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Godwin Emefiele, others stole billions, illegally kept Nigeria’s funds in foreign banks – CBN Investigator

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The Special Investigator probing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Jim Obazee, has discovered 593 bank accounts located in the United States, United Kingdom and China in which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), under Godwin Emefiele, kept Nigerian funds without authorisation by the Board and Investment Committee of the bank.

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.

In the UK alone, the Special Investigator said his probe led him to 543.4 million Pounds 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 he submitted to President Bola Tinubu on 9 December, a copy of which was seen by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Obazee identified several “chargeable offences” for which the former CBN governor may be asked to defend himself before a court.

President Bola Tinubu had on 28 July appointed Mr Obazee as a Special Investigator to investigate the CBN and related entities, charging him to set up a suitably experienced and competent team and to work with relevant security and anti-corruption agencies for the assignment.

Mr Tinubu said the appointment relied on the fundamental objective outlined in Section 15(5) of the Nigerian constitution and was in furtherance of the country’s anti-corruption fight.

The president had also directed Mr Obazee, who was the chief executive officer of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) between 2011 and 2017, to take immediate steps to ensure the strengthening and probity of key Government Business Entities (GBEs) and block leakages in the CBN and related GBEs.

He also directed him to provide a comprehensive report on public wealth currently in the hands of corrupt individuals and establishments (whether private or public).

Naira redesign “fraud”

According to the report of the Special Investigator, the highly controversial redesign of the Naira 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,

“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). The idea was that of Mr Shonubi (claiming interwoven challenges) and Mr Godwin Emefiele designed and approved the currency on 19th October 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 N769,562 billion.

“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.

Stating the timeline of how the decision to redesign the naira was conceived and executed, Mr Obazee said the immediate past Director of Currency in the CBN, Ahmed Umar, who was under the supervision of Mr Folashodun, wrote a memorandum on 25 August 2022, to the committee of Governors (CBN), advising the redesign of the currency.

The next month, Mr Emefiele claimed that a presidential aide, Tunde Sabiu, told him during a visit to the Presidential Villa to consider redesigning the naira, and on 6 October, 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 6th October 2022, Mr Buhari approved the request but directed that the notes be printed locally. However, after 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 – positioning of watermark, presence of QR codes, different numbering style 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 British Pounds for the “redesign effort.”

Other “chargeable 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 Ltd.

On the “fraudulent use of “Ways and Means”, he reported:

“Section 38 of the CBN Act, 2007 allows the CBN to grant temporary advances to the Federal Government in respect of temporary deficiency of budget revenue at an interest. This is what is commonly referred to as “Ways and Means”. The said Section also provides that such advance is to be repaid by the end of the Federal Government financial year in which they are granted, otherwise the CBN shall be stopped from granting such advances in subsequent years. The advance is never to be repaid by way of Promissory note, Securitisation nor issuance of Treasury Bills; etc.

“It was a surprise, Mr President, that under the last administration, the noble outlet became a huge source of fraudulent drain pipe for the then Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, the erstwhile CBN Governor, all the four deputy CBN Governors (under the guise of COG), the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, the Accountant General of the Federation and even the then Chief of Staff, In an instance, they padded what the former President Muhammadu Buhari approved with N198,963,162,187 (approximating an approval of N801,036,937,813 to N1 trillion).

“There are instances where no approvals are received from the former President Muhammadu Buhari and yet, N500 billion is taken and debited to Ways and Means.

“There are more shocking instances when the erstwhile CBN Governor and his four deputy Governors connived to steal outrightly in order to balance the books of the CBN. This was by violently taken (sic) money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) account and then charged it to “Ways and Means,” They even created the narration as Presidential subsidy and expanded the “Ways and Means” portfolio to accommodate the 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 N22,719,703,774,306.90 that was presented to the 9th National Assembly to illegally securitise the “Ways and Means” financing, they were only able to partially explain a total of N9,063,286,720,318.92 or N9,258,040,720,318.92 (depending on which official you are considering his submission) and an unreasonable attribution of non-negotiated/unadvised interest element of N6,678,874,321,541,97. 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 the country with the aid of civil servants.

“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.”

$6.23 million foreign election observation missions
The Special Investigator also reported his discovery of the theft of $6.23 million from the vault of the CBN between 7 and 8 February this year, about two weeks before the presidential and National Assembly polls, under a purported approval of the president for the release of money to pay foreign election observers.

The removal of the money from the vault of the Foreign Payment Office, Abuja Branch, of the CBN, which was captured on CCTV footage, followed a trail of letters which began with one dated 23 January 2023 with the caption “Presidential Directive on Foreign Election Observer Misions” (sic). The heist was completed when an official in the office, Uzero Oghenefego, “took steps, procured the dollar cash, and released same to persons yet to be fully identified.”

