Another Explosion

Banjo Odutola

Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the current Governor of Nigeria Central Bank, ranked 11th out of TIME 100 most influential people in the world, is on a philanthropic sledge coming down a roof of a house near-by. Before raising unfounded expectations, be it told that monies doled are not his. He says it is pursuant to 2006 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approved by the Board of the Bank. This permits its management to show concern to victims of any form of disaster. It is the Committee of Governors that decided to offer assistance to the victims of explosions in his State of origin. Victims’ families, widows, orphans and others whose property were damaged by the blast are included. The Bank wishes to show that we can all be our brothers’ keepers.

Now, there is another explosion in Kano State which the Bank cannot rule out that their gift of a vast amount of money may have encouraged. Having given once, why not the second time? This is what happens when bad decisions are granted the oxygen of publicity.

Added to the statutory duties of the Bank, we are now told that it is has become our “maiguard”. Their new logo is: Central Bank – our brothers’ keepers’. Not bad, at all. But is this  central to its statutory role?  Shall we now queue with begging bowls at its head-office in Abuja or its division offices in the States?

Professor Samuel Olofin, a Board member at the Bank was asked to explain why there were no similar donations to bomb blast victims in Borno, Yobe, Plateau and Adamawa states. His explanation was most telling for the cadre of people who run the affairs of our nation. He said: “the donation was not made because Sanusi was from Kano State; the huge damage caused by the bomb blasts prompted the apex bank to make the donation.

If that was an examination question, the professor would have failed; his answer to a simple question as to why the donation was remains unclear. The Board member further added that the management of the apex Bank had decided to visit Madala, Niger State to make donations to victims of the Christmas day bomb blast. Could he have concentrated on the question?

By an inability to justify the donation, a noble gesture of social philanthropy was made insincere because the governor originates from Kano. The altruism of the Bank is defended by others as a mandate of the governor’s Islamic faith; others have praised him for “looking after” the North. More have criticised as if the decision to donate these funds were ultra vires.

I am of the opinion that it is not; each of the above submissions lacks the force of truth. They are creations of simpletons; and pretentious. If facts are ignored, be it by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) or armchair teasers, wrong conclusions are drawn. Anyway of what business is it for CAN to issue a press statement in this matter? Bishop Oyedepo’s ignoble behaviour is enough to exercise its leadership. Until we are clear on its position in that condemnable assault of a worshipper, CAN should be treated with deservedly contempt.

It is on record that the decision for the donation was made by the committee of Governors. If Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi could so persuade his committee, then collective responsibility absolves him. Additionally, it is evident that entire members of the Board of Directors and Committee of Governors are all not of Islamic faith. So, what is this nonsense about religious faith in a corporate decision? As for ignoring other parts of Northern Nigeria, the charge that the decision of the Bank was made because of the governor’s affiliation is weak and can be discounted.

In its new found role in which the Bank now seeks to be proactive, there are conditions which must be loosely interpreted for the governor and his committee to pump monies into oily palms of state governors or curate of a church. According to the Bank, a kindred concern is uppermost to make donations; where there have been bomb explosions, the attack must shock the “entire world”, no part of it, is to be left out. These are not my words; they are attributed to the governor who was reported to have said: “the bomb attacks have shocked the entire world in view of the strategic commercial and industrial position of Kano. The incident has also negatively affected the economy of not only Nigeria but the African region as a whole”. This narrative reads like the Iraqi dossier presented to the British Parliament by Mr. Tony Blair; half of which were bogus and ineptly prepared; the other half was over-exaggerated.

Mr. Olofin could not give a direct answer to civil society groups which inquired as to why the Bank did not intervene when there were bomb explosions in other northern states of the federation. Well, here is an implied one: explosions in those states did not “shock the world” and those areas are not of “strategic commercial and industrial positions to affect national economy”, talk less “African region.” Simpliciter.

Why One Hundred million Naira? Why not two or three hundred million? In contrast, why twenty five million Naira to victims at Madalla Catholic Church? When a decision is not sustainable in logic, it creates it is own wahala. Aside, who is to monitor judicious use and equitable distribution of funds provided to Kano State government and the Madalla Catholic Church? What are the conditions of the trusts created by default?  Why is it the case that the Bank does not realise that it has delegated its powers as trustees, unlawfully? The lure that the Bank is being socially responsible is tempting to accept.

