Investigators discover billions of Naira diverted from CBN

.Ex-president’s family and associates fingered

Since Friday, June 10, when President Bola Tinubu announced the suspension of Godwin Emefiele as governor of CenttheBank of Nigeria, he has caught a niche for himself in the public glare as a man who has an axe to grind with the state. And, unless he is discharged and acquitted by the law, analysts are unanimous in their thoughts that this might signal an anticlimax for a former ‘key actor’ in the running of the nation’s economy.

Emefiele was CBN governor under Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari (both former presidents), and by extension, he served briefly under President Bola Tinubu, all between June 4, 2014 and June 9, 2023.

Curiously, the former Apex Bank’s Czar was arrested and charged to court by the Department of State Services on grounds of illegal firearm possession and possession of 123 live ammunition, albeit drawing criticism from activists and civil society groups having seen charges against him as frivolous and untenable.

A report stated that earlier in the year, the DSS attempted to arrest Emefiele, but they were prevented from doing so by soldiers who were securing both his residence and office. However, the DSS said that it intensified its investigations in hottest and charged Emefiele in court on allegations of terrorism financing and fraud. Some documents were said to have been found pointing to the fact that Emefiele had questions to answer regarding the funding of ‘unknown gunmen’ inciting trouble in the South-East zone.

While the dust has yet to settle on the matter which opinionists cast doubts on, the allegation linking Emefiele to the sharing of billions of Naira diverted from CBN surfaced like a puff of dark smoke from the chimney of a mega factory. Investigators, also fingering the ex-president’s family and associates, alleged that the money was used to buy shares in three first-generation banks.

Those following the development have said that the Pandora’s box, burst open on the activities of the CBN governor and his alleged allies, continued to shame the country. Investigators indicated that like others who were found to have looted public funds, their modus operandi is to launder the money through contractors who are calling the shots. The EFCC said that it uncovered N70 billion fraudulently starched by the former Central Bank Governor and others through multiple foreign exchange rates jolted the public. The said amount was reportedly fraudulently realized as a foreign exchange differential by the ex-CBN chief in connivance with others.

President Tinubu, who suspended Emefiele from office, was quoted to have said that Nigeria’s financial system was rotten. The president specifically said that the country’s financial system in the hands of Godwin Emefiele recked the Nigerian economy. Days following his suspension, a successor in the person of Olayemi Michael Cardoso, a Nigerian banker, chartered stockbroker, and former Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in Lagos State was appointed in his stead. And, consequently, Emefiele was arrested and flown from Lagos to Abuja for interrogations on issues bordering on corruption and abuse of office.

Willie Bassey, the Director of Information for George Akume, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, confirming that Emefiele’s suspension was a result of the ongoing investigation of his office and the planned reforms in the financial sector of the economy, said that the suspension was with immediate effect. “Mr Emefiele has been directed to immediately hand over the affairs of his office to the Deputy Governor (Operations Directorate), pending the conclusion of the station and the reforms,” he said.

An economist, who said that Emefiele remains innocent until proven otherwise by the court, explained that the allegation against Emefiele was that of forex differential fraud as it was claimed that he sold forex to persons at the official rate on paper bearing in mind, however that some persons would sell same at the black market rate. When sold, it was alleged that the difference would be paid into the account of Emefiele’s ally.

A report quoted a source as saying that “About N70 billion has been traced to the account in the course of the investigation.” Another economist, who preferred anonymity, speaking with our reporter, observed that heads had been rolling since the suspension of Emefiele was announced. For instance, the deputy governors of the CBN had been sent packing. As well, the Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, was indefinitely suspended from office.

A top government official (preferred anonymity), describing the issue as ‘a stinking can of worms,’ said that the last had not been seen or heard of the Emefiele gate. According to him, more heads would still roll as investigations progress and I know, additional facts would emerge as the situation progresses and those who have questions to answer would not be spared. So, I can say that end has not come to it and truth, more truth, would be blown open.”

Although lawyers refused to pass comments on the issue on the condition that the matter is still in court, they said that if found guilty, the former CBN governor and the accomplices would be given a deserving judgement. According to them, it is too early in the day to know who is guilty and who is not complicit in the case. On the one hand, the court, as the habit of commuting on man, they opined, would want to establish the fact that it is not a scenario where the state is witch-hunting the innocent. On the other hand, they said that the court would also ensure that the guilty does not go unpunished.

Recall that on November 23, 2022, ex-President Muhammadu Buhari and Emefiele unveiled the new N200, N500, and N1,000 notes which were to make the old notes cease to be legal tender from January 31, 2023. The policy brought hardship to Nigerians with the scarcity of the naira notes leading to a cash crisis that featured long queues in banks and at the ATMs. Emefiele earlier discountenance a Supreme Court ruling on the deadline for the old notes. As the nation cringed in agony of unfavorable economic policies, Emefiele was alleged by the DSS to have funded a notorious and deadly group in the South East.

