Today, the 20th of February 2014, the President’s Spokesperson, Dr Reuben Abati, announced that President Jonathan had suspended Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and had appointed an Acting Governor in his place. Sanusi’s first tenure of 5 years ought to have ended in a few months’ time and he was widely reported not to be interested in a second term, to which he would ordinarily have been entitled.
The announcement of his suspension follows recent reports of turbulence between the erstwhile CBN over several issues, including, allegedly, Sanusi’s insistence on the existence of a huge financial remittance deficit by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Does the President have the power to suspend or otherwise remove the Governor from office? Well, sorta, kinda. Section 11 of the CBN Act of 2007 states as follows –
11(1) A person shall not remain a Governor, Deputy Governor or Director of the [Central] Bank [of Nigeria] if he is –
(a) a member of any Federal or State legislative house; or
(b) a Director, officer or employee of any bank licensed under the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act.
11(2) The Governor, Deputy Governor or Director shall cease to hold office in the Bank if he –
(a) becomes of unsound mind, or owing to ill health, is incapable of carrying out his duties;
(b) is convicted of any criminal offence by a court of competent jurisdiction except for traffic offences or contempt proceedings arising in connection with the execution or intended execution of any power or duty conferred under this Act or the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act;
(c) is guilty of a serious misconduct in relation to his duties under this Act;
(d) is disqualified or suspended from practising his profession in Nigeria by order of a competent authority made in respect of him personally;
(e) becomes bankrupt;
(f) is removed by the President:
Provided that the removal of the Governor shall be supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed.
(3) The Governor or any Deputy Governor may resign his office by giving at least three months’ notice in writing to the President of his intention to do so and any Director may similarly resign by givingat least one month’s notice in writing to the President of his intention to do so.
(4) If the Governor, any Deputy Governor of Director of the Bank dies, resigns or otherwise vacates his office before the expiry of the tem for which he has been appointed, there shall be appointed a fit and proper person to take his place on the Board for the unexpired period of the term of appointment in the first instance if the vacancy is that of –
(a) the Governor or a Deputy Governor, the appointment shall be made in the manner prescribed by section 8(1) and (2) of this Act; and
(b) any Director, the appointment shall be made in the manner prescribed by section 10(1) and (2) of this Act.
If we look at 11(2)(f), which was highlighted, I believe we can conclude that the President has taken a legitimate first step in removing Sanusi from the position of Governor. However, the removal is what we lawyers like to describe as “inchoate” until it is ratified by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. Can Senate President, David Mark, deliver a two-thirds majority to the President, to rubber-stamp Sanusi’s removal? One is confused with all the defections and cross-defections in the National Assembly of late, but we will just have to wait and see.