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Nigeria Suspends Anti-Graft Central Bank Governor

posted 20 Feb 2014, 08:44 by Mpelembe   [ updated 20 Feb 2014, 08:45 ]

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan suspends Central Bank Governor Sanusi, removing an increasingly outspoken critic of the government in Africa's leading energy producer.

ABUJA, NIGERIA  (REUTERS) - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan suspended Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusion Thursday (February 20), removing an increasingly outspoken critic of the government's record on tackling rampant corruption.

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Several dealers told Reuters that Nigeria's foreign exchange, bond and money markets had all stopped trading because of the uncertainty and volatility created by the suspension.

Sanusi, who was due to end his term in June, had been presenting evidence to parliament which he said showed the state oil company Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to remit around $20 billion that it owed to federal government coffers.

NNPC has repeatedly denied Sanusi's allegations.

Deputy Governor Sarah Alade was appointed acting governor, the presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said on Thursday.

Sanusi gave his presentation during a Senate committee hearing on February 6.

"All that we have said as Central Bank and I think there is no disagreement, is that NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) shipped 67 billion dollars worth of crude, they have repatriated or we have established that 47 billion dollars has come back to the federation. There is a 20 billion dollars that has not come back," Sanusi said.

"The burden of proof is on NNPC but we have made suggestions that we question some of those explanations and we believe that even some of that which has gone to NPDC (Nigerian Petroleum Development Company) does not belong to NPDC but to the federation," added Sanusi.

Following events in early February, Lagos-based lawyer Onyebuchi Ememanka said the situation raised questions about the integrity of public office holders in Nigeria and raised concern over political interference.

"What kind of economy do we run that 20 billion dollars gets missing in one fell swoop? That's on the one part. On the second part is, it also raises issues about the integrity and personality of the people who occupy strategic positions, the office of the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) governor is a very strategic one, his words are taken seriously by Nigerians, economic watchers and the international community so he must be very very sure of his facts before he brings them to the public," Ememanka said during an interview in early February.

"Indeed, there has been accusations that Sanusi is carrying out a political agenda to create the impression that the presidency is confused about how to manage resources," he added.

At the time Ememanka said, "Sanusi insisted that he will not resign until his tenure expires by June so there's a lot of political mix in the entire story."

On February 13, finance minister Ngozi Okonjo Iweala agreed to organise a forensic audit.

"These are extraordinary times and a lot of accusations are been made in this country and the only way Nigerians are going to be satisfied is to have an independent opinion on this amount," she told the committee.

Auwal Musa Rasfanjani, spokesman for Transparency International, Nigeria said recently, "No government can afford to let this continue so we are surprised that even the president is not worried you know about this diversion of this revenue that is supposed to come to the federation account but ending up in some individual or private pocket.."

If Jonathan wants to remove Sanusi entirely, he needs the consent of a simple majority of theSenate.

The Senate could also vote to reverse the suspension if they aren't satisfied with the reasons, though that looks unlikely, since the ruling party has a comfortable majority in the Senate, andSanusi was also a vocal critic of wasteful spending in the national assembly.