NNPC's 'missing billions' & Sanusi Lamido's misperceived brief

Niger Delta Question25 February 2014, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt – Until his suspension by the President last week, Sanusi Lamido was the only unelected governor in Nigeria; he was appointed governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank in 2010 for a four year term. By virtue of his official job description, Mr. Lamido became a civil servant attached to the executive arm of government when he accepted to serve as Central Bank Governor. Apart from the sacred policy of confidentiality which all civil servants are expected to abide by Mr. Lamido had the added obligation of managing his office in such a manner as to attract and sustain investor confidence in the fiscal fundamentals that Nigeria’s economy stands on. His is not just an accountant’s or an auditor’s brief, he was allowed a measure of latitude to stoke, tweak and calibrate the economy through the many powers granted his office by the constitution. Apart from being the governor of the Central Bank, Sanusi Lamido is also a prince of the Emirate of Kano, he is a muslim and a devout believer in the primacy of the Northern half of Nigeria in the politics of Nigeria. All of these qualities influenced his handling of his office such that the office gradually took the posture of a critical wine tester managing a vineyard. He once famously donated N100m of public money to victims of a social crisis in his home state of Kano.

A few months after the American defence contractor, Edward Snowden went rogue with information he had stolen from his employers in direct breach of the terms of his employment, Sanusi Lamido announced to the world that the NNPC had failed to remit about $49b to the federation account. This was an important piece of information if it was verifiable but the cadre of men and women in and out of government who spend their lives making Nigeria a new investor friendly brand, went into shock. The reason was that information of that nature should never be distilled to the public except where every effort to trace the funds had proved abortive and when the system had acquired full information of the particulars of the transaction, culprits, modus operandi, et al. Even at such a point it is not the CBN governor’s brief to make such public pronouncements or to do anything that has the potential of eroding investor confidence.

Let me say with clarity that I have no confidence in the abilities, if any, of the NNPC. I am one Nigerian that believes the Federal Inland Revenue Services would have sufficed in the place of both the NNPC and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources. Let me also say that the handling of the matter of the alleged missing billions was very questionable. At a point the NNPC released a statement that the sum of $10.89b unaccounted for in the adjustment exercises carried out between the CBN and the NNPC had been spent on strategic petroleum reserves! Who appropriated the money they spent? From which budget did they pull off such an item of expenditure? Yes, the NNPC is a useless organisation that costs Nigerians the opportunity to develop wholesomely but it is not Alhaji Lamido’s job to tell the world that. Let us hope that from the suspension and possible dismissal Malam Lamido would learn useful lessons that would serve him if he gets the top job in the Kano Emirate Council.

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