FEATURE ARTICLE

E O EkeSunday, September 23, 2012
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SANUSI LAMIDO VS NATIONAL ASSEMBLY:
A CASE OF BAD POLITICS OBSCURING GOOD ECONOMIC POLICY


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here is no love lost between Sanusi Lamido, the sectarian minded Governor of the Nigerian Central bank, and the National Assembly. At their first encounter, he revealed that the National Assembly of about 550 Nigerians, were consuming about 25% of Nigeria recurrent expenditure. Since then he has become one of the people in Nigeria the National Assembly loves to hate. When he donated N100 million of Nigeria money to his state of origin Kano, the National Assembly could not move against him because the state was in the north and the leaders of the National Assembly are from the north. They put their sectarian and regional interests over and above the overall interest of Nigeria and Sanusi was allowed to go scot free for abusing his position. I am no fan of Sanusi. For one thing, he represents one of the things wrong with Nigeria. He got to where he is today not because he demonstrated any special qualities or competence in any competitive interviews, but simply because of who he is, a Fulani prince. In addition, it would appear that he is only interested in Nigeria because of what he believes the North can gain and has used all positions he has occupied to advance the interest of the north. Therefore, I am not surprised, that many fail to share his position of the need to introduce a 5000 Naira note, considering the way he went about introducing Islamic Banking in Nigeria, and donating one hundred million Naira of Nigerian money, to Kano state.

Sanusi is a man whose politics I dislike for its sectarian nature, but whose courage I admire. For all his faults, which are many, he has shown courage and self-belief which borders on arrogance in his dealings with the National Assembly. If not that he is so ethnic and religious minded, he would have had many more people on his side. His primary interest in Nigeria seems to be what he can do for the north using the resources he is supposed to manage for the best interest of all Nigerians. He would have been better off, if he simply concentrates on being an ethnic leader who fights for the interest of the north in Nigeria, instead of pretending to be a national leader because he cannot just think nationally. He has shown such bias for the interest of the north that sometimes, I wonder if he recognises that he was appointed to represent all Nigerians.

In spite of his faults, I have found myself agreeing with him each time he confronts the National Assembly. I simply find it odd that many distinguished Nigerians have allowed their dislike of Sanusi to colour their views about his economic policies and have therefore not given them their due. I happen to agree that it is in Nigeria’s economic interest to introduce a higher denomination of its currency in view of the current value of the Naira. Any country faced with the type of economic problems Nigeria has with a currency of such low value, will see the sense in issuing a higher denomination. I am surprised that it wasn’t done earlier. Today, one British pond is worth about 250 Naira, and £50.00 pond (12,000 Naira) note is the highest British currency denomination. Considering that it costs the same amount to print a 20 Naira note as 5000 Naira note, printing higher denomination of a devalued currency makes good economic sense.

It is therefore, easy to understand, why somebody like Sanusi, would be very irritated by the apparent inability of the members of the National Assembly and ex-president, who saw economic sense in paying of loans at favourable interest rate, only for his successor to take them on at higher interest rate; would not grasp the economic rationale for the introduction of a higher denomination of a currency with such low value. This problem goes beyond the National Assembly attempting to ensure the right economic policy for Nigeria; it is simply raw power politics that has nothing to do with what is in the best interest of Nigeria. It is a clash of egos, prejudices and ignorance. The National Assembly is interfering in the economic policy implementation of the government in the way and manner that is not healthy for our democracy. The National Assembly seems to have arrogated to itself the right to determine the right economic policy for Nigeria and this is wrong. It continues to act as the enforcer of the Nigeria state who determines what should or should not be done. This is a misunderstanding of its role. If the National Assembly has the best interest of Nigeria at heart, why has it not compelled the executive to prosecute corrupt politicians? Why is it so silent on corruption in Nigeria? Where was its righteous indignation when the oil subsidy scandal broke out and what has it done? I am just sickened by what is happening in Nigeria in the name of democracy. It is as if indeed, ignorance is bliss in Nigeria and it is actually folly to be wise. If not, why would an ex-soldier claim that he understands the economy of the country better than a professional banker? I suppose it is time to remind the National Assembly that the role of the legislature in any democracy is make just laws and not decide the policy that is implemented.

The National Assembly do not seem to understand what the role of the expert should be in an economy like that of Nigeria. The expert is the person who knows a lot about a particular area and therefore in a position to provide a professional advice on the matter. His knowledge and experience is very important and play valuable roles in understanding and solving the problem. People are not compelled to accept expert advice. People who reject expert advice do not do it because it is wrong. It is usually because they cannot afford it or have weighed it carefully and decided not to accept it. It would seem foolish to try to prove an expert opinion false especially when one is not an expert. Experts can be challenged by people who understand the rational for their decisions and this is what the National Assembly does not seem to have done on issue of Nigerian monetary policy.

