Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sasha Wass- The Woman Sending James Ibori to Jail

Sasha Wass QC-Prosecuting Council in Ibori's case 

Is it not poetic justice that James Ibori, former governor of Delta state, a known lover of women, is going to prison by the efforts of a woman? When Ibori’s autobiography is written, this line must be included “Born of a woman, surrounded by women all his life, Ibori was sent to prison by a woman”

Ibori's wife, sister and mistress have already been convicted of helping him launder money in separate trials in London.

Ibori's women and lawyer also serving jail terms in UK 

Here is the profile of the woman that is sending Ibori to prison.

Called to the Bar in 1981, Sasha Wass and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2000. She has a broad criminal practice in both prosecution and defence work. She has been involved in notable high profile cases including the trials of serial killer Rosemary West and failed financier, Roger Levitt. 

Particular interests included disputed medical and scientific evidence: she recently acted for the successful appellant in what is now the leading case of baby shaking, where the entire prosecution case centred on the evidence of expert witnesses. 

Additionally, she has been involved in cases where cause of death is disputed and scientific evidence is challenged. Miss Wass has considerable experience in cases involving sexual offences including those involving young and vulnerable witnesses. She has appeared in a number of cases of “mercy killing”.

Miss Wass has been involved in the prosecution of large scale international money laundering cases and confiscation hearings which flow from convictions in these cases.

She has been recommended as a leader in the field of crime in both chamber directory and the Legal 500.

Famous quotes from Wass during Ibori’s trial

“There was effectively a thief in the government office of Delta State"

“He lied his way into public office. He tricked the Nigerian authorities and the Nigerian voters. He was never the legitimate governor of Delta State”

“As the pretender of that public office, he was able to plunder Delta state's wealth and hand out patronage”

For more on Sasha Wass visit;

Check out the scenes outside the court room at Ibori's sentencing from this video posted on Youtube by Sahara reporters

What is the Ibori case all about? Check out this report by Channels Television Nigeria:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Is Sanusi Lamido Sanusi Nigeria’s most powerful man?

Dateline January-It is the aftermath of the deadly bomb blasts in Kano. Many victims are dead. President Goodluck Jonathan visits Kano with his entourage. All he has for the victims in pains and crying are words of condolences. In the Nigerian parlance, one can only imagine what may be going through the mind of the victims like “Na words we go chop” a pidgin English way of saying words are not enough, words alone would not help us heal, put some money on the table. But the President leaves, no donations are announced and the victims are left to take care of their injuries.

But in  February here comes Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), an indigene of Kano with hereditary to rights to the throne of the current 82 year old Emir of Kano. He feels the pain of his people that have just been visited by such tragic incident. He not only condoles but matches his words with action. Before he leaves Kano, he drops a cheque for the victims through the governor of the State. A N100 million cheque (USD 645,000 or 392,000 British Pounds).  Within a few weeks, he flies down to Madalla, another town where Boko Haram dropped bombs and he is not just offering words of comfort. He leaves a N25 million cheque on the table.

It is not clear where the Governor will be visiting next with his largesse train. The UN headquarters bomb victims in Abuja are yet to be reached, Maiduguri which has suffered for far longer period from the Boko Haram plague is yet to experience the governor’s benevolence and even Jos, which has sadly suffered years of killings, is yet to receive the governors benevolence.

They may not have to wait for long. The governor is highly bullish on donations. In 2010, the CBN under Sanusi made total donations of N1.47 billion, N1.2 billion or 605 per cent higher than N209 million donated by the CBN in the previous year. This easily qualifies the CBN as the most philanthropic organisation in Nigeria.  

 The CBN governor can afford to be generous. The governor sits at the helm of a bank that in 2010 had total assets of N6.722 trillion. The bank made a surplus (profit) of N47 billion in 2010 despite making a provision for doubtful loans of N206 billion.  Unlike the elected governors and the President, no one really controls how much and on what the CBN governor spend the Central Bank’s money.

Elected governors have the legislature to approve every penny they have to spend. Technically, the CBN also has a board of directors that approve all its expenditures and should act as a legislature to check how the governor spends Central Bank’s money. But unlike the elected governors and the President who have no operational control over the arm that approves their expenditure, the CBN governor also controls the board of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The governor is the chairman of the bank’s board of directors as well as the operational head of the bank. The implication is that the governor technically is also in charge of approving his own expenditure. 

