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In literature as in life abounds a multiplicity of characters who in their inordinate assessment of their capabilities define an exalted trajectory of their roles and importance to the advancement of society or organisations. Such characters in their full flight of fancy reject every reasonable attempt to restrain or divert them from their headlong dash into the cavern of disaster.
Such is the tragedy of the recently suspended Central Bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
When in 2009 he was appointed to this position he came in with a restlessness of spirit anchored on preconceived ideas of how to revitalise the banking sector and other areas of the nation’s economic life. This can be attested to by his recent interview where he asserted that he already knew what to do before he even stepped into the portals of the CBN.
The problem with preconceived ideas is that most times they are rooted in narrow minded sentiments and the urge to exact revenge or supplant assumed competitors. Preconception blinds the wielder of power to emerging realities, as all contrary ideas or facts must be forced to align with his accepted wisdom. Unfortunately, from recent information coming out from the Central Bank this may well go down as the hallmark of the Sanusi years.
We can see this mindset at work in his erstwhile plan to foist a N5,000 note denomination on the country. All reasonable opposition to this harebrained agenda was rebuffed until he was stopped by higher authorities.
Also in this line is his plan to revert the lower denomination currencies from polymer to paper notes at the cost of billions of Naira. The economic benefits of such a change are at best very dubious. We suspect that the only reason he is pushing for the rejection of polymer notes is just to rubbish the achievements of his predecessor who introduced that scheme. Today more countries such as Canada, Isreal, Romania, New Zealand etc have fully embraced the polymer technology because of durability and security and are using it to print all denominations of their currencies. Why should Nigeria be an exception?
This brings to mind the need to always be on our guard and not allow ourselves to be deceived by individuals who see national office as an avenue to embark on a reckless ego trip.
Sanusi to be fair to him has a flair for playing to the gallery and he exploited this skill for a long time to cast himself as a fighter for the common good to the loud applause and admiration of some people. Nobody or institution was above his acerbic tongue- he took on the bank executives, the Stock Exchange, National Assembly, NNPC and even his employer the federal government of Nigeria.
However, due to his long history of getting away with his unguarded utterances and actions he eventually shot himself in the foot as he inevitably got to the point where he was dancing only to his own drumbeats. The frenzy of the dance soon led him to start throwing all sorts of figures into the air as “missing”. One day it was $49 billion, next day $12 billion, day after $20 billion.
When he reached this nadir it became obvious that something drastic has to be done to not only save the integrity of the Central Bank and the Nigerian economy but also to save Sanusi from himself because it was glaring that the imperial governor had descended into the land of giddy indiscretion.
This assertion is supported by the reports of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria(FRCN) which established the following infractions, amongst others, from the CBN’s own report on the bank’s expenditure:
1. Spending N1.2 billion on providing lunch for policemen and private guards in year 2012.
2. Making bogus payments amounting to billions of Naira to airlines such as Emirates, Wings and Associated Airlines for currency distribution. This sounds legitimate until we realise that Emirates does not ply our local routes; Wings Airline is not registered in Nigeria; and the amount purportedly paid to Associated by CBN exceeded the total turnover of the airline in that given year.
3. Making ambiguous payments in billions of Naira under such spurious sub heads as “centre of excellence”, “contribution to internal security” etc.
4. The CBN claimed to have paid N38.2 billion to Nigerian Printing and Minting Company in 2011 whereas the total turnover for that agency in 2011 was N29.3 billion.
5. Also we are now hearing of the award of N84 billion and N5 billion contracts without the slightest recourse to due process according to the laws of the land. This is the height of impunity.
Space will not allow us to itemise other salacious evidence of Sanusi’s financial recklessness but the FRCN document is already in the public domain for further reading.
The questions that are begging for answers are these:
1. If such indictable acts can be discerned from just the account report for one year (2012) what then happens if the accounts beginning from 2009 are put under the microscope?
2. Based on these verifiable infractions is Sanusi not more culpable of undermining the financial system than the Banks/Executives that he wilfully hounded and victimised?
3. With such poor management track record would the CBN still be a going concern under Sanusi had it not been that it is a banker to the federation account?
4. Has there been any attempt to objectively investigate the criteria for Sanusi’s takeover and hurried sale of some of the major banks in Nigeria?
5. Who and what has benefited from the billions of intervention funds that Sanusi’s CBN have been rolling out in the last few years?
6. What verifiable impact have such funds had on the Nigerian people and the economy?
7. Is the CBN a Ministry or Agency set up to award and supervise major infrastructural projects given the scope and variety of contracts awarded under Sanusi’s watch?
We wish to recommend that a high powered investigative panel be set up to thoroughly and forensically scrutinise the accounts and activities of the CBN under Sanusi since 2009 till date.
Such a panel should also focus on the process of bank acquisitions under Sanusi.
One example: analysts have pointed out the incongruity of Access Bank acquiring Intercontinental Bank and have likened that scenario to the case of a rat swallowing an elephant. They also allege that the acquisition may be one of Sanusi’s private acquisitions by proxy. Only a thorough investigation can clarify this great paradox.
We believe that the findings of the FRCN are just a tip of the iceberg given that their report was based on accounts prepared by the CBN itself. The mind boggles to imagine what may be unearthed when an independent examination is carried out.
The need for such an investigation is urgent and will help to strengthen the system such that no misguided individual or group will be free to run riot in future with our revered institutions and the collective destiny of the people of Nigeria.
A stitch in time saves nine.
Opinion article written by Joseph Olayemi from Lagos
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