H.R.H. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi Biography

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Muhammadu Sanusi II was the 14th Emir of Kano, he ascended the throne on 8 June 2014, following the death of his grand-uncle Ado Bayero. He was dethroned on 9 March 2020 by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.

Prior to his accession, Sanusi was an economist and banker. He served as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 2009 to 2014, when he was suspended by President Goodluck Jonathan after raising the alarm on the US$20 billion NNPC scandal.

Growing Up

Sanusi was born on 31 July 1961 in Kano to a ruling class Fulani family of the Sullubawa clan. His father, Aminu Sanusi, was a career diplomat who served as the Nigerian Ambassador to Belgium, China, and Canada, and later served as the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was also the Chiroma of Kano and son of Muhammadu Sanusi I, who was the 11th Emir of Kano from 1953 to 1963, when he was deposed by his cousin Sir Ahmadu Bello.


He then attended St. Annes Primary School, a Catholic boarding school in Kakuri, Kaduna. In 1973, Sanusi was admitted into King’s College, Lagos, where he graduated in 1977. He then proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1981.

After graduating, he spent a year undergoing his National Youth Service in Gongola State (now Adamawa and Taraba) as a teacher in a girls boarding school in Yola. He then returned to the university where he received a masters degree in economics in 1983 and lectured at the faculty for two years. Sanusi later received a degree in Sharia and Islamic studies from the International University of Africa in Khartoum in 1997. 

Early Career

In 1997, he returned to Nigeria and joined the United Bank for Africa working in the credit and risk management division – he rose through the ranks to the position of general manager. In 2005, Sanusi became a board member and executive director in charge of risk management at First Bank of Nigeria – Nigeria’s oldest bank, and one of Africa’s largest financial institutions. In January 2009, Sanusi became the chief executive officer, becoming the first northern Nigerian to head the bank.

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria 

On 1 June 2009, Sanusi was nominated as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua; his appointment was confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on 3 June 2009, during the global financial crisis.

In Nigeria, the effect of the crisis took a hit at the economy and the banking system, with the stock market collapsing by nearly 70%. It was amidst this crisis that Sanusi led the central bank in rescuing top tier banks with over Naira 600 billion of public money, dismissing and imprisoning chief executives who had mismanaged customer deposits – and strictly dealing with banks found responsible for financial crimes.

Sanusi attributed the crash in the capital markets to “financial illiteracy” on the part of Nigerian investors

Sanusi’s tenure initiated several extensive banking reforms termed the “Sanusi Tsunami”. The reforms were built around four pillars: enhancing the quality of banks, establishing financial stability, enabling healthy financial sector evolution, and ensuring the financial sector contributes to the real economy.

NNPC Scandal

In December 2013, Sanusi in a leaked letter to President Goodluck Jonathan revealed that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) failed to remit US$48.9 billion of government oil revenue to the central bank.

In February 2014, after a series of public investigations and raising the alarm on the US$20 billion NNPC scandal, Sanusi was suspended as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria by President Goodluck Jonathan. In April 2014, he won a court case against the federal government, after he was detained and his international passport confiscated by the State Security Service.


The Banker magazine recognised him as the 2010 Central Bank Governor of the Year, for his reforms and leading a radical anti-corruption campaign in the sector – the first of its kind during the financial crisis.

  • In 2011, Time magazine listed him on the 100 most influential people of 2011.
  • In 2013, Sanusi was honoured at the third Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA) in Dubai for his advocacy in promoting Islamic banking and finance during his tenure as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
  • In 2018, Sanusi received an honorary doctorate from the Nile University of Nigeria.
  • In 2019, Sanusi received an honorary doctorate from SOAS University of London.

Post Dethronement

Since his dethronement in March 2020, Sanusi has stated he has “moved on” and will not challenge the dethronement. He has stated his intention of focusing on his private humanitarian and intellectual engagements, which include:

  • United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Advocate
  • Chairman of Babban Gona, a private agricultural initiative helping rural farmers
  • Chairman of Black Rhino, a Sub-Saharan Africa infrastructure fund of The Blackstone Group
  • Chairman of the Advisory Board of 1 Million Teachers, a non-governmental education organization

In March 2020, Sanusi received two appointments from his childhood friend Governor Nasir El-Rufai in Kaduna State; he was appointed Vice Chairman of the Board of Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency and Chancellor of the Kaduna State University. Sanusi is scheduled to proceed on a one-year academic fellowship at the University of Oxford’s African Studies Centre from October 2020.


  • Sanusi has four wives and thirteen children, five sons and eight daughters.

Career Highlights

  • 1981, BSc and 1983, MSc in Economics, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria;
  • 1983, Lecturer in Economics, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
  • 1997, degree in Sharia and Islamic Studies, African International University, Sudan.
  • 1985-2009, various positions in the banking industry, including with Icon, a subsidiary of Morgan Guaranty Trust Bank of New York; Baring Brothers of London; General Manager, United Bank for Africa; Group Managing Director, First Bank of Nigeria.
  • Recipient of awards, including National Award of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), Nigeria; Global Central Bank Governor for 2010, The Banker Magazine, a publication of the Financial Times; one of the 100 most influential people in the world, TIME Magazine (2011).

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