The former Central Bank Governor and Emir of Kano Sanisi Lamido Sanusi gave a speech last week that has raised feathers. The Emir accused the CBN of contravening section 38.2 of the CBN act by borrowing more than the required threshold to the Federal Government. Here is Sanusi again;
In fact one could argue their relationship has become unhealthy. CBN claims on the FGN now top N4.7trn – equal to almost 50% of the FGN’s total domestic debts.
This is a clear violation of the Central Bank Act of 2007 (Section 38.2) which caps advances to the FGN at 5% of last year’s revenues. The overdrafts alone are equal to more than 10x that prescribed limit, and are growing every month.
The government has tried to rebuff this claim, which we argued in an earlier article that it falls flat when pit against the real issues. Now things appear even more sinister for the CBN as we dig deeper to determine what exactly had happened. One of our analysts took a further look into the Budget Implementation report of 2015, Published by the Budget Office and found out something even more worrying.
It appears though, that the government in connivance with the CBN may have all the while deliberately contravened the provisions of the act. Otherwise, how else can you explain this statement in the budget implementation report;
As our banker the FGN is entitle to raise credit from the CBN through the mechanism of ways and means subject to 12.5% of FGN’s revenue. This amount will be retired and therefore not considered as new borrowing outside the borrowing approved to finance budget deficit.
This basically means the government can borrow money from the CBN, in the event that they they have short term cash shortfalls.
Two issues arise here.
One, the government admits correctly that it is entitled to borrow from the CBN if it encounters a budget short-fall. However, it opines the threshold is 12.5% instead of 5% as clearly indicated in section 38.2 of the CBN Act 2007 (same as the 2004 act). Where they got the 12.5% figure baffles us. Could it be that they are not aware of the provisions of the act or are is someone being mischievous with the law hoping that we won’t see it? Or are they reading from an act older than 2004?
The writers of the act, believed that the government will always earn revenue to repay within a short period and as such deemed it fit to provide a buffer in the event of a delay in earning revenues or a temporary revenue shortfall. The current government (by the way, it appears GEJ Government also violated the act), however, sees this differently. The CBN is a license to print money at will.
Secondly, the provisions of the act also mandates the government to refund the loans within the fiscal year and failure to do so means the CBN has no further powers to extend further loans to the government. It is unclear whether the CBN has been refunded at any point in time. Nevertheless, it appears it had gone on to increase lending to over N4 trillion according to Sanusi. Data from the government shows advances toped N657 billion in 2015 which by the way was more than 20% FG revenue (all under Emefiele).
Potential concern for the CBN Governor?
This posses a big problem for the CBN Governor. Critics of the CBN Governor opine that a contravention of this act could trigger Section 11C of the CBN Act which relates to his removal from office. This of course depends on whether the National Assembly sees this violation of the act as a “gross misconduct” and if the FG believes so too. No one knows for sure how this will end as we understand that the Emir is now being perceived as directly attacking the Buhari Government.