Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele may have contravened the law, by his late handover of shares he held in an aviation company. The company, Oviation Asset Management Company was registered in Bermuda, and had an account with UBS London. Emefiele’s name came up in a report by the Guardian of the UK, covering notable personalities in the Paradise leak. The Paradise leak is a set of documents containing information about notable personalities who made use of off shore havens to avoid tax liabilities.
Oviation Asset Management is 51% owned by Jim Ovia, founder and current Chairman of Zenith bank, while Emefiele held 49%. Emefiele succeeded Ovia, on his retirement in accordance with a policy instituted by then CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
How Emefiele may have contravened the law
The Nigerian Code of Conduct for public officials, states that officials shall not maintain or operate a foreign bank account. Even though Emefiele claims he instructed the bank in May 2014 that his shares be handed over to the bank, this apparently was not carried out till July this year. The CBN Governor is yet to present any evidence of such instructions.
Despite the explanation by Emefiele, the following posers remain unanswered:
- If no Zenith bank funds were involved then why was Godwin Emfiele occupying the office ?
- How was the Central bank Governor able to pay for his own shares ?
- If Emefiele did not benefit from the companies involved, why was he holding the shares ?
- Why did it take over 3 years for Emefiele’s shares to be handed over to the bank ?
The first aircraft, a Gulfstream G-450 was bought for $33 million in 2013, and its replacement a G-550 which cost $50 million was bought in 2015. While Jim Ovia, co owner of the firm that owned the aircraft , has stated that Zenith bank funds were not used to acquire the aircraft, he was appointed Chairman of Zenith Bank in July 2014. The aircraft purchased are believed to have been used by the bank, which would make the transaction one by a related party which should have been disclosed in its Annual report. A perusal of the bank’s annual reports from 2014-2016 does not reveal this.