Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Summary Of The Presidential Media Chat

 
During the interactive media chat on television last night, President
Jonathan made a lot of assertions, including insisting that Sanusi
was still the CBN governor, and declaring that the country would not
break under his watch.

As expected, the President tactically dodged questions concerning his
ambitions for the upcoming elections.
For those who missed it, below is a summary of some of the issues the
President touched on, during the chat which lasted 75mins and was
hosted by AIT's Imoni Amarere, Grace Ekpo, Goodluck Nnaji of Base FM,
Oraifite in Anambra State, and Bolaji Tunji of New Telegraph.

On his declaration for 2015
The President said:
"In Finland, when you are elected as the president of that country,
you no longer belong to any political party. But that is Finland; in
Nigeria and with the tradition of the PDP, as soon as you become the
president, you become the leader of the party. In the parliamentary
system, the Prime Minister is the leader of the party. So, ideally,
the president has some challenges. Even today, I am not contesting
elections but I must make sure that I lead my party to victory.
"I remember in 2007, when former president Olusegun Obasanjo was
leading the campaign for the late Yar'Adua and myself. There was a
particular place we visited and Yar'Adua was not with us when I
addressed the press and I was asked the question, 'why should
President Obasanjo be the key person campaigning for you'?.
I told them then that what you do not understand is that the President
of Nigeria according to the PDP constitution, is the leader of the
party and the president should lead his party to victory. As at that
time, I was still the governor of Bayelsa State.
"While I am campaigning here, I will also go and lead the campaign in
Bayelsa State because I was the leader of the party and as the
governor, I had to make sure that the party wins. Even today that I am
not contesting elections, any candidate contesting on the PDP
platform, I must still lead the party to victory.
The president must lead his party to victory and the political
environment is so hot and I do not want to use this platform to
campaign and to talk about PDP; it will not be fair. I was there to
tell the world that the PDP is still the dominant party in the
country. I cannot run away."

Defections of governors
"I will prefer we do not go to that area to market my party. I want to
use this platform to comment on contemporary issues. I believe one
thing very clearly- that we are elected by Nigerians and the days when
Mr President, Mr governor or Mr Senator imposes his will on Nigerians
is over. Nigerians have been made to understand that their votes
count.

The issue is that if the governor is doing very well, the people will
definitely follow him, but if the people do not believe in him, they
will go with their votes."

Are you contesting and when are you going to declare your interest?
"If I tell you I am not contesting, there will be issues and if I say
I am contesting, there will be issues. I know the political
environment is hot now but at the appropriate time, you will know.

Centenary celebration funding
"I cannot say the total cost of the centenary but it is mainly
sponsored by the private sector. The Heads of states that are coming
are my guests. I will accommodate them, feed them and pay for their
transportation, that is the role of the president but every other
thing is being sponsored by the private sector. Government is not
going to spend so much money."





Kick off of the national conference

"We will not want the disintegration of Nigeria to be a subject matter
for that discussion but I am quite happy that when the committee went
round, it was discovered that only one person submitted a memo on the
disintegration of the country.

"Our thinking is that the national conference will begin on March 3.
You will know the chairman, the deputy chairman and the secretary but
they will start work for at least a week before we invite others to
join. On March 10, I will formally inaugurate the conference. The plan
so far is that the conference will start on March 3."

Nigeria will not disintegrate
"We are not holding the conference so that the country will break.
People feel that the present constitution is not the peoples'
constitution, but that the constitution was imposed on them by the
military dictators and that Nigerians must have their own
constitution. People have different views, all what we are doing,
other countries have done, but they call it different names. Just as
other countries have done, it shows that we are entering another
centenary.

"If there are issues we think we can correct, we must go and correct
them but if there are no issues, then fine. But let us go from
different backgrounds and redeem our country. If there are one or two
grey areas that we think we can make corrections, then, let us make
them. The purpose is not to prevent the disintegration of Nigeria.
Nigeria will not disintegrate. The idea of the conference is not to
create any environment that will affect this administration, but this
conference is necessary. At the end of the day, I believe that there
will be a lot of changes.

