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Nigerian President Defends Suspension of Central Bank Governor

  • James Butty

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan arrives for service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, First National Bank Stadium, Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan arrives for service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, First National Bank Stadium, Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said his suspension of Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi had nothing to do with the governor’s allegations of corruption at the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

Sanusi said over $20 billion had disappeared from state oil revenues.

Although Sanusi said he would challenge the legality of his suspension in court, presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said Jonathan has made it clear he has the power to appoint and suspend bank governors.

“President Jonathan made it very clear that what we are dealing with here is a case of suspension, not dismissal. But, the question that has arisen from that is whether the president has the power to suspend without recourse to the National Assembly. The position expressed by Mr. President is indeed he who appoints also has the power to suspend,” he said.

Abati said Jonathan, during a news conference, also addressed the question of whether Sanusi was suspended over his corruption allegations.

“Indeed, the investigation against him (Sanusi) first started as far back as February, 2013. As of April 2013, and also by May 4th, he had been given queries to respond to a number of allegations. His response was then forwarded to the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, which reported back to the federal government alleging many breaches and practically accusing the CB under Sanusi’s watch of fraud, incompetence and of financial recklessness. And, on the basis of that, the presidency had to ask Mr. Sanusi to step down,” Abati said.

Abati said Sanusi’s claim that over $20 billion is missing from state oil revenues is being investigated by the Nigerian legislature.

He said Jonathan insisted his government would not interfere with an ongoing legislative investigation.

“Indeed, Mr. Sanusi is free and is encouraged to continue to give evidence before the National Assembly. President Jonathan’s commitment is to integrity and accountability. And, he has made it very clear that his government is also committed to transparency, both in the extractive sector and particularly in the NNPC,” Abati said.

Abati says the Nigerian government saw a brief jolt in the financial markets as reaction to Sanusi’s suspension, the man considered as having brought some stability to Africa’s second largest economy.

“Immediately after the announcement, as a result of the uncertainty that quite a number of persons read into the development, there was a brief shock in the market. But, the position of government is that this has nothing to do with monetary policy. The Central Bank of Nigeria remains very strong and government is committed to continuing to strengthen it, and there is no need for anxiety about the country’s financial policy,” Abati said.

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