SANUSI: Sins, Strength, Stewardship And Successor

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is the 10th Governor of the Central Bank Nigeria (CBN), appointed at the height of the financial crisis in June 2009 when his immediate predecessor Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo left office to enter into politics. Sanusi, a man with a calm disposition, fearless and intelligent, was the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of First Bank of Nigeria PLC before his appointment. The recent controversy between the CBN Governor and President Goodluck Jonathan is what the opposition (APC) will be willing to use to its advantage especially now that the presidency has suspended the outspoken CBN governor and appointed Dr. Sarah Alade, a Senior Deputy Governor of the Central Bank as acting governor and Mr. Adelabu Adekoya as Deputy Governor.  Earlier, the governor announced that he will be leaving office in June this year thus putting on hold the threats from the Presidency that he should resign his appointment but was caught pants down on Thursday when airborne from a trip to Niger Republic with the news of his suspension. The outspoken CBN Governor has been adjudged by many Nigerians as the most courageous and accountable apex bank governor the country has ever had. Sanusi’s cold war with the presidency has thrown lots of issues; the legitimacy of his suspension, his next line of action, the interest of the opposition to lure him into politics, the future of the CBN and Nigeria’s economy after he leaves in the face of scathing remarks he has made which has indicted the presidency, the ministry of Finance and top government functionaries, his successor. Sanusi has surely left a legacy in the financial system by way of sanitizing the system through pro-active policies and the involvement of anti-graft bodies.

Sins

Sanusi as part of his shortcomings was the introduction of Islamic Banking System in 2001. This initiative generated a lot of controversy as many argued that it was a part of the CBN Governor and late President Musa Yar’Adua’s plan to turn the country into an Islamic nation. Nigeria is a secular State and issues bordering on religion are sensitive. This explains why the opposition to it assumed religious dimension.

The central bank governor was also accused of sponsoring the dreaded terrorist group in Nigeria, Boko Haram. This accusation came as a result of his donation on behalf of the CBN of about N500M to victims of Boko Haram attacks in the north.  Many interpreted this supposed kind gesture as an indirect way of encouraging terrorists in the country, arguing that, many Igbo, Yoruba and other Southern women across the North, had become widows and their children, orphans as a result of these terrorist attacks and the “benevolent” CBN Governor did not deem them deserving of our collective wealth to assuage their sorrows inflicted by his deranged group, Boko Haram

Also, the apex bank governor was this year accused by presidentJonathan of leaking the letter which the he wrote to him on the unremitted $49.8 billion oil revenue to the Federation Account, to former president Olusegun Obasanjo, which enabled the latter to use it as one of many allegations he leveled against him in his letter titled: “Before It is Too Late”. Although Sanusi denied the allegation, he was asked by the president to resign.Sanusi also incurred public wrath in 2011 when he decided to introduce N5,000 note under his currency restructuring exercise. Many Nigerians kicked against the plan, but following a barrage of public anger, disagreement and threats, the idea was set aside.

The Kano-born technocrat recently maintained that, he will not resign before the expiration of his tenure as central bank governor. The reaction of Sanusi is seen as a response to the ongoing intrigues by the presidency to forcefully oust the CBN chief and perceived by many political allies of the president as an act of insubordination and pride.

The central Bank Governor as part of his sins introduced radical financial policies that did not go down well with some top politicians and their business associates. He introduced such policies as the cashless society. The policy eliminated the huge cost of managing cash which was estimated at $1billion yearly as well as reducing money laundering and armed robbery among others.

Stewardship

Lamido Sanusi though not without faults, recorded some landmark achievements which the nation and its people will forever remember him for. His cashless policy stabilized and sanitized the banking sector which led to a general behavioral change in the way business is conducted in the country.Many businesses and individuals now engage in electronic based transactions and changed the way they do business. Many now engage in electronic transactions like paying staff salaries, office supplies and more people now use their cards to pay for services. This policy has reduced the menace of money laundering and armed robbery.

The banking system was on the brink of collapse in 2009 but the CBN was able to fix the banks. The consolidation of banks recorded success without a single creditor or depositor losing a single kobo in a Nigerian bank. This was done in an environment in where a significant percentage of the revenue of the country is being looted; either with oil literally being taking out of the pipeline and being shipped out or simply having all sorts of leakages in the revenue system.

