* Markets panicked after Sanusi's removal on Thursday
* Sanusi says alarmed by graft and "crashing oil revenues"
* Doesn't want his job back but to establish principle
(Adds bond markets, cbank intervention, Sanusi comments)
By Tim Cocks
LAGOS, Feb 21 Nigeria's graft-fighting Central
Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi said on Friday he would go to court
to challenge his suspension by the president - though he does
not want his job back, he wants to show that the move was
President Goodluck Jonathan suspended Sanusi on Thursday,
removing an outspoken critic of his government's record on
corruption in Africa's top oil producer.
Since the suspension, presidential spokesman Reuben Abati
has accused the central bank of procurement irregularities
during Sanusi's tenure, most of them dating back to 2011.
Sanusi told Reuters in a phone interview that the bank had
followed correct procurement procedures, and he had already
answered questions about the allegations by the authorities.
"I'm going to court to challenge the suspension," he said.
"I'm concerned about the precedent ... I'm concerned about the
idea that if you want to remove someone and you want a way
around the law, you just write any kind of letter with all sorts
of funny allegations and suspend the person."
Sanusi, who was due to end his term in June, had been
presenting evidence to parliament that he said showed the state
oil company Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) failed
to remit $20 billion it owed to federal government coffers.
NNPC has repeatedly denied Sanusi's allegations, which
brought the bank governor into conflict with Jonathan's
administration a year before presidential elections.
"I'm not going back. I have had my last day at work. I'm
very glad to hand this over," Sanusi told Reuters.
INVESTMENT CLIMATE CLOUDED
Markets panicked over the suspension of a man whose policies
are credited with stabilising the naira and bringing inflation
in Africa's second biggest economy to single digits.
The naira, at 164.05 to the dollar before the news on
Thursday, fell to a record low of 169 before trading was frozen.
On Friday it recovered to 164.55 after the central bank
intervened with dollar sales. The bank said it hoped to keep it
within its target band of 150-160 to the dollar.
Selling pressure eased on debt, with the yield on the
10-year bond easing 18 basis points to 14 percent. The stock
market fell to a six and half month low, led by banks.
Longer term, it is unclear whether investors will be put off
Nigeria, whose perennial governance problems are balanced on the
positive side by attractive prospects, including abundant energy
reserves, a potentially huge consumer market and a fast-growing
economy about to become Africa's biggest.
JP Morgan's vice head of sub-Saharan Africa research, Giulia
Pellegrini, said Sanussi had provided investors with a clear
view of the bank's monetary policy. If that should stop, it
would become harder for investors to gauge risks, "given the
opacity that still characterises other areas of the economy".
However, his opponents say he went above his station as
central bank governor to score political points against the
Sanusi said he had no choice. He never intended to be an
anti-corruption crusader, but had been alarmed by the sheer
extent of losses to the treasury at the state oil firm.
Oil provides 90 percent of Nigeria's foreign exchange and
around 80 percent of government revenues.
"I'm trying to get to the heart of collapsing oil revenues,"
he said, pointing out that in the past year, the country's oil
savings had been depleted to $2.5 billion, from $11.5 billion.
"My primary motive ... is that oil prices have not come
down, oil output has not come down, (but) oil revenues are
crashing, and therefore my job as central bank governor in
managing the exchange rate and reserves is threatened."
Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala denied this
month that falling oil savings were a result of corruption or
patronage. In a Reuters interview Okonjo-Iweala said Nigeria had
suffered a production shock because of worsening pipeline
vandalism and oil theft.
Jonathan's former mentor, twice president Olusegun Obasanjo,
has said oil corruption now is worse than at any time since the
end of military rule in 1999, a charge Jonathan dismisses as
"I haven't compared it to any other terms, but I've
certainly been alarmed by what I've seen," Sanusi said.
Sanusi made a name for himself two months into the job, in
August 2009, when he rescued nine Nigerian banks in the wake of
a financial crisis that nearly caused a wave of bankruptcies,
forcing out all but one of their chief executives.
That made a rare example of some of Nigeria's most powerful
people, and it set a tone that was repeated when he began using
monetary policy meetings to decry wasteful government spending.
Nigerians speculate that his outspokenness owes much to his
being heir apparent to the throne of Kano, Nigeria's second most
powerful Muslim monarchy. It is the relic of a medieval Islamic
empire that thrived off trans-Saharan trade routes connecting
Africa's interior with its Mediterranean coast.
Sanusi said it was largely psychological.
"If you're a prince you don't have fear of power. You are
not intimidated by authority because you've grown up around it,"
he told Reuters. "You haven't lacked anything. You don't have
the desperation for a job that makes you a sycophant."
Deputy governor Sarah Alade has taken over in the interim,
with Zenith Bank managing director Godwin Emefiele
named to take over in June.
Sanusi's speaking out has also fuelled speculation that he
will run for president against the ruling party in Feb. 2015
polls, but he denied he had any political plans.
"I'm going to rest," he said. "I was supposed to start my
French lessons in June. I might start a bit earlier now."
(Reporting by Tim Cocks; Editing by Peter Graff)