For example, take a doctor as an expert who advises on a particular treatment for a patient. It is up to the patient to accept or reject it. What the patient cannot do, is tell the doctor his treatment is wrong and recommend another one. Any doctor worth his training will not listen. Patients are free to reject expert advice, but cannot force the expert to change his opinion which seems to be what the National Assembly is asking Sanusi to do. Sanusi, was hired on the basis of his expertise and given a duty to perform, I suppose his professional opinion should be respected or rejected with courtesy and understanding. Obasanjo and David Mark do not know more about the Nigerian economy than Lamido Sanusi. Some people will say that some professors of economics disagree with Sanusi, and I would ask so what? Even in the Bank of England monetary policy committee disagrees on the right economic policy for Britain and often decide issues on democratic vote. I suppose it would be unwise to interfere with his expert decisions and expect him to take responsibility for the outcome. Nigerian legislature cannot have it both ways. They cannot make the laws and at the same time decide the best way for the executive to carry out its functions. How can the governor of the central bank who has looked at Nigerian economic and monetary problems from a privileged position and decided that it is better for Nigeria to pay the same thing it pays for printing ten naira note for 5000 Naira note agree with the National Assembly who do not seem to understand the rationale behind the decision to print higher denomination of the currency?

Introduction of a higher denomination of a currency is not only used to devalue currencies but can be one of the best ways of managing a devalued currency. I am surprised that people who claim to be economists continue to speak as if there is only one reason for a country to introduce higher denomination of its currency. At the current value of the naira, a 5000 naira note makes economic sense. In fact, it is one of the very few sound economic steps taken by Sanusi. It is certainly better than donating money to states that are unable to account for their monthly allocations. The logic is very simple. The cost of printing a ten Naira note is the same as the cost of printing a 5000 or 10000 notes and in an economy like Nigeria where the politicians are adamant, greedy, deaf and ignorant, anything done to save money is the right.

People do not need to agree on economic policies for the simple reason that economic laws are only true, all things being equal; and we know that all things will never be equal. what is needed is for those who are advocating a particular economic policy to justify it and show clearly the macro and micro economic rational for it. In this case, Sanusi has demonstrated that there is a case for the introduction of a higher denomination of our currency and he should be allowed to go ahead with the policy and then generate the practical evidence to evaluate it in the Nigeria context in a few years’ time. This is how countries evolve. Countries do not evolve or develop because they want to do what some people think is right. This is operating on belief and anecdotal evidence. Sansui’s policy for once, offers opportunity for economists to study the Nigerian economy in a way that may generate important knowledge that would help Nigeria make better decisions in the future.

While the National Assembly has the right to express its views on government policies, no country can run a system where the National Assembly micromanages its economic and monetary policy. Nigeria cannot afford to have an ubiquitous National Assembly that meddles in every aspect of its life. It makes nonsense of the principle of separation of power and independence of the executive and judiciary. The National Assembly cannot make the law, interpret it, and at the same time decided the best way of implementing it. It must do one and that is concentrate in making just laws. It should never be its responsibility to decide on the best economic policy for the country. When a National Assembly arrogates to itself the right to veto economic policies, it is usually a sign of underdevelopment and ignorance. The National Assembly can voice its view but cannot claim that it is superior to all other professional views. Nigerians must support Sanusi at this time. I do not support his Islamic agenda for Nigeria and have continued to oppose it. However, I support his attempt to reduce the cost of printing the Nigeria currency and oppose the unwarranted interference of the National Assembly in the implimentaion of the government monitary policy . The encroachment of the National Assembly into the area of what is the best way to cook the economic soup and what should go into the soup is micromanagement and abuse of power. They have decided that Nigeria should be a mixed capitalist economy; they should leave the executive to deliver it without the type of interference they are introducing.

What should concern the National Assembly is that the government does not seem to be pursuing sustainable policies. Take the issue of free education for instance; there is no honest and painstaking attempt to work out how the free education can be sustained. The government is offering scholarship in a very opaque and unequal manner when a better planning and investment of the resources can deliver better institutions in Nigeria which can offer even better education that many Nigerians get in Turkey, Bulgaria, Rumania, Cuba, India, etc. The National Assembly should be concerned that we seem to be running a disjointed government without synergy between the local, state and federal government in area of health, and education development. States have dabbled into university education and specialist medical institutions which they were not expected to go into and thereby taking away resources need to develop world class primary and secondary education and second tier health service delivery. The National Assembly should concern itself with this type of problems with the view to finding the right solution through good legislations. They need to help Nigeria develop a well planned economy with a clear direction and not the current disjointed attempt by well-meaning individuals to use their position to sustain their hold on power. What we need is a clear economic planning based on knowledge and a determined attempt to follow it with common sense and able to modify if when necessary.

In this wise we need to figure out first how to pay for free education in the long run before implementing free education at all level and ensure that no government would find any reason to scrap it because it has another interest to please. In this wise, the way and manner the National Assembly has reacted to the attempt to introduce 5000 notes is a disgrace for lack of better words. How can the senate involve itself in micro economic policies? No democracy can allow law makers to micro manage its economic policies and survive. Their short term political interests almost always stop them from doing what is right in a difficult circumstance. Britain realised this, which was why the last labour government made the Bank of England independent.

One of the problems with the Nigerian National Assembly is that, they do not seem to know the difference between making the law and interpreting the law. They appear to have taken it upon themselves to interpret the law because they make it and therefore feel that their take on the constitution of Nigeria is the right one. I wish to say that they are wrong. Whenever a legislature encroaches in the spheres of the executive and judiciary you have the making of anarchy. David Mark is not an economic expert and has no experience that could have given him a deeper understanding of economic and financial matters than the central bank governor. Sanusi should be allowed to go ahead with his plan to issue 5000 Naira notes.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.

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