The Act establishing the CBN does not compel it to present its budget or expenditure for approval or any other body except the bank’s board which is also chaired by the CBN governor. The CBN act only states that CBN governor shall inform the President about its budget and not seek the President’s approval. It also says the CBN should brief the house of assembly committee overseeing the bank’s affairs on a half yearly basis and not necessarily seek their approval on how the CBN spends its money. Several provision in the CBN act gives the CBN governor significant control over the board of the bank. For example, he has the power to reassign the deputy governors and also has the sole power to call for meetings of the board. These provisions ensure that the governor’s powers at the CBN are almost absolute.

The current structure of the CBN makes the Central Bank governor one of the most powerful Central Bank governors in the world. The governor sits as the head of all the key arms of the bank. He is the chairman of the board which is supposed to be the ultimate policy making arm of the bank, he is the head of the committee of governors of the bank, the policy implementation arm of the bank and also the head of the Monetary Policy Committee which makes the all-important economically significant interest rate decisions.

The composition of the CBN board also makes it easy for the governor to have his way. Members of the board are divided equally between the executive board members who technically report to the governor and non-executive members who are independent. This ensures that the governor can have his way by just getting one member of the non-executive members to vote with him on any decision that the board has to make. This way the governor has a good chance of having all his decisions approved by the board of the bank.

Considering significance of the Central Bank to the economy, the CBN 2007 act may have inadvertently concentrated so much power in the hands of a single man. The use of the powers of the CBN by Sanusi since assuming the governorship position in 2008 has brought home the extent of the governor’s power. In 2010 alone, the governor set up N900 billion in intervention funds to the economy. Also through the establishment of AMCON, the CBN has been spent about N5 trillion in stabilizing the banking system, an amount well above a year’s budget for Nigeria.

Some of the expenses look outside what the CBN Act authorises. For example, the CBN is spending N20 billion for what it says is the construction of a “world class centre suitable for the hosting of international events”. This is despite the fact that the CBN 2007 act specifically states that the CBN can only hold properties that are used for banking purposes not hosting events. Besides, how does building a world class international centre impacts on monetary policy or financial stability?  

It is not clear why Nigeria has chosen to give its Central Bank so much power with little control. Other jurisdictions like in England and the United States have clear controls in place to ensure that critical economic decisions that affect the health of the economy is not concentrated in the Central Bank governor. For Example, the Bank of England has the Court of Directors which is not chaired by the governor and which has clear mandates that acts as a check on the powers of the governor of the Bank of England. In the US, though the Chairman of the board is also technically the Governor of the bank, however the structure of the Central Banking system in the US referred to as the Federal Reserve System is totally different from the Nigerian Central Bank system and therefore the governor does not anyway have the powers that the Nigerian Central Bank governor has.

There is no doubt that the 2007 CBN act needs a second look. The CBN is economically too important to be left to dictates of one man. It is not about Sanusi. It is about the economy. The independence the CBN need is the independence ensconced within a cocoon of proper controls and checks to ensure that economically significant decisions are subjected to rigorous thinking before they are pushed into the system. Independence should in no way be at the expense of accountability. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sanusi, Boko Haram and Northern Nigeria’s poverty

Perhaps the most controversial statement to come out of Nigeria in recent weeks is Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s linkage of the mass killings of innocent citizens in Northern Nigeria by the Boko Haram sect to the nature of distribution of oil revenues in Nigeria.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi-Governor Central Bank of Nigeria

A statement like this coming from the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and a prominent personality from the North should not be taken lightly. Since the statement, as if on cue, a spread sheet showing the distribution of revenues among different states in Nigeria has suddenly surfaced on the internet in an apparent bid to show the uneven distribution of crude oil earnings in Nigeria.

I have read the original story as written by Financial Times, and the original story also quotes figures that show this so called uneven wealth distribution in Nigeria between Southern and Northern Nigeria. In the story by the Financial Times, Sanusi is quoted to have said “There is clearly a direct link between the very uneven nature of distribution of resources and the rising level of violence (in Northern Nigeria)”
Explaining further Sanusi states that “When you look at the figures and look at the size of the population in the north you can see there is a structural imbalance of enormous proportions,” Mr Sanusi said. “Those states (referring to the North) simply do not have enough money to meet basic needs while some states (referring to South South States) have too much money.”

Both statements from Sanusi are baffling especially when it is considered that they are being made by the governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank. Sanusi’s assertion that there is “clearly a direct link between the uneven nature of wealth distribution and rising level of violence in Northern Nigeria lacks merit. Elementary statistics teaches us that correlation does not necessarily mean causality except Sanusi is in possession of some proven work that establishes this link. If the above statement is to be valid, then Sanusi must be able to prove not only that the incidence of violence in Northern Nigeria has gone up as the resource distribution to the South South Nigeria went up.

