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Published: Sunday February 23, 2014 MYT 5:40:02 AM
Updated: Sunday February 23, 2014 MYT 5:41:09 AM

Nigeria court rules central bank governor can't be arrested pending plea

ABUJA (Reuters) - A Nigerian court has issued an order on the security agencies, barring them from arresting suspended Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi, after he was briefly detained and his passport seized at the airport, a document viewed by Reuters showed.

Justice Buba Ibrahim issued the order on Friday, after Sanusi complained that his detention had breached his right to freedom of movement, since he had not yet been charged with committing the financial malpractices for which he was suspended.

President Goodluck Jonathan suspended Sanusi on Thursday, removing an outspoken critic of his government's record on corruption, citing "acts of financial recklessness".

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, 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 pay $20 billion it owed to federal government coffers, fuelling suspicion his arrest was meant to silence him.

The presidency denies it was politically motivated.

NNPC has repeatedly denied Sanusi's allegations, which brought the bank governor into conflict with Jonathan's administration a year before presidential elections in Africa's leading oil producer.

The court ruling will remain in place until a case Sanusi brought alleging violation of his human rights in his brief airport detention, after he arrived back in the country from neighbouring Nigeria, has been decided, the judge said.

That case will continue on February 28.

Sanusi's suspension caused panic in the markets, with the naira falling to record lows, as foreign investors sold off bonds, money and stocks.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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