How Emefiele, others stashed billions in 593 accounts in US, UK, China – Report

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    Guardian.ng

    The former Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele, has been accused of operating 593 bank accounts in the United States, the United Kingdom, and China, where Nigerian funds were allegedly kept without authorization by the CBN’s Board and Investment Committee.

    A report by a special investigator appointed by President Bola Tinubu, Jim Obazee, disclosed how billions of naira were allegedly stolen by Emefiele and other officials from the CBN’s accounts, including a “fraudulent cash withdrawal of $6.23 million” just before the 2023 elections.

    “The former governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele, invested Nigeria’s money without authorization in 593 foreign bank accounts in the United States, China and the United Kingdom while he was in charge,” the report said.

    “All the accounts where the billions were lodged have all been traced by the investigator.”

    Obazee claimed that his investigation in the United Kingdom led him to 543.4 million pounds kept by Emefiele in fixed deposit accounts, noting that Emefiele manipulated the Naira exchange rate and perpetrated fraud in the e-Naira project of the CBN.

    The controversial redesign of the naira, according to Obazee’s report, “was neither recommended by the Board of the CBN nor approved by the then President, Muhammadu Buhari, in contravention of the provisions of Section 19 (1) of the CBN Act, 2007.”

    He also noted that 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.

    “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 October 19, 2022,” Obazee said.

    “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 investigator noted that the former president tagged along but did not approve the redesign as required by law, saying that “Buhari merely approved that the currency be printed in Nigeria.”

    He added that the redesign was only mentioned to the board of the CBN on December 15, 2022, after Emefiele had awarded the contract to Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc on October 31, 2022.

    The CBN printed the new N200, N500, and N1000 notes at a total cost of N61.5 billion, of which N31.8 billion was paid to the contractor, despite the fact that the total value of the new notes in circulation as of August was only N769,562 billion, according to Obazee.

    The investigator added that “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.”

    The Special Investigator also exposed additional misconduct, asserting that Emefiele and his deputies were involved in fraudulent activities related to the misapplication of the “Ways and Means” facility. This facility, intended for temporary government funding, was purportedly misused to the tune of N26.627 trillion, he said.

    The investigator also brought attention to fraudulent intervention programs, questionable expenditures linked to COVID-19, and a misrepresentation of presidential approval concerning the NESI Stabilisation Strategy Ltd.

    Regarding the “fraudulent use of ‘Ways and Means,’ the investigator stated, “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),” Obazee said.

    Obazee noted that there are instances where no approvals are received from Buhari and yet, N500 billion is taken and debited to Ways and Means and that Emefiele and his four deputy Governors colluded to outrightly steal to balance the books of the CBN.

    According to him, this was done by forcefully taking money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) account and then charging it to ‘Ways and Means’ and that they even created the narration as a Presidential subsidy and expanded the ‘Ways and Means’ portfolio to accommodate the crime.

    “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.”

    Obazee also disclosed his findings regarding the embezzlement of $6.23 million from the Central Bank of Nigeria’s vault between February 7 and 8, just two weeks before the presidential and National Assembly elections.

    The funds were reportedly released under the pretext of a presidential approval for payment to foreign election observers.

    The illicit withdrawal occurred at the Foreign Payment Office, Abuja Branch, and was captured on CCTV footage. The fraudulent scheme began with a series of letters, starting with one dated January 23, 2023, titled “Presidential Directive on Foreign Election Observer Missions” (sic).

    The report alleges that theft was orchestrated by Uzero Oghenefego, an official in the office, who “took steps, procured the dollar cash, and released it 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 investigator outlined these findings in his report, urging the prosecution of Emefiele and at least 13 other individuals, including his deputy governors, for alleged serious financial offences.

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