“As at date, Abdulwaheed Muhammed has admitted in a written statement that he acted in collaboration with one Bashirdeen Mohammed Maisanu, an assistant director in the Banking Supervision Department of the Central Bank of Nigeria and some persons he is yet to identify, to conceive and carry out the act of stealing the sum of $6.23 million out of the vault of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“A fraudulent cash withdrawal of $6.23 million perpetrated since February 8th 2023, was not discovered nor taken seriously till the 4th of December when a Request for Information was issued by the Office of the Special Investigator. There is therefore an appearance of concealment by officers …”, the report stated.

President Tinubu was said to have requested the Special Investigator to submit the report by the first week of December so as not to delay his plans for the reform of the CBN and related agencies. When PREMIUM TIMES contacted his media aides on Thursday, they confirmed that Mr Obazee had turned in his report but that the president had yet to communicate his decisions on it to his officials or the CBN.

Mr Emefiele and the other individuals, whose names appeared in the report, could not be reached Thursday night and Friday morning to comment for this story.

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NASRE Advises FG On Food Crisis, Forex Shortage Amid Calls To Suspend Import Ban

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As Nigeria finds itself at a critical crossroads, grappling with simultaneous challenges of a food crisis and a foreign exchange (forex) shortage.

 

This is even as the nation seeks solutions to mitigate these pressing issues, the debate over whether to open its borders for importation has intensified.

 

The food crisis gripping Nigeria has raised concerns about food security and access to essential nutrition for millions of citizens.

 

Adverse weather conditions, supply chain disruptions, and other factors have contributed to dwindling food supplies and soaring prices, placing a significant strain on households and exacerbating the vulnerability of already marginalized communities.

 

Meanwhile, the forex shortage has hampered Nigeria’s ability to import essential goods and raw materials, further exacerbating supply chain disruptions and exacerbating inflationary pressures.

 

Industries reliant on imported inputs, including agriculture, manufacturing, and healthcare, have been particularly hard hit, impeding economic growth and development.

 

In response to these challenges, some stakeholders advocate for opening Nigeria’s borders to facilitate the importation of food and other essential commodities.

 

Proponents argue that increased importation could help alleviate immediate food shortages, stabilize prices, and provide relief to vulnerable populations facing hunger and malnutrition.

 

However, others caution against the potential risks of opening borders amid a forex shortage. Critics raise concerns about the impact on domestic production and self-sufficiency, as well as the long-term consequences of relying heavily on imported goods. They emphasize the need to prioritize investments in domestic agriculture and infrastructure to build resilience against future crises.

 

As Nigeria navigates these complex issues, the government faces the daunting task of balancing short-term relief efforts with long-term strategies for sustainable development and economic resilience.

 

Proffering suggestion on how the government can address the unending inflationary pressures, Forex shortages, food prices hike and revitalise the nation’s economy, the Nigerian Association of Social and Resourceful Editors (NASRE), has advised the Nigerian government to adopt collaborative efforts involving policymakers, industry stakeholders, civil society organizations, and international partners to identify holistic solutions that address both immediate needs and underlying structural challenges.

 

On the debate over whether Nigeria should open its borders for importation amid the food crisis and forex shortage, the President of the advocacy group, Mr Femi Oyewale, underscores the urgency of coordinated action and innovative thinking.

 

According to him, now more than ever, solidarity, cooperation, and forward-thinking policies are needed to ensure the well-being and prosperity of all Nigerians.

 

“The question of whether Nigerian borders should be opened for food importation in the face of a food crisis is complex and multifaceted. However, there are factors to consider, which basically, Domestic Agricultural Capacity. Because opening borders for food importation could undermine domestic agricultural production by flooding the market with cheaper imported goods.

 

“However, if domestic production is insufficient to meet demand, importing food may be necessary to avoid shortages,” he said.

 

On the economic implications of borders opening, the President of NASRE, Oyewale, said: “Importing food can have economic ramifications, both positive and negative. On one hand, it can provide access to a wider variety of foods and potentially lower prices for consumers. On the other hand, it may negatively impact local farmers and exacerbate trade imbalances.”

 

The resourceful editors, while commenting on Food Security, pointed out that relying heavily on imported food leaves a country vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and price fluctuations in the global market. Therefore, it urged the federal government to develop a robust domestic agricultural sector, which is crucial for long-term food security.

 

According to Oyewale, the Nigerian government must consider its broader economic and agricultural policies when making decisions about food importation. This includes evaluating subsidies, tariffs, and investment in agricultural infrastructure.

 

“Importing food often involves long-distance transportation, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation. Promoting local production can help reduce the carbon footprint associated with food consumption.

 

“Food is not just a commodity; it is essential for human well-being. Government policies should prioritize ensuring access to nutritious and culturally appropriate food for all citizens, particularly those most vulnerable to food insecurity,” he added.

 

The Nigerian Association of Social and Resourceful Editors, NASRE, therefore, noted that the decision to open Nigerian borders for food importation during a food crisis should be approached cautiously, taking into account the country’s domestic agricultural capacity, economic implications, food security goals, environmental concerns, and social welfare considerations.

