Opinion: Between Sanusi’s megalomania and the evil spirit at the Mint

by Theophilus Ilevbare

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, The Volcano, as he is now fondly called in some quarters, had a quick succession of eruptions in the past few weeks as he made good use of the autonomy of the CBN to fire his salvo of economic policy razzmatazz, not sparing anyone from the legislature to the hardest hit, the civil servants; calling for 50 percent reduction of federal workers and other apparatus of government, as a means of reducing the cost of governance. His diagnosis was right but his prescription not just defective but insolent with a sprinkling of megalomania.

Discarding Sanusi’s recommendation in total would be throwing the baby away with the bath water, certain aspects of Sanusi’s comments need be given a serious thought. Truly the executive and other apparatus of government must reduce its overhead cost by even more than 50 percent, the profligacy in government must stop, though Sanusi failed to add this. Nigerians had almost forgotten that Jonathan’s inauguration ceremony alone gulped about 5billion.

Investigations revealed that the President and his entourage have spent not less than N3.35bn on foreign trips since 2010. Nigeria, a country without a Nigeria carrier spends an estimated N9.08bn annually on the Presidential Air Fleet of 10 aircrafts which is the third largest fleet, in queue behind commercial airlines with Arik Air the largest in the country with 23 aircrafts. How about the billions allocated for ‘refreshment’ in the Presidential Villa? The recent N2bn budget for the construction of the Vice-President’s official residence and another N2.2bn for a banquet hall for the President are landmark achievements of a government renowned for its culture of profligacy.

This legacy of waste, impunity and fleecing of our commonwealth by past and present administration at all levels of government is what the CBN governor should be talking about. There is also the monster of corruption that needs to be tackled headlong.

The dust of Sanusi’s latest controversy had not settled when news broke of the theft at the Mint! Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company, NSPMC, is currently embroided in the mysterious disappearance of N2.1 Billion in N1000 denominations from the watch of its officials. Though there are conflicting figures of the missing sum but it is inconsequential, a theft of N20 at the mint, a place meant to be secured and immune to theft, should be considered a serious dent on the image of Nigeria, an all new level of fleece now extended to the stealing of newly minted notes.

The Minister of state for Power, Hajiya Zainab Kuchi was quoted as saying evil spirits were preventing Nigeria from achieving sustainable electricity, she also recommended exorcism – “We must resolve to jointly exorcise the evil spirit behind this darkness”. It became obvious other sectors needed exorcism as well. The disappearance without trace of a sum that would have needed three bullion vans to move presents a quintessential scenario where evil spirits are at work. The earlier we collectively start to exorcize these powers that be the better.

Nigerians will not forget in a hurry how Mallam Sanusi teamed up with the duo of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Mrs Deziani Alison-Madueke to remove fuel subsidy, partially, in January 2012. The National Assembly through its findings discovered that whereas N245 billion was appropriated in 2011 for fuel subsidy, the Central Bank illegally paid out N2.3 trillion to the NNPC and other fuel importers on the recommendation of the Federal Ministries of Finance and Petroleum Resources. The CBN at a time paid about N20bn ($133m) for a piece of land, originally owned by a government agency, NITEL, to build “a world class conference centre”. It would have been expected that in line with his recommendations, the workforce of the CBN should have been pruned down from 5,022 but instead within three years of his assumption in office the CBN employed about 1,000 people. It is also public knowledge that last year the CBN spent N300 billion, no where close to N150billion of the National Assembly. In the light of the misdeeds of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, his call for the sack of civil servants as a way of improving the economy and the recent theft at the Mint, he must realize that the light that shines farthest must first shine brightest at its base.

*Ilevbare is on http://ilevbare.com and Twitter @tilevbare

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