The suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, told a Federal High Court, Lagos, on Thursday that the proposed investigation by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria was designed to condemn him and his tenure in office.
Sanusi, who denied among other allegations contained in a report by the Financial Reporting Council, that he paid “excessive” N20.2bn as professional and legal fees while in office, argued that the proposed investigation was already tainted by bias.
His counsel, Mr. Kola Awodein and Funke Aboyade, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria, denied the allegations while arguing Sanusi’s suit seeking an order barring the FRC from investigating him.
Awodein, who insisted that the FRC lacked the power to investigate Sanusi, argued the FRC had reached its conclusions and made recommendations before inviting him for investigation.
He said, “They have already decided on issues they want to investigate; they have reached conclusion on them. They have shown prejudice in those briefing notes in particular.
“They have predetermined to condemn the plaintiff and his period of service. For those reasons they are incapable in the eyes of the law to conduct any independent, credible, fair or objective investigation as they purport to do.”
Justice John Tsoho had earlier on April 1, given a temporary preservative order barring the FRC from continuing with the investigation pending the determination of the suit.
Tsoho on Thursday fixed May 12 for judgment after hearing counter-arguments by the FRC counsel, Mr. Adesegun Ajibola, who urged the court to strike out the suit.
Awodein, who cited instances of alleged bias against Sanusi by the FRC, said N19.8bn out of the alleged N20.2bn was actually meant for the payment of a judgment debt owed to CBN pensioners by virtue of a Supreme Court judgment in a suit , Amao v. CBN.
He said the suit was with number SC168/2007 and judgment was delivered on May 21, 2010.
He said the FRC failed to realise the truth about the issue because it failed to give Sanusi the opportunity to respond to the allegation.
“It would have been clear that N19.8bn of that payment they call legal and professional fees is actually judgment debts owed to CBN pensioners by virtue of a Supreme Court judgment in Amao vs CBN, with number SC/168/2007, delivered on 21st May 2010. So rather than simply ask him, they went to town to say he paid excessive N20.2bn as professional fees,” Awodein said.
But FRC, through its lawyer, Mr. Adesegun Ajibola (SAN), urged the court to dismiss Sanusi’s suit, saying the basis for the proposed investigation was not based on the briefing notes which formed the basis of his suspension from office.
He said, the briefing notes, on which the plaintiff rested his allegation of bias had no relevance to the FRC’s proposed investigation. He therefore added that Sanusi’s fear about bias was misplaced.
Ajibola said, “No where in those two letters was the issue of Briefing Notes referred to as being the basis of investigation. The basis of investigation is contained in the letters of 19th and 20th of February.
“The fears of the plaintiff that made him file this action are completely misplaced and unfounded.”
He argued in a preliminary objection which was first heard by the court before the substantive suit that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
“This court cannot conduct investigations into statements of accounts. The law has specified who should carry out such duties. This court cannot be turned into an administrative tribunal,” Ajibola said.
He argued that contrary to Sanusi’s contention, the FRC did not invite Sanusi for investigation on its own volition, but was directed to do so by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
He said prior to the letter dated February 20 suspending Sanusi from office, the SGF had sent a letter dated February 19 to the FRC directing it to conduct investigation into various allegations against the CBN governor.
Ajibola added that the FRC was empowered by law to investigate the CBN, and that the court cannot override such powers.
He said, “CBN does not belong to him. He has been suspended and is about to be investigated. He has to go through the process first, and then complain later if he is not given fair hearing. The plaintiff has jumped the gun.
“Your Lordship is not here to entertain matters based on the fears and worries of an individual.”
He further stated that FRC had challenged the admissibility of the Briefing Notes on the basis that they were not certified.
According to the lawyer, the directive by the government to the council stated that it must submit a report, adding that the Briefing Notes still has to go through a process.
He said, “It was strictly an administrative tribunal to make recommendations based on its findings.
“The application before your Lordship is one to protect their unfounded anxieties and fears of the plaintiff and to shield him from explaining any role he played in CBN.
“I urge the court to strike out the case with cost.”
The CBN governor asked for an order restraining the defendants or any person, body, agent, or privies, under its authority, or pursuant to the FRCN Act, from conducting and continuing any investigation or inquiry as advertised.
He also prayed for an order setting aside or nullifying any report, conclusion or recommendation, based on any purported investigation conducted by FRCN.
The decision to suspend Sanusi is alleged to have been based on an FRCN report dated June 7, 2013.