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After more than four months of investigation, the Special Investigator probing the Central Bank of Nigeria, Jim Obazee, says former CBN Governor Mr Godwin Emefiele and others embezzled billions of naira and committed other gross financial offences.
According to a report by the online newspaper Premium Times, Obazee’s findings and recommendations were contained in a report he submitted to President Bola Tinubu on December 9, 2023.
The findings include that Emefiele who was in office from June 2014 to June 2023, was engaged “in fraudulent cash withdrawal of $6.23 million”, and perpetrated fraud in the redesign of the naira, while Emefiele kept 543.4 million pounds in the United Kingdom.
Premium Times, which saw a copy of Obazee’s submission to President Tinubu, also reported that Emefiele was found to have manipulated the exchange rate, fraudulently used the Ways and Means to the tune of N26.6tn, launched fraudulent intervention programmes, made fraudulent expenditures on COVID-19, and manipulated presidential approval, among other things.
Consequently, Obazee recommended that Emefiele and others, including his deputy governors, be prosecuted for financial offences.
With regards to the controversial naira redesign, which eventually led to acute naira scarcity and inflicted hardship on millions of Nigerians, Obazee said the process violated the CBN Act.
He was quoted as saying the redesign 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.
Premium Times added that Obazee said the naira redesign “was a conspiracy against the Nigerian people and specifically the political class… “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.”
The former CBN Governor has been in custody since he was arrested by the DSS in June after his ouster. He is currently being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which has accused him of committing a N1.2bn procurement fraud. That trial had opened on November 29, 2023, days before Mr Obazee submitted the report of his investigation to Mr Tinubu.
Emefiele and his legal team have yet to respond to the latest accusations. However, the former CBN governor and his legal team have denied any wrongdoing in response to previous allegations.
As CBN Governor, Mr Emefiele had announced the CBN’s plans to redesign the naira on October 26, 2022, with new N200, N500, and N1,000 notes to be circulated on December 15, 2022, and older notes to cease being legal tender by January 31, 2023.
Watch the video below to see what Buhari said at the unveiling of the new naira notes.
Two days later, then minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the CBN did not consult her ministry on the policy.
After two more days and as controversy emerged over the CBN’s announcement and Mrs Ahmed’s comments, on October 30, 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari said the CBN had his backing to redesign the naira notes.
See video of Zainab Ahmed saying her ministry was not consulted
President Buhari would restate his stance 11 more days on November 10, saying there was no going back on the redesign of the notes.
He would go on to unveil the new notes on November 23 and the CBN along with the Federal Government would go on to release the new notes.
READ ALSO: Buhari Reveals Why He Approved Redesign Of Naira Notes
Despite an acute shortage of the new notes, general cash scarcity as the deadline for the expiration of the old notes approached, and outrage and protests by Nigerians with some governors and politicians condemning the move, the Federal Government maintained its stance.
The current President, Bola Tinubu, who was then on the campaign trail, was among politicians who condemned the redesign and the cash shortage that followed.
Late in January 2023, a few weeks before the election, he said, “Let fuel be expensive, only they know where they keep it. Keep petrol, keep the naira, we will vote and be elected. You may change the ink of naira notes. What you expect will not happen. We will win,” the former Lagos State governor said in Yoruba language.”
Ultimately, it would take a legal battle and the Supreme Court with added pressure from stakeholders and politicians for the Federal Government to back down.
Ruling on a case filed by state governors challenging the naira redesign, the Supreme Court on March 3, 2023, ordered that the old notes should be in circulation until December 31, 2023, and declared the naira redesign was an affront to the 1999 Constitution.
Sixteen states of the Federation, led mainly by All Progressives Congress states, instituted the suit to challenge the legality or otherwise of the introduction of the policy.
Under the current administration and with the Supreme Court’s backing, old and new naira notes are now expected to co-exist until further notice.
The Supreme Court affirmed this in a ruling on November 29, 2023.
A Special Investigation
In July, two months after his inauguration, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, appointed Obazee, a former Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, as a special investigator to probe the CBN and related entities.
Obazee was tasked with taking immediate steps to ensure the strengthening and probity of key Government Business Entities (GBEs), further block leakages in CBN and related GBEs, and provide a comprehensive report on public wealth currently in the hands of corrupt individuals and establishments (whether private or public).
“You are to investigate the CBN and related entities using a suitably experienced, competent, and capable team and work with relevant security and anti-corruption agencies to deliver on this assignment. I shall expect a weekly briefing on the progress being made,” President Tinubu wrote in a letter to Obazee about his appointment.
During the tenure of Emefiele, several intervention programmes and the CBN’s activities, in general, had come under scrutiny, including the spending of COVID-19 funds and the management of the Ways and Means.
Obazee’s investigation touched on these issues. According to the report by Premium Times, the findings Mr Obazee reported to the President include:
* Fraudulent use of Ways & Means to the tune of N26.627 trillion
* Fraudulent intervention programmes & Fraudulent expenditures on COVID-19
* Misrepresentation of presidential approval on the NESI Stabilization Strategy Ltd.
* Padding of former president Buhari’s approval with N198.96 billion – approximating N801.04 billion to N1 trillion
* No approvals were received from the former president and yet N500 billion was taken and debited to Ways & Means
* No approval for the breakdown of N22.72 trillion presented to the 9th National Assembly to illegally securitize the “Ways & Means” financing
The recommendation by the Special Investigator probing the CBN under Emefiele is the latest trouble to knock on the door of the former monetary policy leader.
After nine years leading Nigeria’s top bank and driving the nation’s monetary policy, Emefiele has found himself embattled. He was in the eye of the storm for the last months of his tenure and has been in detention since his removal from power.
On June 10, a day after President Tinubu suspended him as CBN governor, the DSS confirmed that he had been arrested. On the same day, a video of his arrest had gone viral.
Emefiele was accused of possessing a single-barrel shotgun (JOJEFF MAGNUM 8371) without a licence, an offence contrary to Section 4 of the Firearms Act Cap F28 Laws of the Federation 2004 and punishable under Section 27 (1b) of the same Act.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge, a development which made the court grant him bail in the sum of N20 million
The judge would also rule that the suspended CBN governor should be remanded in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) pending the perfection of the bail terms.
In defiance of the ruling, the DSS engaged in a tussle with the NCoS over custody of Emiefele
Amid the clash, Emefiele’s lawyers “reluctantly allowed the DSS to disobey the court order and take custody of their client” to avoid a gun battle.
The prison officials then exited the court in their vehicle and the DSS took charge.
At exactly 03:03 pm, DSS operatives led the suspended CBN governor out of the courtroom into their waiting vehicle.(Culled From Channels)