Mallam Sanusi had been “suspended” to allow for investigations into alleged breaches of accounting standards and financial recklessness. An action which from the remarks of the special adviser to the President on media and publicity Mr. Reuben Abati has been supported by the simple notion of “he that hires can fire” credited to his statement “the president appointed Sanusi and he can remove him”, whereas the national assembly holds the position that the said suspension is illegal as it was carried out without their confirmation. What then can be said to be the true position of our law?
Understanding the legality or otherwise of the president of the federal republic of Nigeria suspending the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria requires a close look at the law backing such an action.
The law governing the establishment and operation of the Central Bank of Nigeria is the Central Bank of Nigeria (Establishment) Act, Cap C4, laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004 (the CBN act).
Section 11 (2) (f) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (Establishment) Act Cap C4 LFN 2004 provides;
“The governor, deputy governor or director shall cease to hold office in the bank if he –
(f) is removed by the president;
Provided that the removal of the governor shall be supported by two-thirds majority of the senate praying that he be so removed”
The school of thought which believes that President Jonathan acted ultra vires his powers argues that the removal of the Governor of the bank can only be done with the support of two-thirds of the majority of the senate whereas another school argues that the President did not remove Sanusi but only suspended him, this argument is hinged on the notion that the suspension does not have the finality of a removal and that the President would therefore not require the support of two-thirds of the majority of the senate.
In aiding further clarification on this arguments, section 11 (1) (b) of the Interpretation Act Cap I23 LFN 2004 provides that “ where an enactment confers a power to appoint a person either to an office or to exercise any functions, whether for a specified period or not, the power includes –
b) Power to remove or suspend him.
Section 8 (1) of the CBN (Establishment) Act provides:
“the governor and deputy governors shall be persons of recognised financial experience and shall be appointed by the president subject to confirmation by the senate on such terms and conditions as may be set out in their respective letters of appointment”.
From the foregoing, it can thus be deduced that there is indeed an inherent power by the President to appoint and to remove but the law did not go further to state the process.
In order to avoid situations where government actions will be prone to a thousand and one legal interpretations, it is trite law that where the words of a statute are clear and unambiguous, it should be given effect as it is and there should be no venturing outside by introducing extraneous matters that may lead to circumventing or giving the provision an entirely different interpretation from what the law makers intended it to be. This position has been reiterated by the apex court, the Supreme Court of Nigeria in a litany of cases which includes- Unipetrol (Nigeria) PLC VS. E.S.B.I.R (2006) 8 NWLR (pt.983) 624 at 636, paras A – C, Nigerian Army VS. Dodo (2012) 18 NWLR (pt.1331) 151 at 166, paras. E – H
Whichever way the argument goes, it is obvious that the President did not act under the powers of any express provisions of any law
From the cases of Central Bank of Nigeria vs. Igwilo (2007) 14 NWLR (pt. 1054) 393 and Olaniyan vs. University of Lagos (1985) 2 NWLR (pt.9) 599, it is the law that public servants do not hold their offices at the pleasure of the federal government, rather, their appointments are based on rules and regulations, statutes or memoranda of appointment and the federal government cannot act in respect of those servants except within and under the powers conferred on them by the statute.
Without delving into the obvious political situations in the country, it is necessary that the president should ensure that our laws are complied with otherwise; Nigeria would be seen as declining in leadership and consequently loses its leadership roles and positions in Africa
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Uma A. Olugu. Esq.
Uma A. Olugu. Esq. is Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme court of Nigeria.
Copyright 1st Attorneys
More information about 1st Attorneys
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.