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Tunde Sabiu, not Buhari asked Emefiele to redesign naira, CBN investigator says

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Tunde Sabiu, not Buhari asked Emefiele to redesign naira, CBN investigator says

Jim Obaze, the Special Investigator on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Related Entities, has noted that Tunde Sabiu, former President Muhammadu Buhari’s then powerful nephew, suggested the idea of redesigning the naira to Godwin Emefiele, former governor of the apex bank.

Recall that Buhari had on November 23, 2022, unveiled the redesigned naira notes, earlier than scheduled.

With Buhari’s supposed backing, the central bank had announced its plans to redesign and circulate a new series of three banknotes, including N200, N500 and N1,000 out of the existing eight, in October 2022.

Speaking in a recent interview with NTA, the first since leaving office on May 29, 2023, Buhari said approving the naira redesign policy was a way to ensure his “integrity became unquestionable”.

However, Obaze, the special investigator who submitted his final report tagged, ‘Report of the Special Investigation on CBN and Related Entities (Chargeable offences) to President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday, said in the report that Buhari didn’t approve of the naira redesign.

According to the report, it was Sabiu who first told Emefiele in September 2022 to consider the redesign of the naira, and on October 6, 2022, Emefiele wrote to Buhari that he wanted to redesign and reconfigure N1000, N500 and N200 notes.

“The former President tagged along but did not approve the redesign as required by law. Buhari merely approved that the currency be printed in Nigeria. The redesign was only mentioned to the board of the CBN on December 15, 2022, after Emefiele had awarded the contract to the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc on October 31, 2022,’’ the documents noted.

Emefiele was said to have contracted the redesign of the naira to De La Rue of the UK for £205, 000 pounds under the vote head of the Currency Operations Department after the NSPM said it could not deliver the contract within a short timeframe.

The special investigator found that N61.5bn was earmarked for the printing of the new notes out of which N31.79bn had been paid.

As of August 9, 2023, findings revealed that N769bn of the new notes were in circulation.

The probe of the CBN also revealed the fraudulent use of N26.627tn Ways and Means of the Apex Bank as well as the misuse of the COVID-19 intervention fund.

For instance, the CBN under Emefiele at its 661st meeting held on October 27, 2020, approved that the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account should be debited with the sum of N124.860bn, and the decision was implemented on October 9.

Similarly, the Committee of Governors at its 670th meeting held on December 9, 2020, granted anticipatory approval ‘’pending receipt of a formal request by Mr President and ratification by the board of directors the payment of the sum of N250bn only to the Federal Government of Nigeria to address challenges as a result of low revenue inflow and the payment of salaries.

The decision was implemented on December 15, 2020.

Obaze also accused the former governor of the apex bank of illegally lodging billions of naira in no fewer than 593 bank accounts in the United States, United Kingdom, and China without the approval of the bank’s board of directors and the CBN Investment Committee.

Obaze said he also found that the ex-CBN governor lodged £543, 482,213 in fixed deposits in UK banks alone without authorisation.

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The report partly read, “The former governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele invested Nigeria’s money without authorization in 593 foreign bank accounts in United States, China and United Kingdom, while he was in charge.

“All the accounts where the billions were lodged have all been traced by the investigator.”

In a letter dated July 28, 2023, President Bola Tinubu had named a former Executive Secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, Obazee, as the CBN special investigator

Emefiele, who is currently in Kuje Custodial Centre, is being prosecuted for N1.2 billion procurement fraud.

He has not been able to perfect the N300m bail granted him by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory on November 22.

However, documents obtained on Thursday indicated that the former apex bank governor might face fresh criminal charges over the handling of the CBN naira redesign policy.

Emefiele could be prosecuted for illegal issuance of currency under section 19 of the CBN Act alongside Tunde Sabiu, a former aide to former President Muhammadu Buhari, and 12 top directors of the CBN.

It was gathered that the naira redesign policy was sold to Buhari at the instance of Sabiu and that the initiative was done without the approval of the board of the CBN.

Anticipatory approval

Also on December 30, 2020, the committee of governors at its 672nd meeting granted another anticipatory approval for N250bn to the Federal Government for payment of salaries pending receipt of a formal request by Mr President and ratification by the board of directors.

The apex bank’s management through the Finance and General Purpose Committee equally granted anticipatory approval on the investment of $200mn in equity warrants of the Africa Finance Corporation.

According to section 38 of the CBN Act, 2007, the CBN could grant temporary advances to the Federal Government in respect of temporary deficiency of budget revenue at an interest.

