In a move that may be bad for the image of a leader that has been criticised for his stance on corruption, President Goodluck Jonathan has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, to resign immediately on the grounds that the letter Sanusi wrote to him on the unremitted $49.8 billion oil revenue to the Federation Account, was leaked to former President Olusegun Obasanjo by the CBN governor.
Just months to the end of his tenure as governor, Sanusi has however refused to resign, even as he denied leaking the letter to anyone.
He was said to have informed the president during the heated telephone exchange that he could only be removed by two-thirds of the Senate as required by law.
The president was reported to have called Sanusi and accused him of leaking the letter to Obasanjo, which enabled the latter to use it as one of many allegations he levelled against Jonathan in his letter titled: “Before It is Too Late”.
According to a source in the presidency, the president was very angry and was not prepared to allow Sanusi proceed on his terminal leave in March, asked him to tender his resignation before the close of business last Tuesday.
Angered by the president’s position, Sanusi, who denied that he had leaked his letter to Obasanjo made it clear he would not be forced out, except he is removed by two-thirds of the Senate.
He also told the president that the letter was available in the presidential villa, available in the finance ministry and available in the central bank and wondered how he (Sanusi) could have leaked the letter, which was so widely available, to a former two-term president of Nigeria who has his people all over the place.
Sanusi also expressed his surprise to the president that he was the one being asked to resign instead of the president to ask those responsible for the non-remittance of the funds to resign.
Sources say his response threw the president aback, degenerating into a heated exchange during which Sanusi told the president that as the federal government’s Chief Economic Adviser, mandatorily required to bring issues of critical economic importance to the attention of the president, he had done a patriotic duty to his country.
“He informed the president that it is necessary to deal with the issues and not the letter that had been leaked since it has since been established that it was not $49.8 billion that had not been remitted to the Federation Account, but $10.8 billion, which was still in dispute and by any stretch of imagination was still a large sum.
“Sanusi felt he was being forced out for doing his patriotic duty to his country by drawing attention to the unaccounted funds. He only has two months to go, so this was a ploy to force him out and destroy his career and reputation.
“He knew this and for this reason, refused to throw in the towel as requested by the president,” a source familiar with the conversation told Thisday.
The president was said to have however remained adamant and insisted on the CBN governor’s resignation.
Sanusi had written to the president in September informing him that, among other issues, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had not remitted $49.8 billion of oil revenue to the Federation Account over a 19-month period.
Although the 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.