The legal minefield which the recipients have to navigate was most probably ignored. This problem presents its own difficulties. The governor and his committee members should have appreciated that the budget of the Bank is held under a constructive trust by its Board of Directors. The management of the Bank ought not to have delegated its Trusts duties to a State Governor or a Catholic priest. Clearly, there is a breach of trustees’ duties. Even if the donations were made out of good intentions, are the perceived wrongfulness and disapproval of a glaringly bad decision enough to castigate? Yes, they are. The reasons are below.

Ian Pearson MP, as he then was; a former minister of state for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform describing the United Kingdom Government vision of CSR in the foreword of: “HM Government Corporate Responsibility Report” stated that the issue of Corporate Responsibility must remain high on business and political agendas. The former minster went to state that challenges can be faced by striving to be the best, and the best and most successful companies have always been the most responsible. He added that good business leaders recognise that Corporate Responsibility makes good business sense – it attracts the best talent; earns the trust of customers and the community; and acts as a powerful investment for long-term sustainability.

As such, the aim of the government is to support businesses to achieve success by providing the right legal framework; uphold and build responsibility; as well as help develop necessary skills and best practice. The minister added that corporate responsibility could be supported through government as a major purchaser of goods and services. It is not just about setting an example: choosing to invest in sustainable solutions which encourage innovation; help to make the resulting goods and services more available to consumers and the private sector. He added that another way that Government can support Corporate Responsibility is by working co-operatively with interested stakeholders to improve opportunities for businesses and their employees, to take part in activities over and above their day-to-day operations.

The reason for extensive quote of the UK Government vision of CSR is to demonstrate that that corporate social responsibility which the governor and the Bank plead is a catch-all anodyne. It can be stretched to cover just about any corporate action. Anyway, does Nigeria Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) not have a statutory role and budget to cater for those whom the Bank seeks to alleviate their vicissitudes? Why not give money to NEMA, why a state government?

The mitigation of the decision of the Bank is found in the elixir of CSR which clothes the governor’s gift. The donation may not be illegal; it is a malodorous mess capable of polluting others. It is not altruistic; it is wrong-headed. There are better and efficient ways by which the Bank could have utilised the same donation to assist the same victims. The donations in their present forms are a disgraceful corporate behaviour not different from “Africans for Obama ‘08”, a contraption of Mrs. Ndidi Okereke-Onyiuke, former Director-General of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, to raise funds to support the presidential campaign of Mr. Barack Obama. The Director-General was reported to have raised about N100million from the contentious dinner/concert. That is another N100 million. What is it with Nigerian corporate chiefs and one hundred million Naira?

Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi bears the burden of our generation; with his several awards, a renewed hope for our fatherland. He is one of a very few articulate leaders of our country from whom much is expected. Let it be known to him that when in a hole, it is unwise to continue digging. There is no justification for this type of donation without justifiably committing the Bank to future ones in all geographical areas of the country; and for all manners of atrocities by another set of criminals. If Central Bank wishes to extend its CSR, let it not be through its governor who is applauded or abused for these donations. The Bank should encourage members of its staff in each state to set up not for profit ventures through CSR they can give back to their communities where their offices operate. In those areas, there are widows in need of assistance; schools in need of teachers and artisans; school children, mentoring; young people, vocational trainings; hospital patients, someone to visit them; prisoners, someone to give hope.

The Bank should provide seed monies for genuine ventures by which members of its workforce are giving back to society; and together with members of the committee of Governors their social philanthropy is monitored. Such shall correct a delegation of trustees’ powers breached by present donations.

Had there been one set up in Kano, management could have assisted those with records of impacting their communities to present additional ideas on how to assist the victims of these explosions. After all, these are the people who are proximate to the injured, not the “big men” in Abuja.

The governor claims that he is capable of raising the amount donated so as to return the same to the coffers of the Bank, if his action were illegal. Regardless, he should do just that. In any event, he should stop delegating trustees’ powers, ill-advisedly, by donating monies to state governors.

Otherwise, when the next atrocity occurs in another geographical area of the country, a failure to make as much unnecessary donation shall again earn a bad name. And, even, if as much is donated in future, Father Christmas Lamido may never return to the deep snow, frozen lakes, thick pine forests with more than 200,000 reindeer of Korvatunturi Fjeld in Savukoski because of injuries from endless explosions in Nigeria. That may well mean that next Christmas may have to be cancelled because of a bad decision.      

The writer is a solicitor of the Supreme Court, England and Wales and a Lawyer at a Firm of Solicitors in London, England. Twitter: @banjoodutola

 


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