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CBN investigations must yield concrete results

The revelations so far coming out from the probe of the tenure of Mr Godwin Emefiele as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria…

The revelations so far coming out from the probe of the tenure of Mr Godwin Emefiele as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) are mind-boggling, but probably not surprising to many Nigerians.  

The report by the Special Investigator on the CBN and Related Entities, Jim Obazee, has given teeth to the suspicions long in the minds of many Nigerians, including those who had cried out but were silenced, that Emefiele’s long stay at the helm of the CBN had transmuted into many different forms of abuses of his office, with devastating consequences for the economy and the country.  

It is perhaps these suspicions and rumours, which many officials in the current government had mouthed with growing frustration, and the general messy situation of the country’s monetary and fiscal systems, that had prompted President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to, in late July last year, appoint a Special Investigator, Mr Jim Obazee, a former head of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, to probe the activities of the CBN and Related Government Business Entities over the past eight years or so. And perhaps given the significance of the probe, Tinubu had mandated Obazee to report directly to him and give him weekly updates.  

So far, it appears that Jim Obazee has completed his investigations, at least going by the news reports dripping in the media over the past two weeks, and revealing mind-boggling allegations of corruption at the CBN under Emefiele. The Special Investigator’s report highlights no less than 17 different cases of alleged corrupt acts against Emefiele, his deputies and others. And as expected in a country that never tires of revelations of corruption in high places, the recent allegations against the former CBN Governor have sparked intense interest in the media and among the citizenry in the country.  

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Some of these allegations include that of unauthorised funding of 593 offshore bank accounts located in the UK, US, and China; stashing some £543.4 million in a fixed deposit account; a fraudulent withdrawal of $6.23 million in cash from the CBN vault allegedly to pay foreign election observers, and fraudulent manipulation of the naira exchange rate and in the e-naira project.  

Others include four separate allegations of abuses in the Naira Redesign Policy, including a questionable legal expenditure of N1.73 billion on the project; abuses of the Ways and Means payments of N26.627 trillion; several separate fraudulent abuses of due process in the management CBN development interventions, Covid-19 funds, and of course, the allegation that Emefiele used several surrogates to obtain shares in a new-generation bank, among others.    

These are imponderable allegations issuing out of a single government entity in Nigeria, even for a country and a people already weary by the constant reports of corruption in the news as Nigeria and Nigerians. Moreover, while these are still just allegations at this point, they nevertheless present well-meaning Nigerians with at least three painful observations: that Emefiele must have been an unusually powerful CBN Governor, that his deputies and subordinates allegedly worked in cahoots with him, and perhaps most significantly, that most of the alleged acts were carried out without presidential approval where they were required.    

If even just some of these allegations are proved true, Nigerians would be right to ask, where was President Buhari when all of these were going on under his watch? How could presidential authority be captured so definitively by a mindless, reckless cabal near the president? Nigerians would also be right to demand serious reforms of the CBN and curb some of the undue powers of its governor. But for now, what is most crucial for many Nigerians would be a logical and positive conclusion to the entire investigation process.  

This is important because the investigation itself has since turned into a farcical war of words in the media between the Special Investigator and his report on the one hand, and Emefiele and others accused of wrongdoing on the other. Emefiele, for example, has not only denied knowledge of any 593 offshore accounts, he has gone ahead to sue the Special Investigator for its claims against him. Other entities mentioned in the allegations have also come out to strongly denied their involvement as claimed, with some supplying supporting evidence of their positions to the media and the public. The rather clandestine nature of investigations, as opposed to a public hearing, for example, also does the process no good and leaves it open to counter-accusations.  

All of these not only threaten to derail the entire investigative process, but to question its integrity and neutrality, the very stuff for which such an investigation must be fastened at all times. At Daily Trust, therefore, we call on President Tinubu to take immediate and urgent steps to recalibrate the investigative process. Even for a country once described as “fantastically corrupt’, these allegations cannot be swept under the carpet or simply buried by the passage of time, as we have always done in the past.  

The idea that some individuals acted without presidential authorisation on matters that require same is, without doubt, the most serious form of corruption: it amounts to not just state capture but unelected governance. It is therefore, important for Nigerians to know whether such wanton disregard for constituted authority happened or not, and if it did, for the culprits to be brought to book. Secondly, if some of these allegations are true, then the government must chase and recover the funds allegedly stashed by Emefiele and his cronies, if only to augment the current debilitating forex liquidity crisis.  

Finally, the government must bring the investigations to a logical conclusion, if only to repair the significant damage done to Nigeria’s reputation within the global economic and financial systems. Tinubu cannot open a can of worms this wide without having any worms to show for it. 


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