Almost two and a half years after his letter, which was referenced by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in another letter to former President Goodluck Jonathan on the non-remittance of $49.8 billion by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the treasury was leaked, the Emir of Kano and former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II, has finally admitted to what was long been an open secret in government and political circles and has been admitted by the former Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi.
Sanusi, in an interview with Forbes Africa magazine, admitted that Amaechi who is not the Minister of Transportation, was responsible for leaking Obasanjo’s letter to Jonathan on the “missing” $49.8 billion. Amaechi has also long been suspected for leaking Sanusi’s letter to Jonathan on the same issue.
Sanusi, as the CBN governor, had written to Jonathan to raise the alarm over billions of dollars from oil sales between January 2013 and July 2013 that had not been remitted to the Federation Account by NNPC.
In the said letter, he alleged that an estimated $49.8 billion had not been remitted to the Federation Account, which was strenuously denied by NNPC and the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
As the outrage over his revelation grew, he was later to revise the figure to $12 billion and $10 billion, before settling for $20 billion at a public hearing held by the Senate to investigate his allegation.
Obasanjo then followed up with his own letter titled: “Before It is Too Late”, which was published in full by online newspaper, Premium Times, before it was republished by other outlets.
Sanusi was later suspended as the CBN governor, but a few months later was enthroned as the Emir of Kano while he was in court seeking that his suspension be declared illegal.
Sanusi, in the interview, revealed that Jonathan did nothing until Obasanjo wrote him the letter.
The emir also said Ben Bruce, the senator representing Bayelsa East, told him that he had it on good authority that Jonathan would jail him over the affair.
Narrating the “missing” funds saga to Forbes, Sanusi said in 2012 and 2013, government revenue collapsed by $10 billion, without a collapse in oil prices or production capacity, adding that the CBN found a $49 billion revenue gap.
Shocked at the revelation, Sanusi said he wrote Jonathan, saying: “If this continues, we are going to have a big problem if the price of oil came down. We can’t protect interest rates, we can’t protect exchange rates, we can’t protect reserves.
“We may have to tighten money to prevent inflation, there will be unemployment, government will suffer – all of the things we are seeing today.”
Sanusi said nothing was done until Obasanjo wrote his famous open letter to Jonathan. In that letter, he referred to a letter from the central bank governor.
“This was in August 2013, the president received the letter and did nothing. A few weeks after that, the finance minister called to say, governor, can we do some reconciliation on oil revenue numbers? I said minister, I report to the president.
“I have written to the president, if the president wants me to sit with you and do reconciliation, the president will tell me.
“After Obasanjo’s letter, all hell now broke loose. The letter was then leaked to online media, and it became public. That was when the president got angry and we then had to sit and do reconciliation,” he said in the interview with Forbes.
He added that he knew that taking on the NNPC was akin to taking on the most powerful minister in Jonathan’s government, noting that nobody who had touched Alison-Madueke had survived.
“It was not a question of what would happen, I just didn’t care at that time. I did not want to go down in history as having seen this and kept quiet.
“After the first round of reconciliation, there was $29 billion that was explained. And how was that explained? Crude that was shipped by NNPC did not entirely belong to NNPC,” he told his interviewer.
He said some oil companies paid taxes and royalties in oil, and the NNPC sold this oil on behalf of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), meaning FIRS got the money and not necessarily the federal government.
“No reasonable explanation for $20 billion, of which $6 billion was with NPDC (Nigerian Petroleum Development Company – the exploration and production subsidiary of NNPC) that had not gotten to the federation account till date.
“In the middle of all this, the president called me and said I should see him at 3 pm. I turned up at 3 pm and the entire place had been swept. There was no one apart from security services. I got to his office, it was just me and him. It was as if everybody had been asked to go.
“And so he says to me, he’s calling me because he is surprised that the letter I wrote to him got to Obasanjo, and I said I was surprised too.
“He said he’s convinced that the letter went from the central bank to Obasanjo, and I had 24 hours to find who leaked the letter or sack somebody – the director who prepared the letter or my secretary and if I did not sack them, that was proof that I leaked the letter and therefore, I should resign.
“I said to him that I’m surprised that I’m being asked to resign for raising the alarm over missing funds and the minister in charge of the portfolio is not being asked to resign.
“From then I knew I had signed my equivalent for a death warrant. But I said I was not resigning. He got very angry and said whether you like it or not, you’re going to leave that office, I cannot continue to work with you, either you or I will leave government,” Sanusi recalled of his confrontation with the president.
The emir said he was amused that the leakage of the letter was seen as a bigger crime than the “missing” money, adding: “I went straight to the office of the principal secretary to the president, and I met him with a gentleman from Kano, who was the foreign minister Ambassador Aminu Ali.
“I said to them, gentlemen, I’m coming to you because I just had a meeting with the president, and there were no witnesses, and the president had threatened me.
“I repeated what happened and told them I am going to tell people close to me, if anything happens to me, it is the president.”
Sanusi said by informing the former president’s principal secretary and foreign affairs minister, he was really afraid of any threat, noting: “Even if you don’t like someone – Jonathan was not the kind of person that would have someone killed. He wasn’t that kind of leader.”
He also recalled that Ben Murray Bruce, who is now a senator, met with him to warn him (Sanusi) that he had it on good authority that if he went to the Senate with his documents, he would be removed, investigated and imprisoned.
“Then I said, why would I be imprisoned, and he said, you know, you’ve worked in government. I have worked in government, if people really want to find something on you, in the central bank, five years, they would come and look, they would find something.
“I was like they would find it if I have done it. I mean they can plant something, but if haven’t done it, maybe somebody under me had done something that I wasn’t aware of.
“But in all my years at the central bank, to the best of my knowledge, I had done nothing that should put me in prison. However, I said to him, tell the president, from me, that if the punishment for going to the senate is prison, he doesn’t need to go through all of that, just ask him to tell me what prison he wants me to go to and for how long. ThisDaylive