Claims that were also adjudged as invalid were also peddled against the former Apex Bank’s Czar. One of them was that the DSS found packs of dollar notes in Emefiele’s house. A viral video attributing the incident to Emefiele hasistrue as it was said to have emanated from Sudan.

Many people hold the notion that corruption has permeated every sector of the country saying that what we see in public office holders is a picture of the reality of the tendency of the average Nigerian. It is believed that corruption reached its peak during the era of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. An official audit found that the state-owned oil company withheld over $25 billion from the public purse between 2011 and 2015. Meanwhile, cartels involving government officials, militants, and, oil employees reportedly stole tens of thousands of barrels of crude each day.

Although oil prices were high for most ofthan’s tenure, the savings account was drained. Money that was supposed to arm soldiers against Boko Haram insurgents was reported to have been squandered. This explains why former Vice-President Osinbajo estimated that the previous regime diverted $15 billion through dodgy arms contracts.

Whereas the former President Mohammadu Buhari administration was adjudged to have started on a sound footing regarding anti-corruption with the dozens of public officials and their cronies arrested by the EFCC, the regime was said to have consequently regressed on the fight. The most famous of Buhari administration’s fight against graft was the case of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, charged with signing billions worth of fake contracts for helicopters, airplanes, and ammunition.

In recorded mega corruption cases in the country and the complacency that attends the handling, economists said that the cankerworm of corruption may soon rock the nation and not only the economy if not checked now.

An economist named Ola Ojo, using the caveat, ‘If a nation does not kill corruption, corruption would kill the nation,’ expressed regrets about the embarrassment that corruption had caused Nigeria. Harping still on the fact that corruption as a way of life is unsustainable for any nation, he said, “It is unthinkable to attribute corruption to the office of the Central Bank of any nation because that could easily sink the economy.

“We cannot establish the fact that Emefiele is corrupt until pronounced so by coua rt of competent jurisdiction, but for the case of our discussion, no serious nation would appoint a man or a woman to a sensitive position without laying hold to a testable track record qualifying such a person to hold that sensitive position.

“As of the CBN governor should not be seen as the exclusive preserve of a banker that considered successful but should be allotted to a seasoned, mature, and, vastly experienced economist whose foray goes beyond just one department. As Hisrience should cut across both the local, national, and, international spaces; it should not be for a local champion in the commercial banking sector.

“Imagine the series of embarrassments that the nation has gone through where the destiny of our nation is tied to the apron string of test run by someone who colcolorede currency and is now being doubted and ridiculed by those who want to challenge the credibility of his service. If found innocent, of course, let Emefiele be released, but as a nation, we should redefine our way.”

A Sociologist and Criminologist at the University of Ibadan, Dr Tad. e Oludayo, noted that whether Emefiele is eventually pronounced guilty by the court or not is not the issue as that is an isolated case, but said that what is important is for Nigeria to deal with the monster of corruption in otoe the nation from embarrassment and also to stop the negative tendency from recurring in the youth.

Oludayo said that away from the charges pressed against Emefiele in court, the trauma that his policy direction as the CBN governor caused Nigerians was overwhelming and would not be forgotten in a hurry. He cited the cashless policy and other financial advice boomerang against good intentions.

The lecturer said, “The policy for which Emefiele is being remembered is the Naira redesign policy which distorted the livelihood of the citizens. Even the banking sector was a victim, the people and the country were victims.

“Virtually everyone was affected. Some companies collapsed at that time. People lost customers and as the people were picking up, we had fuel subsidy removal. That has compounded the problem of the Emefiele’s policy. If he is found guilty, it would only answer the side of the effect. What is more important is for the government of the day to come up with policies that will have a positive bearing and improve the livelihood of the majority of Nigerians.

“The way the estimation is unfolding, he is not the only one that is involved. So, he (alone) cannot be made the scapscapegoat should be an encompassing investigation and punishment. You cannot punish him in isolation when many other powerful people who influenced the policy are still within the corridors of power.

“If he is not found guilty, of course, the government has to apoapologize him. If he is found guilty and they are reaching an agreement on plea bargaining, it means there is an admission of guilt. But whatever amount is released – even on the use of Dangote – those who benefitted must also face the wrath of the law. That is where the Rule of Law would have been seen to have been effected. The Rule of Law emphasizes equality.

“No one person, because he is the friend of those in power today, should be excused. Everybody connected to it should be processed according to law. That is where detedeterrents begin to come in. That is when you train the youth to behave better when they are in position of influence or authority so that they can behave responsibly, otherwise if we sweep it under the carpet like we did with previous cases under the immediate past government, and we do the same thing whether in EFCC or CBN, or any other agency, we are not going to find any solution to the growing rate of corruption because the message then becomes it is easier to steal and have soft landing if you go to court and get plea bargaining where it is only the poor that gets punished.”

As stakeholders expressed concern about the unfolding corruption drama that entrails the scene, they advised the current administration not to play to the gallery but rather to do its best to arrest the monster that perverts the nation’s integrity and put the common destiny of the people to test.

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