Through his policies, the apex chief was able to reduce inflation and fraud. The rate of inflation last year was recorded to be below 8% as against 12.3% in 2012.

Sanusi came up with strong financial policies such as price stability which gave investors the confidence of investing in Nigeria while others plan to invest in the country. Before these policy and other policies were put in place, foreign investors were skeptical about the stability of the economy of Nigeria.

In recognition of his achievements, the CBN governor bagged the award of Best Central Bank Governor of Sub-Saharan Africa for three (3) consecutive times.  The awards were given to him in 2011, 2012 and the latest in 2013 in recognition of his effort in reducing the rate of inflation in the country to a single unit. It was conferred on him by Emerging Market Magazine, an international organization.

Successor

Before the suspension of the central bank governor, Sanusi made clear the qualifications and qualities a central bank governor should possess.  He explained that the central bank is an independent financial institution that should not be influenced by government. He further explained that a CBN governor holds the economy of the nation in his/her hands and as a result should be bold and accountable taking into cognizance that the economy of Nigeria is in his hand. “The President of the country is often blamed when the economy is bad, but the man or woman that should get a good chunk of the stick for a bad economy is the governor of the Central Bank. His or her actions and inactions have a life and death hold on the Nigerian economy. By manipulating the cost of money in the economy, he or she can create wealth or destroy wealth” he said.

The position of the Central Bank governor in Nigeria, have been occupied over time by practicing or retired bankers Charles/Chukwuma Soludo seems to have been the obvious exception.

Financial Experts have argued that an economist should be appointed as the next CBN governor and not a banker as the case has been.

Anthony Osai-Brown, a financial expert in his write up “Who is qualified to succeed Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as CBN Governor? Argued that, developed countries and some developing countries such as Ghana chose to appoint economist as head of their head of apex bank because they know that the duties of an apex bank chief is more related to the economy of the country than banking. Giving examples of Janet Yellen, Head Federal Reserve Bank, United States of America, Dr. Karnit Flug of Isreal, Mark Carney of the United Kingdom and Dr. Henry Kofi Wampah of Ghana who are all economist, advised that Nigeria should follow suit and appoint an economist as the successor of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

Fortunately, the presidency has indicated clear interest in the person of Mr. Godwin Emiefele, a banker. He is the Managing Director of Zenith Bank PLC and his name has been forwarded to the senate for approval to replace Sanusi.

The man Emiefele

Emefiele-Taking-Zenith-Ban-268x336Godwin Emefiele became the Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank in August 2010 following the retirement of Mr. Jim Ovia, the pioneer managing director of the bank. Emefiele has held various management positions in the bank, including serving as the Bank’s Executive Director in charge of Corporate Banking, Treasury, Financial Control and Strategic Planning.
Emefiele has never been considered one of the favorites by analysts since profile of possible replacements for the just suspended Sanusi hit the media. Emiefele was directly responsible for all the Group’s local subsidiaries, Treasury and Correspondent Banking, and Multilateral, Conglomerates, & Private Banking. He also had responsibilities for direct supervision of majority of the bank’s branches in Lagos and Northern Nigeria.
He has over 26years banking experience and holds a B.Sc and an MBA in Finance both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Before commencing his banking career, he lectured Finance, Bank Management and Insurance at the UNN and University of Port Harcourt, respectively.
He is an alumnus of Stanford University, Harvard and Wharton Graduate School of Business where he took courses in Negotiation, Service Excellence, Critical Thinking, Leading Change and Strategy.
Under Emefiele’s leadership, Zenith Bank has strengthened its position as a leading financial institution in Africa, winning recognition and getting endorsement at home and abroad for giant strides in key performance areas like corporate governance, service delivery and deployment of cutting-edge ICT as well as impact in the bank’s numerous spheres of operations.
In 2012, Emefiele’s visionary leadership saw Zenith Bank ranked among the first 500 banks in the world   and receiving acclaim from reputable institutions such as world finance, CFI and FTSE Global Markets that have named Zenith the Best in Corporate Governance, Best Commercial Bank in Africa, and Emerging Global Super brand respectively.”

About Desmond Ekwueme

desmond.ekwueme@nationalweekender.net

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