A week after winning a crucial senate backing, a proposal to drastically reduce the powers of the Central Bank, its governor, and other key officials, gained the support of the House of Representatives Wednesday, foretelling a future that will end what lawmakers view as the bank’s penchant for reckless spending, and for keeping secret budgets.
An amendment to the CBN Act, signed into law in May 2007 by former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, will remove the governor as the chairman of the bank’s board, and will make the bank’s expenditure subject to National Assembly approval.
Deputy Governors and directors of the bank will also be barred from the board, which will compose of external officials, the proposed amendment which scaled a second reading at the senate last week, said. The House of Representatives gave a similar approval on Wednesday.
A third reading at both chambers and a presidential signature will seal the amendment anxiously awaited by the lawmakers.
For years, CBN’s annual budgets, proposed and approved in secrecy, remained a contentious subject between the National Assembly which sought to exercise its appropriation powers, and the bank, which counted on its establishment law allowing its spending to be approved only by the CBN board.
The powerful board also decides on the wages and emoluments for the bank’s staff.
Lawmakers say the bank’s board, which remained one of the few headed by the chief executive of the organization, gave too much power to the CBN governor.
Almost more than any other tenure, the budget concerns heightened under the current governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who repeatedly insisted to the lawmakers’ distaste, the bank could not surrender its budgets for National Assembly appropriation.
Worse, Mr. Sanusi is seen by the lawmakers as lavish and arrogant, a perception that appeared strengthened by the governor’s recent controversial donations to Kano state bomb victims, and the University of Jos. Amid public uproar following the donations, the House passed a resolution condemning the donations, and called for investigations.
The legislators have also argued that the Fiscal Responsibility Act, signed into law on July 2007, by former president Umaru Yar’Adua, which compels listed agencies including the CBN, to submit their budgets to the National Assembly, supersedes the CBN Act.
The amendment canvassed for in the Act, is to appoint a person other than the governor as the chairman of the board of the bank.
“I see clearly the usurpation of the powers of appropriation of parliament,” said House deputy leader, Leo Ogor on Wednesday’s consideration of the bill which drew huge support.
Patrick Ikhariale, who heads the House committee on power, described as “obnoxious’ powers of the CBN to fix emolument of its staffers without recourse to the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.
“The CBN as it is today has all means become an octopus,” he said. “It is on record that the salaries of the president, vice president, senate president and house speaker is fixed by the relevant government agency.”