The Sanusi – CBN years

With less than 12 months left for Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to complete his first term of five years as Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, talks are on in high places on who will succeed him. By now, the desk of President Goodluck Jonathan may be full with the resume of those who feel that they have what it takes to do the job. The CBN governor’s job is not a piece of cake. It is a job with a lot of headache

At this critical juncture in our country’s life, we need a CBN governor, who is versed in economic matters, and can hold his own among his colleagues globally. What is the worth of a CBN governor who cannot stand head to toe with Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer or America’s Chairman of the Federal Reserve?

Our CBN governor should not feel intimidated by others because they are from the so – called developed economies. No, he should be bold, assertive and daring in the discharge of his duties because on him rests the hope of a nation, talking monetarily, that is. As an international scholar, Sanusi’s predecessor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, had what it takes to play on the global field. When Soludo spoke while in office, the world listened because he was seen as a man of clout. Despite that, Soludo did not get a second term, which he badly wanted to enable him consolidate on the gains of his first term.

However, being an international scholar will not automatically translate to success for one as CBN governor. The CBN chief should also understand the terrain in which he operates and do all he can to win the confidence of the people. As CBN governor, has Sanusi been able to do this? In the past four years that he has been in office, what can he point to as his achievements? Can he be said to have enjoyed cordial working relationship with his fellow bankers/economists without breaching the trust reposed in him by the government and the people of this country?

There is need for us to look at these issues before he leaves so that our leaders will be guided in appointing his successor. Sanusi has already said he is not interested in a second term. Even if he has such an interest, chances are that he may not be considered again, considering his relationship with the present government, Sanusi knows that he is not in the good books of this administration and, as such, it will be implausible to seek a renewal of his tenure under this presidency. He knows that is a dream that will never come true. But should the appointment of a CBN governor be based on relationship with the government in power or on competence?

Both factors matter because there is no way any president will appoint someone as CBN governor if they cannot work in sync no matter how competent that person may be. Sanusi was lucky because he was appointed by the late President Umaru Yar ‘ Adua, who believed in him. The late president, according to Segun Adeniyi in his book : Power, Politics & Death : A front – row account of Nigeria under the late President Yar ‘ Adua was virtually over the moon following Sanusi’s appearance before the Senate for screening. Segun quoted the late Yar ‘ Adua as saying :

‘’I watched some of the exchanges between Sanusi and the senators, and I was impressed. I think the guy is brilliant, but I have also been told about his integrity. I hope I made the right choice’’. Would the late Yar ‘ Adua have said the same thing about Sanusi today if he was alive? The late Yar ‘ Adua gave Sanusi a free hand to run things. Going by Segun’s account in his book, the late president seemed to have more faith in Sanusi than the then Attorney – General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa (SAN). This was why he authorised Sanusi to bypass his minister in order to get some bank chiefs.

Under his banking reform, Sanusi published the list of debtors in newspapers shortly after he took office. We were told the amount these big debtors were owing and they were asked to pay up or face prosecution. For weeks, the alleged debtors and their banks engaged in newspaper battle over the issue. Some debtors denied owing their banks, while those who admitted owing, said they were servicing their debts. Many of the banks rose in support of their customers, saying they were enjoying cordial relationship with them, debt or no debt. The question now is how much of those debts have been defrayed?

Will it not be good to also publish the list of those who have paid just as the CBN went to town a few years ago with the names of those owing? By far, the most controversial action taken by Sanusi is his removal of the chief executives of Intercontinental Bank, Finbank, Afribank, Oceanic Bank and Union Bank. In one fell swoop, Erastus Akingbola (Intercontinental), Okey Nwosu (Finbank), Sebastian Adigwe (Afribank), Mrs Cecilia Ibru (Oceanic) and Bartholomew Ebong (Union) were sent packing by Sanusi because of alleged mismanagement of funds. He also accused them of stealing. He took the action following the examination of the banks’ books by CBN and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).

In law, you don’t punish a

suspect before his trial. He is

punished after trial. But in CBN’s handling of this matter, the reverse is the case. In a few days from now, it will be four years that Sanusi removed these bank chiefs and even sold their banks to boot. Many of the things Sanusi claimed to have found out about these banks were for long pepper soup joint gossips during which revellers sat over bottles of beer to give what they consider insider accounts of the rot in our banking system. It is good that Sanusi has unearthed all these as a risk management expert.

But many find it hard to believe that such a thing could be happening in the sector and yet Soludo, his predecessor, was giving the banks a clean bill of health. By his action, Sanusi is insinuating that Soludo was privy to all the mess. As Segun asked in his book, ‘’the pertinent question therefore was, how could all this have escaped Soludo?” It is a difficult question to answer, but in clearing the ‘mess’ he believed he inherited Sanusi should not be seen doing things to tarnish the reputation of his predecessor and the affected bank chiefs. He should bear in mind that those hailing him today for doing a good job will not hesitate to join others in stoning him if tomorrow they hear that he was involved in one deal or other while in office.

Some of the questions that will be asked once he leaves are : Is it true that the affected banks were forcefully taken over to discredit Soludo’s banking consolidation? Is it true that two banks were spared similar treatment because of their owners’ connection with the power – that – be? Is it true that BankPHB was seized in order to return the old Habib Bank to the Yar ‘Adua family to reverse the effect of the Soludo banking reform? Was due process followed in the acquisition of the affected banks? How was it possible for smaller banks to acquire some of the banks that were bigger and better than them? Where did the money come from? From Sanusi’s CBN or where?

Sanusi may believe that he has done well, but I pray that he will not have a successor who will be like him. We can only wish him well after he leaves office next year.


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