 

“A balanced approach that supports both domestic production and responsible trade practices may be necessary to address immediate food shortages while also promoting long-term food security and sustainability,” the Association stated.

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Lagos State Government to prosecute 11 suspects for extortion

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The Lagos State Government said 11 suspects arrested at the Ibeju-Lekki junction and Akodo area of the state will be prosecuted to serve as deterrents to others extorting residents and motorists in the state.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Olawale Musa, disclosed this while addressing journalists on Wednesday.

He added that the suspects parade themselves as enforcement officers to extort unsuspecting motorists and residents in the state.

Musa said, “Lagos State Government has declared zero tolerance for extortion of unsuspecting residents, especially motorists, by miscreants parading themselves as enforcement officers at the Ibeju-Lekki junction and Akodo area of the state.

“We have announced severally that nobody is allowed to collect money for the local government on the street of Lagos, and the government has set up a team to ensure that anybody that does that is picked up and from that Lekki axis.

“They will be charged to court to explain themselves, and I want to sound a note of warning to others that do the same thing that we will not relent; the government is all out for them.”

He noted that it is unlawful for any local government area within the state to place personnel to conduct such operations on the highways.

“If you have any issues, you call us, and we will come and address them, but when you have people coming on the road on the guise that you want to have revenue at this hard time, collecting money from motorists on the road is not fair, and it is illegal in Lagos State to resist it.

“It is illegal for any local government area in the state to deploy people on the roads as it negates the Lagos State Road Traffic Law, Section 18, 2018, which empowers only the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority to carry out such operations on the roads,” he added.

In March 2023, The PUNCH reported that the Lagos State Government arrested four suspected hoodlums in some parts of the state over extortion.

The suspects were arrested in the Amuwo-Odofin area of the state while attempting to extort motorists.

 

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N10bn fraud: EFCC to arraign Abdulfattah Ahmed, ex-Kwara Governor Friday

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will arraign the immediate-past governor of Kwara State, Abdulfattah Ahmed, for alleged N10bn fraud on Friday, The PUNCH has learnt.

Credible sources in the anti-graft agency said the ex-governor would be dragged before the Federal High Court in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.

“He is going to be arraigned on Friday at the Federal High Court in Ilorin for diversion of funds, amounting to N10bn,” the source told our correspondent.

The ex-governor has been detained by the EFCC since Monday when he honoured an invitation for interrogation.

His Chief Press Secretary, Alhaji AbdulWahab Oba, confirmed his principal’s visit to the EFCC office on Monday, stating that it was only “procedural and routine”.

“Dr Ahmed’s visit to the EFCC is procedural and routine. He was invited and he honoured them as he’s always done. He’s always ready to respond to any query or question regarding his tenure as a governor of the state.”

On Tuesday night, Oba lamented that the EFCC was still holding on to Ahmed, saying he was given stringent bail conditions.

“Yes, he is still with the EFCC and we are now in a dilemma over the issue because they keep changing the goalpost during the match. The case is taking a new dimension, which we don’t really understand for now.

“Initially they said they wanted him to produce two sureties who are federal directors. The sureties came and were asked to provide landed properties in Abuja. We see this as a contradiction. The case was initially handled by the EFCC office in Abuja before it was transferred to Ilorin over the issue of jurisdiction. Additionally, he has been denied access to his doctors, medication and direct access to his cook,” Oba said.

Meanwhile, members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State on Wednesday staged a peaceful protest to the EFCC zonal office in Ilorin, where Ahmed was being detained.

The protesters, who carried placards with various inscriptions, expressed displeasure over Ahmed’s detention.

Led by the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olusegun Adewara, the party members alleged that the All Progressives Congress in the state was behind Ahmed’s troubles.

Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: “EFCC should stop being a tool in the hands of Abdulrazaq led-APC”, “Governor Ahmed was very transparent”, “EFCC is not a department in the APC, EFCC, stop the harassment”, “The opposition cannot be silenced”, “Maigida will not join the APC no matter the persecution”, “EFCC, don’t instigate political crisis in Kwara State”, “No to illegal detention. Respect the rule of law”, among others.

But addressing the protesters, the zonal commander of the EFCC, Michael Nzekwe, said Ahmed had been given an administration bail but he could not meet the conditions.

“We’re wrapping up. Once we wrap up, the law will take its course. The anti-graft agency, being a creation of law, would not go contrary to law.

“Everything we’ve done is within the ambit of the law. The former governor is cooperating with us and we’re making good progress following rules of law. As I speak, he’s with his lawyer, a SAN; he attends to everyone who comes to see him, and he has a doctor who has attended to him. He eats what he wants to eat. I urge us to allow the law take its course. We’re not partisan nor prompted by anybody. This body is solely sponsored by the Federal Government,” Nzekwe said.

 

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