Nigerian central bank governor suspended

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Chris Kay and Elisha Bala-Gbogbo Abuja and Lagos

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Lamido Sanusi after his accusations of missing oil revenue sparked a public outcry and criticism against the government.

Sanusi had been suspended for alleged “various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct”, presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said yesterday. Sanusi’s deputy, Sarah Alade, would serve as acting governor until the conclusion of an investigation into “breaches of enabling laws, due process and mandate of the CBN”, Abati said.

Trading in the naira resumed yesterday after the central bank intervened with dollar sales to calm the forex market, dealers said. The naira rebounded from a low of 169 to the dollar shortly before the suspension of trading to 165 to the dollar

Sanusi was due to leave his post in June, having declined to remain for a second five-year term. He wrote to Jonathan last year, alleging the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had retained almost $50 billion (R546bn) in revenue that was due to the government. Early this month, he told a senate finance committee that $20bn was outstanding. The NNPC has denied the allegations.

“This is a disruptive move, which indicates that the Central Bank of Nigeria has de facto lost much of its independence,” said Samir Gadio, an emerging markets strategist at Standard Bank in London.

Sanusi said he would challenge the suspension, adding that failure to do so would compromise the future independence of the bank.

He would not be returning to his job, he said, but felt his suspension should be challenged in the courts to guaranteed the independence of the central bank.

“There’s also the big question of whether the president has the authority to remove the central bank governor” he told CNBC Africa. “If that is not challenged, the next central bank governor cannot be independent.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan named the managing director of Zenith Bank Godwin Emefiele as the next central bank governor, said the chairman of the Senate committee on finance.

Senator Ahmed Makarfi confirmed that Emefiele’s nomination had been sent to the senate for approval to take office when Sanusi's term would have expired in June. – Bloomberg

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