The suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Monday won another judicial battle against the federal government as a Federal High Court in Lagos upheld his suit challenging the power of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) to investigate him over alleged financial recklessness.
The judgment came barely two months after another Federal High Court in Lagos upheld Sanusi’s fundamental human rights enforcement suit in which he challenged the seizure of his international passport and accusations of sundry offences including financing terrorism by the Department of State Security (DSS).
The judge disqualified the council from carrying out further investigation against Sanusi and the CBN.
He stated that the council did not comply with set out procedure for conducting investigations and that it did not respect the spirit of the enabling provisions of its Act.
He said Sanusi was right to have rushed to court to stop the probe because it was evident that the whole arrangement was orchestrated to nail him ab initio.
He submitted that to expect the suspended CBN boss to submit himself to the FRC to investigate him was tantamount to submission to jeopardy and preventable harm.
Using proverb to illustrate the case between the FRC and Sanusi, Justice Tsoho likened the FRC probe to a cockroach finding itself in the midst of fowls, adding that such cockroach, in the words of the elders, can never be innocent.
While stating that prevention was better than cure, the court ruled that Sanusi was absolutely right to approach the court to protect his constitutional rights.
While dismissing the argument of the FRC that the probe was not only about Sanusi, and that the ex-CBN boss ought to have presented himself for the probe, Justice Tsoho ruled that the briefing note sent to President Goodluck Jonathan was revealing, as it was obvious that the FRC instigated the probe, and had indicted Sanusi even before the commencement of the probe.
The judge also dismissed an insinuation in the briefing note that Jonathan’s political opponents might use the report to nail the president, saying the insinuation also proved the prejudice which the FRC had towards Sanusi.
The court, consequently upheld all the reliefs sought by Sanusi including: “A declaration that the defendant’s recommendation regarding the plaintiff in briefing note date June 7, 2013, that he be removed from office as CBN governor, were ultra vires their powers under the FRCN Act 2011.
“A declaration that the proposed investigation as advertised in the Punch newspaper of March 24, in the circumstance of having reached a conclusion in the briefing note of June 2013, before embarking on the investigation, is tantamount to a breach of natural justice.
“A declaration that the defendant do not have the power to conduct investigation as advertised in the newspaper.
Sanusi had in the suit listed the FRC and the Executive Secretary of the council, Jim Obaze, as first and second respondents respectively.
While adopting the case, Sanusi’s lawyer, Kola Awodein (SAN), had argued that the FRC lacked the power to carry out the wide ranging investigation into the books of CBN under Sanusi, as the probe was in breach of fundamental rights to natural justice.
For instance, Awodein recalled that in the briefing note, his client (Sanusi) was accused of recklessly spending about N20.2 billion on legal and professional fees, but that N19.8 billion of the sum was actually used to pay a judgment sum to some pensioners of CBN in a Supreme Court case filed by one Amao against the apex bank.
Awodein further denied that huge sums were paid as local flight fees to Emirates Airline and Wings Aviation Limited, which were said to be foreign airlines, adding that a proper clarification would have been made had Sanusi been given fair hearing in the first instance.
He added: “The FRC and the Executive Secretary who are to conduct the investigation have already shown that they have decided the issues by the statements they made about Sanusi being financially reckless.
“For instance, my lord, the FRC Executive Secretary, in the concluding part of the briefing note to the President said and I quote: “It is important for Mr President to take action fast before Sanusi resigns to foreclose investigation, and also so that the opposition will not accuse the President of allowing such financial recklessness to be perpetrated by the CBN Governor under his watch.”