Court stops Financial Reporting Council from investigating suspended CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi

A Federal High Court in Lagos has given a preservatory order restraining the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, FRCN, from investigating the suspended Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi.

Justice J.T. Tsoho gave the order on Friday in a suit filed by Mr. Sanusi through his counsel, Kola Awodehin.

Friday’s order comes 24 hours after a separate court ruled that Mr. Sanusi was illegally detained and his passport illegally seized by the Department of State Security Service, SSS, after his suspension. The court ordered the payment of N50 million damages to Mr. Sanusi.

On Friday, Justice Tsoho barred the FRCN from investigating Mr. Sanusi and the Central Bank, CBN, pending the determination of the suit.

Mr. Sanusi had on March 27 refused to appear before the Council which was investigating allegations of financial recklessness against the CBN boss.

In a letter to the Executive Secretary of FRCN, Jim Obazee, to explain why his client would not honour the Council’s invitation, Mr. Awodein, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, said the invitation was not only in bad faith, but premeditated to embarrass and disparage his client.

President Goodluck Jonathan had suspended Mr. Sanusi from office on February 21, 2014 following the recommendation by the Council, which accused the CBN, under his leadership, of financial recklessness.

The recommendations followed the Council’s review of Mr. Sanusi’s response to its report on the audited financial statement of the CBN for the year ended December 2012 and other related issues, which it described as unsatisfactory.

Following the receipt of the Council’s invitation on March 14, 2014, Mr. Sanusi said he responded two days later seeking clarification on the specific activities of the CBN the FRCN was investigating.

He said since no response was forthcoming from the Council, he did not see any need to honour the invitation, noting that he was surprised to see advertorials in newspapers and other media publicizing the invitation.

Describing the adverts as evidence of the Council’s avowed intent to act prejudicially, Mr. Sanusi said it was appalling that he was being invited after the Council had arrived at the “false and malicious conclusions” in its Briefing Note of June 7, 2013, on which the President relied to suspend him from office.

Criticizing the Council’s recommendation for his suspension from office along with the Deputy Governors, Mr. Sanusi noted that the opinion that, if they remained in office, they would take advantage of the information at their disposal to attack government, amounted to pre-judgment of the issues it was investigating.

He said the Council’s report lacked integrity since the FRCN neither gave him fair hearing, nor allowed him the opportunity to respond to the weighty allegations contained in the Briefing Note to the President.

Besides, he said a review of Sections 7, 8, 11, 25, 28, 58(2) and 62 of the FRC Act 2011 revealed that the Council lacked the authority and powers to conduct the investigation it was seeking to undertake.

Mr. Sanusi said he was not afraid of any objective investigation by an appropriate and impartial authority into either the activities of the CBN during his tenure, or his activities as a citizen.

He said he was, however, constrained to decline the FRC’s invitation for some compelling reasons.

He gave the reasons as bias, breach of the rules of natural justice, absence of statutory powers, violation of the rule of law, and the Council’s attempt to carry out an investigation considered prejudicial to good public administration and the special position of the CBN.

It was on that same day that Mr. Sanusi filed the suit that Justice Tsoho heard on Friday.

According to legal papers filed, Mr. Sanusi’s lawyers told the court that by virtue of the provisions of Sections 7, 8, and 62 of the FRCN Act 2011, the Council lacked the statutory powers to investigate him and the CBN.

The council, after receiving Mr. Sanusi’s court papers last Thursday halted investigations of the bank chief but said it would continue with the CBN.

Friday’s court order, however, asked the FRCN to halt the investigation of both parties.

The case was adjourned to April 11.