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Sacking Sanusi

ABUJA – It was only a matter of time before Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan moved against Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who has spent much of the last year waging an anti-corruption campaign against the government. But, while Sanusi has been suspended, his corruption allegations cannot be withdrawn – and the public outcry that they have provoked cannot be silenced.

Sanusi’s crusade began with allegations that major government bodies were staffed by corrupt and incompetent officials. He raised the stakes last September, when he wrote a letter to Jonathan accusing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of failing to remit $49.8 billion to government coffers – a scheme in which several senior government officials were complicit.

Three months later, the letter was deliberately leaked to the press. Newspaper editorials and outraged citizens called for a probe of the NNPC and demanded accountability for the officials involved. After a subsequent meeting with Nigeria’s finance and petroleum ministers, Sanusi said that he had misspoken: the NNPC had misappropriated only $12 billion. (Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala continued to insist that the correct figure was $10 billion, and that she had been aware of this long before Sanusi’s intervention.)

But, in early February, Sanusi revised his statement again, telling a committee of the Nigerian Senate that, after reviewing the figures again, he had concluded that the NNPC had failed to remit $20 billion. This time, he insisted, he was certain. He then submitted a detailed memorandum outlining the claim – and giving more ammunition to Jonathan’s critics.