Our next Central Bank governor

By The Rainbow

IT is such a grave tragedy that Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi could be ending his banking career and public service with a disgrace. President Goodluck Jonathan is reported to be asking for Sanusi's resignation, five months before expiration of his first term. I doubt if Dr. Jonathan will be able to muster enough votes in the Senate, in these very testy times, to endorse Sanusi's sack, as the law requires. I will, therefore, ask the president to let him serve out his term, perhaps with a letter of stern rebuke, as a parting gift. Despite his acumen, intelligence and courage, the governor has sullied his legacy with his erratic behaviour and indiscretion. Even if Sanusi did not leak the letter he wrote to the president, his allegation that the NNPC had failed to remit $49.8b billion in oil receipts to the Federation Account between January 2012 and July 2013 is ridiculous. This is more than our national budget for two consecutive years, and so it is difficult to understand how the CBN governor could assume that such a humongous amount of money was missing, misplaced or unaccounted for. If he had had any misgivings about NNPC remittances, he should just have sought clarifications from the relevant government agencies.  Although his letter was not made public until December 4, 2013 when it was leaked, Obasanjo referred to it in his letter dated December 2, 2013, to the president, in which the former president also criticised Dr. Jonathan harshly. The president had since denied all of Obasanjo's claims in his rebuttal of the former president's letter. Sanusi's letter caused a huge embarrassment to the government which had recently been subjected to a barrage of attacks, criticism and slanderous commentaries from many quarters. It is, therefore, understandable that the administration would be greatly peeved. Immediately, the APC called on the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against the president while the Senate directed its Committee on Finance to probe the contents of Sanusi's letter. But the NNPC promptly rebutted Sanusi's allegation, and accused the CBN governor of playing politics and ignorance of the operations of the oil and gas sector. Following NNPC's repeated denials, a joint press conference was convened by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke and Sanusi, during which it was revealed that a reconciliation process was ongoing, and had so far established that it was not $49.8 billion that had not been repatriated to the Federation Account but $10.8 billion. During the press conference, however, Sanusi attempted to distance himself from the statements made by Okonjo-Iweala and Alison-Madueke, stating that it was $12 billion that had not been remitted by NNPC. But the finance minister immediately interjected, insisting that it was $10.8 billion that had not been remitted to the Federation Account and was still in dispute. As CBN governor, Sanusi is a member of the government's economic management team of which the Petroleum Minister and Finance Minister are key members; a senior advisor to the government with unfettered access to the president. I am shocked that the governor elected to sensationalise the issue of NNPC remittances instead of seeking clarifications through official channels.

The point really is that Sanusi has always been a controversial person, who, I recall, came into office with a lot of anger and bitterness against some people in the banking industry. His indiscretion was clear in his Senate confirmation hearings, Sanusi gave out a foretaste of his character by criticising the Seven-point agenda of the then President Yar'Adua. This manifested in some aspects of his reforms of 2009, contrary to the comportment, calmness and sagacity of a Ben Benanke who also faced a more serious crisis as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of U.S. He wore a facade of a crusader with a mission, but five years on, the veil has fallen and the real Sanusi has emerged. The leakage of his letter three months after it was delivered to the president was meant to embarrass the government. Even if Sanusi did not leak his letter, the content lacked reason and was written without proper verifications from other agencies of government involved in the matter. He was pushed by a sanctimonious frame of mind, an Obasanjo type of personality. This episode should be a major lesson for Dr. Jonathan as he searches for a suitable replacement to the governor. What type of person should the president look for and how can we avoid this embarrassment in future? By international best practice and global standards, our new CBN governor should be a well trained economist in the area of macroeconomics who should possess a Ph.D from a reputable international university. He must be conversant with the interplay of monetary theory and practice and as a macroeconomist, should be knowledgeable in fiscal policy, thoroughly understand the Nigerian economy and the inherent challenges and must demonstrate some reasonable experience in the policy arena in Nigeria through involvement in fiscal and monetary policy management. Additionally, the new governor should be articulate with evidence of some research and publications in the area of macroeconomics and the Nigerian economy, must command respect among his colleagues, have global contacts and appeal through his outreach, work and networking capabilities and have demonstrated leadership qualities by heading large organizations in the country.

It is international best practice to appoint renowned economists into such position. Given Nigeria's position in the world, especially in the African region, the next governor must be seasoned and respected among his colleagues in the profession. Just two weeks ago, the United States Senate confirmed Dr. Janet L. Yellen as the next Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. Yellen's academic home is at the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied the roots of unemployment and has taught on and off since 1980. She received her doctorate in economics from Yale University under the mentorship of Nobel laureate James Tobin.  In Ghana, Dr. Kofi Wampah was also recently confirmed as the new governor of the Bank of Ghana. He holds a Masters and doctorate in Economics from McGill University, Montreal, Canada.   In the UK, the Chancellor of the Exchequer surprised many last year when he announced the appointment of a Canadian citizen, Mark Joseph Carney, as the new Governor of the Bank of England. Carney holds a Ph.D from the University of Oxford. Beyond qualifications, the CBN governor ought to be a calm person with adequate self-possession.

In appointing the next governor, President Jonathan will also be advised that the CBN is managed in a very collegial structure consisting of the governor and four deputy governors. It is, therefore, important to have a good mix of the specialties of these five leaders. Currently, the deputy governors are individuals with banking operations pedigree. The new governor should therefore come with a broad academic and career background in macro economics. Second, the temperament, background and moral fabric of the person is also key. This office is too important for an erratic, irascible and easily excitable character. Third, it would also be quite Nigerian for the president to cast his mind back to past occupants of that office. The first CBN governor was Roy Pentelow Fenton, a British, who served from July 1958 to July 1963; Aliyu Mai-Bornu (North East, from July 1963 to June 1967);  Dr. Clement Isong (South South, August 1967 to September 1975); Adamu Ciroma (North East, September 1975 to June 1977); Ola Vincent (South West, June 1977 to June 1982); Abdulkadir Ahmed (North East, June 1982 to September 1993); Paul Ogwuma (South East, October 1993 to May 1999); Joseph Sanusi (South West, May 1999 to May 2004); Charles Soludo (South East, May 2004 to May 2009) and Sanusi Lamido (North West, June 2009 to June 2014). Unless the president will pick another British citizen, the odds are in favour of the South-South and North Central geopolitical zones, and since Tunde Lemo is also retiring as a deputy governor, the president may wish to fill the two positions from these two zones.

• Etim is a banker and journalist.