Nigeria’s embattled former central bank governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, has been accused of operating 593 bank accounts located in the United States, United Kingdom and China in which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), under his supervision, kept Nigerian funds without authorisation by the Board and Investment Committee of the bank.
The findings were made by the Special Investigator probing the CBN, Mr Jim Obazee, who was appointed by President Bola Tinubu to look into the books.
The investigator also discovered how billions of Naira were allegedly stolen by Mr Emefiele and other officials from the CBN’s accounts, including a “fraudulent cash withdrawal of $6.23 million” – about N2.9 billion at the then official exchange rate of N461 to a dollar.
Mr Obazee disclosed these in his report in which he recommended the prosecution of Mr Emefiele and at least 13 other individuals, including his deputy governors, for alleged gross financial offences.
The Special Investigator also identified other offences, including fraudulent use of Ways and Means to the tune of N26.627 trillion; fraudulent intervention programmes, fraudulent expenditures on COVID-19, and misrepresentation of presidential approval on the NESI Stabilisation Strategy Limited.
In the UK alone, the Special Investigator said his probe led him to £543.4 million kept by Mr Emefiele in fixed deposit accounts. He also said Mr Emefiele manipulated the Naira exchange rate and perpetrated fraud in the e-Naira project of the CBN.
In his report, which was submitted to President Tinubu on December 9, the Special Investigator said the Naira redesign policy introduced in October 2022 “was neither recommended by the Board of the CBN nor approved by the then President, Muhammadu Buhari, contrary to the provisions of Section 19 (1) of the CBN Act, 2007,” adding that, “It was a conspiracy against the Nigerian people and specifically the political class by the then CBN Governor (Mr Godwin Emefiele) and one of the erstwhile CBN Deputy Governor (Mr Folashodun Shonubi).
He claimed that the idea was that of Mr Shonubi (claiming interwoven challenges) and Mr Godwin Emefiele designed and approved the currency on October 19, 2022.
“It was indeed meant to frustrate the political class and make their election agenda very difficult. It turned out to be a huge punishment to Nigerians and the Nigerian economy coincidentally.”
Mr Obazee said the CBN printed the new N200, N500 and N1000 notes at a total cost of N61.5 billion, out of which it has paid N31.8 billion to the contractor, even though the total value of the new notes in circulation as of August was only N769.6 million.
“The sum of N1,727,500,000 was also spent on questionable legal fees on 19 cases that are directly traceable to the Naira Redesign and reconfiguration agenda,” Mr Obazee said in the report.
Mr Obazee said the immediate past Director of Currency in the CBN, Mr Ahmed Umar, who was under the supervision of Mr Shonubi, wrote a memorandum on August 25, 2022, to the committee of Governors (CBN), advising the redesign of the currency.
The next month, Mr Emefiele claimed that a presidential aide, Mr Tunde Sabiu, told him during a visit to the Presidential Villa to consider redesigning the Naira, and on October 6, the CBN governor wrote President Buhari seeking approval for the exercise.
“Mr Emefiele did not consult with the management of the CBN nor seek any recommendation from the Board of the CBN as required by Section 19 of the CBN Act, 2007,” the report said.
However, on the same October 6 2022, President Buhari approved the request but directed that the notes be printed locally.
It was established that the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc said it would be time-consuming to redesign and reconfigure the notes because of the new features contained in the design due to the positioning of the watermark, presence of QR codes, different numbering styles and other complex security features, Mr Emefiele took the job to the UK firm, which varied the colours of the old notes and got paid £205,000 for the “redesign effort.”