Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan wants the governor of the central bank of Nigeria out. However, chief banker Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi will try to extend his stay as long as possible, which at the longest would be until June, when his tenure as head of the bank expires.
The country’s chief central banker has watched the country’s oil scandal – $49.8 billion in oil funds from Nigeria’s state-owned oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, have gone unremitted to the Federation Account between January 2012 and July 2013 – engulf him. His political problems began after a letter he addressed to Jonathan, in which he detailed NNPC’s failure to account for the oil proceeds and lambasted the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, a close ally to the president believed to be centrally involved in the corruption, was leaked to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. (The letter was later also leaked to the media). Obasanjo then published a missive to criticize current President Jonathan and his government titled ‘Before it’s too late.’ Nigeria’s central bank rectified and said the state-oil company NNPC had not paid $12 billion it earned from oil sales into government accounts, not the almost $50 billion it had stated earlier.
Jonathan believes Lamido Sanusi’s leaked the letter as a way to publicly criticize his presidency; the central bank governor claims that someone else had leaked the document. Jonathan tried to get him to resign this week; the central bank governor said that the only way that would happen is if his exit was approved by two-thirds of the Senate. Meanwhile, and as of January 10, Nigeria’s onetime central bank Deputy Governor Tunde Lemo is shaping up to be a likely successor. He no longer holds that position at the bank after having served the maximum two five-year terms. He recently told Bloomberg that his exit from office wouldn’t affect his chances of possibly succeeding governor Lamido Sanusi.
But other possibilities include serving Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Olusegun Aganga and the Minister of State for Finance Yerima Ngama, among several others. Nigeria’s economy is the second-largest on the continent, and as central bank chief Lamido Sanusi has been at the forefront of reforming its banking sector. Analysts believe that many of the gains the country has made in recent years could disappear if someone close to Jonathan takes over the central bank and reestablishes a direct line between the President and the monetary authority. What could have been an opportunity for Nigeria to display its desire to crack down on one of its long term structural problems — corruption — could become a massive liability. And the fact that Lamido Sanusi’s departure is assured makes that potential liability all the greater.