A welcome challenge – The Nation

•Sanusi’s decision to challenge his suspension in court is good for rule of law

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s recourse to seek judicial salvation in his bid to reclaim his post as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor is commendable. He was suspended as Governor of the CBN by President Goodluck Jonathan last month, and he is now in court through his attorney, Kola Awodein, SAN, to challenge the suspension in an Abuja Federal High Court. Such seeming presidential impunity had hitherto gone unchallenged.

His bid to restrain the President, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Inspector- General of Police from giving effect to his purported suspension from office, pending the determination of the suit, has been, understandably, rejected by the court. This interim setback notwithstanding, the court has in the interest of justice, ordered that the President should be put on notice while the matter was fixed for March 12 so as to avail both sides the opportunity to argue the motion.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole, the presiding judge’s ruling would definitely allow the defendants to appear before the court to explain why the application should not be granted. Despite this justice-oriented legalese, we must quickly state that what is of more significant interest to us is that the substantive suit will go a long way in determining whether statutory laws guiding the operations of institutions of government can be breached by the President when suspending or removing the heads of such agencies from office.

We do know that Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007 in Section 11 clearly provides instances under which the governor or any of his deputies can be removed from office. None, to the best of our understanding, allows for presidential suspension of the governor. The only mention of the word ‘suspension’ is in section 11(1)(d) and that relates to the removal of the governor whenever he is disqualified or suspended from practicing his profession in Nigeria. And surprisingly, that was not the case in the prevailing circumstance. Furthermore, the only time the President can exercise any disciplinary control or recommend the removal of the CBN Governor is under section 11(1)(f) and that recommendation must be supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate before the CBN governor can be successfully removed. We will always stand by the tenets of the Rule of Law because this is by far preferable to the rule of the jungle – which we are deeply convinced Nigeria is not -but a sovereign country governed by rules and regulations. Her affairs should be devoid of sentiments but anchored on these written rules and regulations.

We abhor official meddlesomeness, which is why the recourse to judicial solution in the present impasse is well appreciated. Some years back when Professor Maurice Iwu was unilaterally removed by the President, the move was applauded not because of its legality but because the public was already fed up with his leadership style as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Sadly, the seeming public approval given that illegal presidential act must have given the President the impetus to go ahead and suspend Sanusi as CBN governor. Unfortunately, in Sanusi’s case, this act is only tantamount to an indirect termination of his appointment because before the expiration of the period of suspension, his tenure would have expired, thereby making restitutio in integrum impossible.

We consider this case a testy good one that is capable of extending the frontiers of constitutional governance and causing a reduction in executive impunity, now or in the future. It is even the more imperative that we know the position of the law on such matters, especially with general elections only about a year away. A situation where the fear of the President will be the beginning of wisdom is not good for INEC, for example. This would have been settled long since if Iwu had the courage to challenge his removal by the President.

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