The section also provides that such advances are to be repaid by the end of the financial year in which they are granted otherwise, the CBN shall be stopped from granting such advances in the subsequent year.

The advance is not to be repaid by way of promissory note, securitization or issuance of treasury bills.

The CBN investigator discovered that the CBN Ways and Means was abused under the Buhari administration.

The document further said, “In an instance, they (senior CBN and government officials) padded what the former President Muhammadu Buhari approved with N198,963,162, 187. There are instances where no approvals are received from the former president and yet, N500bn is taken and debited to Ways and Means.

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“There are more shocking instances where the erstwhile CBN governor and his four deputy governors connived to steal outright in order to balance the books of the CBN.

“This was by violently taking money from the Consolidated Revenue account and then charging it to Ways and Means. It was a total of N124.860bn. They even created the narration as a presidential subsidy and expanded the ways and Means portfolio to accommodate crime.

“The CBN officers and even the then acting CBN governor could not produce the Presidential Approval of most of the expenses described as ‘Ways and Means.’ When confronted, to provide the breakdown of the supposed N22.7trn that was presented to the 9th National Assembly to illegally securitise as ‘Ways and Means’ financing, they were only able to partially explain a total of N9.063 trn or N9.2trn depending on which official you are considering his submission and an unreasonable attribution of non-negotiated interest element of N6.5tn.

“This shows that this was the point where the officers of the immediate past administration as well as the erstwhile CBN governor and his four deputy governors connived, defrauded, and stole from the commonwealth of our country with the aid of civil servants.’’

Continuing, the report said, “The true position of the Ways and Means as documented from the reconciliation between the CBN and the Ministry of Finance at the time is N4,449,149,411,584.54.

“This may have been the main reason the past administration hurriedly sought that the advances of N22.7trn be securitised by the 9th National Assembly on December 19, 2022, which they also hurriedly did despite the fact that it contravenes section 38 of the CBN Act, 2007.”

Legal fees

The CBN under Emefiele was also said to have spent N1.7bn on questionable legal fees for 19 cases instituted against the naira redesign policy.

The investigator also discovered how Emefiele misrepresented the presidential approval for the NESI Stabilisation Strategy Limited approved by former president Goodluck Jonathan.

The document read, “The Presidential approval granted by then President Goodluck Jonathan was rightly stated by him NESI should be a company limited by guarantee but the Committee of Governors misled the Board of the CBN by relying on non-existent advice by the office of Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to incorporate a company limited by shares for which the allotted share capital exceeded the authorised share capital (See 380th meeting of the Committee of Governors held in January in January 2015) and allotting unauthorised share capital to Mr Godwin Emefiele and Mr Mudashiru Olaitan without lawful approval by the President.

“N1.325bn was stolen pre-incorporation and the money funnelled to four companies, including a legal firm which got N300mn.’’

Between 2015 and 2021, an investment company was said to have collected unlawfully a total of N4.89bn.

A breakdown indicated that the firm received N262mn in 2015, N464mn in 2016, N550mn in 2017, N726mn in 2018, N762 in 2019, N684 in 2020 and N1.44bn in 2021, totalling N4.89bn.

Emefiele also allegedly paid N17.2bn to 14 deposit money banks participating in the Nigerian Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility.

“A total of 14 DMBs engaged in the manipulation by unlawfully arranging and collecting 1.9535 per cent of the total disbursements paid to the DMBs participating in the Nigerian Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility.

The fees are paid to the banks in the ratio of their contributions to the NEMSF disbursement, according to External Auditor’s Notes to the Financial Statement of NESI Stabilisation Strategy Limited.

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“The CBN also went further by authorising the issuance of debenture for the NESI SPV, starting with N64.8bn in 2015. By 2021, N952bn debenture had been issued. The investigator said the money was diverted from public funds,’’ the document further stated.

It was further gathered that Emefiele could be tried for alleged manipulation of the naira exchange rate, fraudulent implementation of the e-naira project, and exemption of three foreign firms from paying income tax.

Meanwhile, the investigation has uncovered the strange illegal withdrawal/theft of $6.23mn from the CBN vault by two persons who used a forged presidential letter.

The suspects currently in custody were said to have presented a forged letter on February 7 and 8, 2023, purportedly signed by Buhari to withdraw the money allegedly meant for payment for foreign election observation missions.

Meanwhile, Punch reports that Mathew Bukkaa, SAN, council to Emefiele was yet to respond to text message which he requested for after being called to comment.

 

 

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