Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor, appears unable to shake off a report that he funneled public funds to Maryam Yaro, a married mistress whom he gave a job at the bank he oversees.
Premium Times was first to report the scandal in which Mr. Sanusi was accused of abusing his office in order to advance an amorous relationship with a woman.
Several sources told SaharaReporters that Premium Times has been under intense pressure from associates of the CBN Governor since the expose was published. In the wake of the report, the CBN also issued a widely circulated rebuttal claiming that Ms. Yaro was never a staff of the bank, that she was employed at Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing Systems For Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), and that the governor had no hand in her recruitment.
But records obtained by SaharaReporters suggest that the bank’s claims are an attempt to muddle up the facts. NIRSAL, to which Ms. Yaro is attached, is a special purpose vehicle (SPV) set up by the Federal Government through a partnership between the CBN and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. Besides, the project is domiciled in the Development Finance Department of the CBN.
It is the CBN’s human resource department that hires staff for NIRSAL, and it is Mr. Sanusi who approves all recruitments into the agency, insiders say.
Records available to us indeed showed that, contrary to the CBN’s claims, Mr. Sanusi directly and personally approved Ms. Yaro’s recruitment.
Investigations by SaharaReporters revealed that, after approving Ms. Yaro’s hiring and sending her file back to the bank’s human resource department, Mr. Sanusi sent a message to his mistress on June 25, 2012 saying, “I’m in South Africa. I approved your recruitment last week.”
Ten minutes later, Ms. Yaro responded: “You have made my day. Thank you so much. Let me know when you are back.”
When the human resource department delayed in sending her appointment letter, Ms. Yaro contacted Mr. Sanusi to complain.
“I have not heard anything from CBN since you approved my recruitment,” she wrote in a July 9, 2012 message. “Is there anything I need to do?”
A source told SaharaReporters that, following her complaint, Mr. Sanusi contacted the CBN human resource department urging them to expedite action on her case.
Eight days later, on July 17, 2012, Ms. Yaro informed Mr. Sanusi that the human resource department had finally acted on his instruction.
“Allah nguro, I have been issued my letter of offer,” she said in a message. “Thank you so much. When can I come and see you?”
When she submitted her acceptance letter to human resource, Ms. Yaro promptly informed Mr Sanusi and thanked him again for helping her to get the job.
After Ms. Yaro assumed duties at the CBN headquarters in Abuja, the human resource department produced a business card for her. In it she was described as follows: “Dr. Maryam W. Yaro, Nirsal Project Implementation Office (NPIO), Development Finance Department, Central Bank of Nigeria.”
Even the documents released by the CBN are clear as to whether Ms. Yaro could be regarded as a staff of the CBN, and whether the governor played a role in her recruitment.
For instance, official memos detailing the processes leading to her recruitment are marked “internal,” originating from NIRSAL to other units of the bank. Her appointment letter, written on CBN letterhead, was signed by Chizoba Mojekwu, director, human resources department of the bank.
The CBN’s so-called rebuttal did not say why its human resource director would sign an appointment letter for a staff or consultant of another agency independent of the bank.
In its rebuttal, the bank provided evidence of communications leading to Ms. Yaro’s employment in 2012, but provided none relating to any public announcement of the vacancy she filled. The law requires that such a post must be publicly announced to enable interested candidates to apply.
The details show that the bank treated Ms. Yaro’s employment expressly, with memos between NIRSAL office and CBN’s top management indicating how Mr. Sanusi endorsed her recruitment.
In one document seen by SaharaReporters, a helpless staff of the bank raised concern about Ms. Yaro’s recruitment. In a memo requesting Mr. Sanusi’s approval of the recruitment, the concerned staff minuted: “Please approve as prayed above. We should take into account diversity in future recruitment.”
In approving the recruitment, Mr. Sanusi dismissed the staff’s concern, and wrote: “Approved. I think gender is a good basis for diversity here and candidate is qualified.”
Ms. Yaro’s recruitment process took a matter of weeks, and she received her letter of offer in July 17, 2012 and promptly communicated same to the CBN boss while also informing him of her planned date of assumption of duties.
Some sources within the CBN suggested to SaharaReporters that some of the documents circulated by the CBN were forged and backdated as a face-saving measure. However, SaharaReporters was unable to independently confirm the allegation.
SaharaReporters learned that the details of the affair between Mr. Sanusi and Ms. Yaro have stirred anger and outrage within the bank and beyond. Critics have focused on the fact that Mr. Sanusi, a public officer, traveled on jets funded by taxpayers to keep appointments with Ms. Yaro at expensive hotels. Until this scandal broke, Mr. Sanusi was highly respected even if some of his policies, like doling cash to victims of terrorist attacks in Kano, were controversial.
Mr. Sanusi led revolutionary reforms in the banks when he came on board in 2009 and has remained critical and outspoken on several government policies despite serving in the administration. He has also repeatedly advocated adherence to the rule of law.
On the other hand, Mr. Sanusi has had his defenders. Many of these defenders have brushed aside glaring evidence of misconduct by Nigeria’s chief banker, instead accusing news reporters who worked on the story of witch-hunting Mr. Sanusi and attempting to defame him.
Senior officials of Premium Times said they expected the backlash, even as they stated that they stood firmly by their story. “We knew the story was going to shock a lot of people,” said Idris Akinbajo acting managing editor at the publication. “We were under no illusion that it would take a lot of time for many to swallow the bitter truth of the revelations made in the story.” He added, “We have discharged our responsibility of providing information we believe citizens need in order to hold officials accountable.
Mr. Akinbajo continued, “Our job is done, as we will only continue to provide additional information as necessary. It is left for Nigerians to either demand accountability or live without it – and so continue to celebrate the indiscretions of their leaders.”
The executive added: “We stand firmly by our story and look forward to the moment the CBN Governor will boldly look Nigerians in the face and say any of the things we reported did not happen.”