On his powers to suspend the CBN governor, he said:
"The issue of the Central Bank is quite unfortunate but I will respond
based on the issues you raised. Forget whether it is Goodluck
Jonathan; it is whether the President of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria has powers to suspend the governor of CBN. I will tell you,
yes, the President has absolute powers to suspend the CBN governor.
CBN is not even well defined in the Nigerian constitution. If you look
at the Nigerian constitution, section 153, talks about executive
bodies like Federal Character Commission, Civil Service Commission,
Judicial Service Commission, about 14 of them, the code of conduct,
these are clearly defined and it says that the President appoints, but
must clear with the National Assembly. For the President to remove
anybody, the president must go through Senate. CBN as the number one
bank is not even well defined in the Nigerian constitution, but CBN
law makes the provision that to appoint the governor, deputy
governors, and the non-executive directors, the President appoints and
sends to Senate but the President has oversight functions over cbn.
But if somebody tells you that the CBN is a different country, it is
not true because for the cbn governor to change the colour of the
Naira, the President must approve and for the CBN account to be even
published, the President must approve.

Sanusi is still the governor of CBN and people must know that and that
is why there can never be a substantive governor until the issue is
sorted out. Sanusi could come back tomorrow to continue his work
because the issues raised are issues that the board of CBN with the
Financial Reporting Counicl, the authority that has the power to look
into the financial transactions of CBN will deal with.

"The issue of suspension came in because the CBN Act is somewhat
anomalous. We have similar situations where the CBN governor is also
the chairman of the board. The CBN governor is the chief executive of
CBN and at the same time is chairman of the CBN board; so if there are
allegations about the CBN governor, it becomes a problem for you to
look into it. And there were issues raised based on the 2012 audit
report and for you to look into those issues, for you to be sure of
what you are doing, the CBN governor should just step aside.

Immediately the board and the Financial Reporting Council sorts out
those grey areas, and if it does not affect him, he would come back to
do his work. So, you cannot say now that you are going to Senate to
ask for powers to suspend, then maybe in one week or so, if the board
of the Financial Reporting Council... then you go back to the Senate,
this man is coming back, no.

"It is when you want to remove the governor completely. Assuming that
the board of CBN and Financial Reporting Council look into those grey
areas and feel that the infractions are grave enough for Sanusi to
leave completely, then I will have to go to Senate no matter the
issues they raise. I cannot say that I am firing him, it is the
Senate. So, I can place those issues before the Senate and if the
Senate agrees with the report, and says yes, then he can leave.
The issue of suspension and removal are quite different."




On why it took long for the CBN governor to be suspended, he said:


"People raised all kinds of issues that the suspension will affect the
economy. When you are dealing with the treasury of the nation, you
have to consult widely and take the necessary steps to ensure that it
does not affect the economy. One little thing and if issues bordering
on the capital market are not taken carefully, it can bring the
economy down especially when the Central Bank is involved. When the
financial statement was sent to me, I had to send the report to the
FRC to seek their opinion. Even if I am the best accountant in the
world, I still have to consult widely. It went back and forth. The
first report that came to me, issues were raised. Then based on the
issues raised, I raised a query to the CBN governor. Of course, the
CBN governor now wrote back and I sent it back again to the FRC
telling them the response of the CBN governor. It took them time, but
what quickly made me to rush to take that decision? By now, the 2013
audit report ought to be published.

One of the things we had to do to stabilise the economy was to send
the name of the next CBN governor to the Senate even though the tenure
of Sanusi will expire in June in order to tell the international
community that we have a succession plan. At any time, if they are
through, Sanusi can even come back as CBN governor. So, we want to
assure the international community that the succession plan will not
affect the economy. It is quite a sensitive thing and you must handle
it with care. I really want to use this opportunity to advise people.
President Jonathan is a Nigerian, Sanusi is a Nigerian and having been
governor of the CBN, he must have stepped on toes."

Prosecuting Sanusi
People should know how government functions. Government does not
prosecute anybody. Any one can be accused of anything. Even in normal
civil service operations, even when you are suspected, let us say
fraud, they first thing they do is to place you on suspension or
interdiction and that matter is investigated. Why they place one on
suspension or interdiction until the end of investigation is to ensure
that the person dosen't stay in office to frustrate the process of
investigation.
"Government normally places one on interdiction without salary, but if
it is a grievious offence, the person is suspended without salary, but
not sack, until when they conclude the investigation. The person might
go back if he has no case to answer. If he has a case to answer that
is when he will be prosecuted.
"The FRC is not a member of CBN, so there might be some issues they
pointed out and probably they might need some explanations.
"I'm not saying what they raised there is incriminating on the CBN or
Sanusi. It will depend on when the Board of CBN and the FRC look into
the grey areas. If he has no case to answer, we won't prosecute.
"If he has a case to answer, it will depend on the nature of the case.
In the public service there are some cases, which are not criminal in
nature, such as an act of negligence, or that he skipped a process
that he is supposed to follow, this might not lead to prosecution, he
might only be sanctioned, indictment or so.
"Prosecution will only come in if a fraud is established. If a fraud
is not established, it is just that somebody failed to follow due
process or some other issues that are not clearly fraudulent.
Nigerians should wait."

