The Special Investigator on the Central Bank of Nigeria and Related Entities, Jim Obaze, has alleged that the immediate past president, Muhammadu Buhari, did not approve the redesigning of the new naira notes.
Recall that ex-president Buhari had, on November 23, 2022, unveiled the redesigned naira notes, earlier than scheduled.
With Buhari’s supposed backing, the central bank had announced its plans to redesign and circulate a new series of three banknotes, including N200, N500 and N1,000 out of the existing eight, in October 2022, according to Business Hallmark.
Speaking in a recent interview with NTA, the first since leaving office on May 29, 2023, Buhari said approving the naira redesign policy was a way to ensure his “integrity became unquestionable”.
However, Obaze, the special investigator who submitted his final report tagged, ‘Report of the Special Investigation on CBN and Related Entities (Chargeable offences) to President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday, said in the report that Buhari didn’t approve of the naira redesign.
According to the report, it was Tunde Sabiu who first told Emefiele in September 2022 to consider the redesign of the naira, and on October 6, 2022, Emefiele wrote to Buhari that he wanted to redesign and reconfigure N1000, N500 and N200 notes.
“The former President tagged along but did not approve the redesign as required by law. Buhari merely approved that the currency be printed in Nigeria. The redesign was only mentioned to the board of the CBN on December 15, 2022, after Emefiele had awarded the contract to the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc on October 31, 2022,’’ the documents noted.
Emefiele was said to have contracted the redesign of the naira to De La Rue of the UK for £205, 000 pounds under the vote head of the Currency Operations Department after the NSPM said it could not deliver the contract within a short timeframe.
The special investigator found that N61.5bn was earmarked for the printing of the new notes out of which N31.79bn had been paid.
As of August 9, 2023, findings revealed that N769bn of the new notes were in circulation.
The probe of the CBN also revealed the fraudulent use of N26.627tn Ways and Means of the Apex Bank as well as the misuse of the COVID-19 intervention fund.
For instance, the CBN under Emefiele at its 661st meeting held on October 27, 2020, approved that the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account should be debited with the sum of N124.860bn, and the decision was implemented on October 9.
Similarly, the Committee of Governors at its 670th meeting held on December 9, 2020, granted anticipatory approval ‘’pending receipt of a formal request by Mr President and ratification by the board of directors the payment of the sum of N250bn only to the Federal Government of Nigeria to address challenges as a result of low revenue inflow and the payment of salaries.
The decision was implemented on December 15, 2020.
Obaze also accused the former governor of the apex bank of illegally lodging billions of naira in no fewer than 593 bank accounts in the United States, United Kingdom, and China without the approval of the bank’s board of directors and the CBN Investment Committee.
Obaze said he also found that the ex-CBN governor lodged £543, 482,213 in fixed deposits in UK banks alone without authorisation.
The report partly read, “The former governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele invested Nigeria’s money without authorization in 593 foreign bank accounts in United States, China and United Kingdom, while he was in charge.
“All the accounts where the billions were lodged have all been traced by the investigator.”
In a letter dated July 28, 2023, President Bola Tinubu had named a former Executive Secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, Obazee, as the CBN special investigator
Emefiele, who is currently in Kuje Custodial Centre, is being prosecuted for N1.2 billion procurement fraud.
He has not been able to perfect the N300m bail granted him by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory on November 22.
However, documents obtained on Thursday indicated that the former apex bank governor might face fresh criminal charges over the handling of the CBN naira redesign policy.
Emefiele could be prosecuted for illegal issuance of currency under section 19 of the CBN Act alongside Tunde Sabiu, a former aide to former President Muhammadu Buhari, and 12 top directors of the CBN.
It was gathered that the naira redesign policy was sold to Buhari at the instance of Sabiu and that the initiative was done without the approval of the board of the CBN.