However, we all know that there is no “rising” level of violence in Northern Nigeria. What we have in Northern Nigeria at present is just “another wave” of violence. History of violence in Northern Nigeria is as old as when Nigeria became an Independent state. It is violence in Northern Nigeria that plunged Nigeria into a civil war in 1966. Since the end of the civil war, there have been various incidences of violent riots in Northern Nigeria that have claimed the lives of thousands of Nigerians over the years. The statement by the CBN governor seems to suggest that violence is a stranger to Northern Nigeria. That certainly is not true.
Also the nature of violence in Northern Nigeria has never been poverty induced. It may always have been fuelled by the level of poverty but violence has always been religion induced. The victims in most cases of violence in Northern Nigeria has been primarily because they profess another form of religion and not because they were better off economically than their neighbours.  

It is also sad that the CBN governor’s statement only reinforces the revenue sharing mentality that has been the bane of economic development in Nigeria over the years. The CBN governor seems not to see anything wrong in state’s running to Abuja every month to collect monthly allocations to share in their states without making efforts to develop the productive economic base of their states. It is not the money gotten from Abuja that will develop the states; it is the restructuring of the economic base of each of the state that will develop them.

As the CBN governor knows, the billions received by the South South have not necessarily changed the poverty profile of these states. As can be seen in the recently released poverty figures by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the gap in the incidence of poverty between the money rich South South and the money poor North is not that wide. For example, the NBS figures shows that the number of people living below a dollar a day in South South stood at about 56.1 percent of the population of the South South. This is only slightly lower than that of the North Central where 59.7 percent of the population live on less than a dollar a day. The incidence of poverty is higher in the North East where 69 percent of the population live on less than a dollar a day while 70 percent of the population in North West live on less than a dollar a day.

However, the NBS figures does not factor into its calculations that fact that a South South resident who lives on less than a dollar a day has a higher health bill than his or her Northern counterpart and most likely shorter life expectancy due to the environmental degradation suffered from crude oil exploration which is the source of 90 per cent of the distributable revenues in the Federation that the CBN governor considers unfair. The implication is that the South South resident living on less than a dollar a day is even poorer than his Northern counterpart who does not have to face the peculiar environmental and health challenges faced by its Southern counterpart.

The CBN governor suggests that “It is necessary to focus funds on regenerating other regions if Nigeria “wants to secure long term stability.” Where are these funds going to come from? Is the governor suggesting that the Federal Government take money from other regions of Nigeria and use it to develop the North? Is he asking for revenues to be distributed on the basis of regional development needs? Or is he saying that since the South South “has too much money (based on his assumption) than they need”, this money should be taken from the South South and redistributed to Northern Nigeria? This suggestion completely ignores the fact that 90 percent of the revenues come from just one region at significant cost to their livelihood and environment.

From a CBN governor, one would have thought the suggestion should have been that States look critically at how to mobilize internally generated revenues like Lagos has done successfully. Mobilizing internally generated revenues is what drives development, not sharing revenues at the centre. Years of revenue sharing has only increased poverty and income inequality as the latest NBS poverty figures show.

The lack of merit in Sanusi’s argument linking the uneven distribution of Nigeria’s revenues and the current violence in Northern Nigeria becomes even more obvious when distribution of revenues among states is examined more critically. The gross revenue distribution among State’s from 2008 to 2010 for example shows that Borno, the hot bed of Boko Haram activities got more revenues from the Federation account than Edo State in the South South part of Nigeria even when the 13 percent derivation revenues were added to Edo State’s revenue from the Federation. Borno State has had more revenues within the same period than each of the five states in South Eastern Nigeria.

Adamawa State, which has also had high incidence of Boko Haram activity has one of highest revenues per population in the country only lower than the South South States benefiting from 13 percent oil derivation. Adamawa has higher revenue per population than any of the South Eastern states and any of South Western States. It is also interesting that Bauchi, another hot bed of Boko Haram activity has higher revenue per population than several States in Southern Nigeria including Ogun State, Oyo State, Lagos State, Anambra, and Enugu among others. The residents of these Southern states have not taken to violence to resolve the low amount of revenues gotten from the Federation account; rather their governments have put in place strategies to increase internally generated revenues to support the dwindling revenues from the Federation account.  

The CBN governor position sounds more sentimental than fact based. A man in his position should not make statements that have the tendency to incite the current unjustified killing of innocent Nigerians.