President Jonathan also addressed issues relating to the autonomy of
the apex regulatory bank saying that a bid to amend the act was
frustrated last year.

He said:

"They are aspects of the CBN operations that most be absolutely y
autonomous, not everything about CBN should be autonomous.

"The issues of monetary policies on which CBN is autonomous. For
instance, if the CBN wants to devalue the naira, they don't need to
take permission from the President. They just need to look at
international actions and take an action. If they want to strengthen
the money or withdraw money from circulation, they don't need to tell
the president, nobody interferes. Anything that needs to do with the
monetary policies of the CBN, nobody interferes and they don't need to
take permission from anybody, the law gives them absolute autonomy.
They should not be subjected to political actions, so that they can
manage the country's finances effectively.

"There are, however, a number of positions that they need the consent
of the Presidency, such as when they want to change the colour of the
naira, they must seek the President's consent. The CBN law may be, I'm
not saying will be. However, where it may be amended, we might have to
consider international best practices."

Asked why the deputy governors were retained despite the report
indicting them, he said:

"The Governor has to step aside, not because anybody has convicted
Sanusi, but because he is the Chairman of the Board. Yes, there is
somebody among the Deputy Governors, who is now acting, because we
cannot remove everybody, unless the office will collapse. In cases
like this, the leader steps aside.
"Those are not convictions, but suspected transactions and so on.
There may be explanations. The issue of one having to remove all the
deputy governors and directors, is not right. While going into the
issue, and it is discovered that one of the deputy governors is
involved, the person will be asked to step aside, for that area to be
properly examined.
"For now, the report is central, so it sort of affects the head.



Kerosene subsidy


"I don't need to be briefed about the kerosene subsidy issue, because
I was involved. I was the Vice President to the late President
Yar'Adua.

About 2008, 2009, international crude oil price dropped significantly,
it was $48 or so and we realized that at that time, the pump price of
PMS was N70 per litre, while kerosene was N50.

We realized that if we completely deregulate, Nigerians at that time
would have gotten PMS at about N60 per litre. We then agreed that we
will pull out, completely deregulate the industry, because if we have
pulled out then, the pump price would have dropped, and if the pump
price dropped, nobody would have protested and that is the best time.
So those approvals were given.

Along the line, people, even labour leaders were among the people that
said this might be short-lived, let us wait for another six months,
then if it is stable, government can pull out. We were afraid that the
price can go up again, and if we pull out now and the international
price of crude oil goes up again, citizens will suffer.


"We decided to leave it that way, because the petroleum law did not
recognize the president, it is the minister. So, what happened is that
instead of keeping the pump price at N70, the president now got the
pump price to N65. This is the first time the pump price of petroleum
products were brought down. It always goes up and up. Nigerians would
have been buying at N62, but the presidency brought it to N65 and it
was announced.

Those are memos authorizing the minister to act, the president has no
power based on the law, but of course we know that before the minister
will effect it, the president must give clearance.

The law governing changing the price of petroleum products is very
clear. To increase or decrease the price of any petroleum product, the
law states that you have to advertise it. You must inform Nigerians in
some daily newspapers, you will state the date and the time. If you
listen very well, when we want change the price, we might say maybe
Sunday 12 midnight, so that by then, every station will change.
Kerosene subsidy still remains, it was not removed and no Nigerian can
say that at a particular period it was removed. I was Vice President,
and there was no particular period that we announced that we have
completely deregulated kerosene.

On Boko Haram
We are worried that people are being killed. There are successes but
the negative stories create the impression that the security services
are not working. If they are not working, we will not be walking
freely in Abuja. We are working with the Cameroonian authorities. The
killings are quite worrisome but we will get over it.

On the statement by the Borno governor.
The statement by the governor is unfortunate. I don't expect that from
the Borno governor. If he thinks that the armed forces are not doing
well, he should tell me and I will pull them out and see if he will
stay in Government House for one month.

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