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Published On: Mon, Feb 24th, 2014

Jonathan surrounded by ‘incompetent’ frauds – Sanusi

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  • FRC report indicts Alade, Moghalu, Barau too

By Lawrence Olaoye with agency reports

Ousted Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi yesterday, described President Goodluck Jonathan who suspended him recently as a simple man trying to do well but was being undermined by incompetent and fraudulent aides.

This is just as facts emerged yesterday that the same Financial Reporting Council (FRC) recommendations which indicted Sanusi also did not spare the new CBN acting governor, Sarah Alade, and all of the bank’s deputy governors.

Sanusi has accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of withholding $20 billion (14.5 billion euros), allegations that earned him powerful enemies across the government.

In an interview with Agence France Presse (AFP) in Lagos, Sanusi said many of the people advising Jonathan are sycophants who do not speak frankly about the extent of corruption in government.

“When you sit with President Jonathan himself he appears a nice, simple person who is trying his best to do his best”

“His greatest failing obviously is that he is surrounded by people who are extremely incompetent, who are extremely fraudulent and whom he trusts”, he said.

Regarding the allegations against him, Sanusi said he had earlier this year heard of a report condemning his performance and wrote to Jonathan in “June or July” asking if an explanation was needed, but received no reply.

The first time he was formally notified about the allegations was the day he was suspended, he said.

He argued it would be too simple to describe his removal as payback for his attacks on the NNPC.

“Since 2009 I have been annoying the government… You’ve got people who think I have the wrong friends, people who think maybe I have not distanced myself enough from people who are seen to be opposition figures”, he further said.

Regardless of an avalanche of reactions to his suspension – which many Nigerians believe is linked more to his exposing government corruption – Mr. Jonathan will not sack all the indicted deputy governors at a go, and may even spare them, a senior aide to the president disclosed at the weekend.

Sanusi’s suspension was predicated on the verdict given by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, a little-known government agency under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment.

The FRC is responsible for, among other things, developing and publishing accounting and financial reporting standards to be observed in the preparation of financial statements of public entities in Nigeria.

Until its report was cited as the basis for axing the CBN governor, the council was not known to have blown the whistle on corrupt government agencies and individuals.

In paragraph 2(g) of its report, the FRC urged President Jonathan to exercise his powers and “cause the Governor (of CBN) and the Deputy Governors to cease from holding office in the CBN.”

The CBN has three deputy governors. Mrs. Alade, who is the most senior and in charge of Economic Policy, was appointed acting governor Thursday.

Other serving deputy governors are: Kingsley Moghalu (in charge of Operations) and Suleiman Barau, in charge of Corporate Services.

The council, headed by Jim Obazee, rejected the explanations by the CBN to its initial report, and termed the responses “a clear display of incompetence, nonchalance, fraud, wastefulness, abuse of due process and deliberate efforts to misrepresent facts on the part of the leadership of the CBN”.

Sanusi has denied wrongdoing and plans to challenge the suspension order in court. Analysts say his removal has stirred anxiety in the nation’s markets.

Many Nigerians accuse the government of instigating the FRC to target Sanusi and then dusting up a report released several months back, only after the chief accused opened up to the world how at least $20 billion of oil proceeds were either stolen, or diverted by government officials.

The allegation that NNPC has failed to pay the huge sum in government treasury, has refused to go away. Despite the government’s denial, it has failed to account for the money, which is more than half of the nation’s entire budget for a year.

Sanusi, whose evidence is helping the Senate Finance Committee investigate the allegation as the committee was about to hold its final public hearing into the missing money at about 2pm on Thursday.

The FRC said the CBN governor himself, and all of the bank’s deputy governors including Mrs. Alade, have their own share of the blame in the alleged financial malfeasance in the bank and should be sacked and prosecuted.

The council said the bank lied in its audit report to deceive the uninformed, and described the CBN financial statements as “highly abridged with poor disclosures of transactions and events”.

According to the council, a key evidence of the bank’s management attempt to conceal the truth from government was its handling of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON.

The CBN is the part owners of AMCON. The council said that though the CBN has directors representing it on the Board of AMCON, and was aware of a loss after tax of about N2.439 trillion and negative total equity of N2.345 trillion at the end of 2011, yet it failed to disclose to the president details of the maturity date of the sovereign instruments.

Besides, the council also indicted the CBN for failing to advise the government on the dire negative implications its inability to fulfil its obligations in the AMCON’s sovereign bonds would have on the country’s credit risk rating.

Justifying the need for detailed investigation of all allegations of financial infractions levelled against the management, the council said a thorough investigation “cannot be successfully done if the principal officers (the Governor and his Deputy Governors) are allowed to be in office”.

Contacted by PREMIUM TIMES at the weekend on why the president has not fired the indicted deputy governors, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Communications, Reuben Abati, said the government is at liberty to determine how to implement the recommendations of the FRC.

“It is not practicable to dissolve the Central Bank at a go,” Mr. Abati said. “Investigations are ongoing and once people believed to be more culpable are identified, government will act appropriately”, he said.

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