banker in the country, and the suspicion among many that he was suspended for speaking out, analysts say Nigeria is far from being in a normal state. Moghalu was named as a possible successor to Sanusi but the president selected a non-central banker, Godwin Emefiele, as the governor-elect.
Observers said he would be far less outspoken than the high-born Sanusi, a well-connected Muslim and Islamic scholar from the North of the country whose father was Emir of the ancient city of Kano. Moghalu, who took his Ph.D at the London School of Economics and is the son of a Nigerian diplomat to Washington DC, is one of three deputy governors of the CBN, said he had no plans to resign.
He vehemently denied being under investigation himself, or being accused of any wrongdoing by the report into Sanusi.
Sanusi earlier this week requested the President reverse his suspension, saying that every one of the allegations levelled against him and the Central Bank under his leadership were false.