The Central Bank Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has issued a press statement in a bid to shut down a wide-spreading report which claimed that Governor Godwin Emefiele connived with one of his deputies and other top officials to steal billions of naira from the coffers of the apex bank.
According to the statement which was signed by CBN‘s Director of Corporate Communications, Mr Isaac Okafor, the media report is a false narrative which only seeks to deceive the public.
Note that while the CBN statement does not discredit the existence of the audio tape from which the controversial media report stem, it does insist that the conversation was intentionally misconstrued in order to achieve a “headline-grabbing narrative”.
“The Management of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been notified of a purported audio recording of selective conversations amongst the Governor, Deputy Governor and some Senior Officials. Contrary to the headline-grabbing narrative that the discussion was about a fraudulent transaction, this conversation – the beginnings of which was omitted to create a different impression – was simply to proffer solutions to a misunderstanding that affected the Bank’s balance sheet.”
The Backstory: On Sunday, May 12th, 2019, Sahara Reporters published an exclusive on which reportedly exposed a N500 billion fraud committed by Governor Emefiele, his Deputy, Edward Lametek Adamu, and some other officials.
The publication contained an audio recording of a conference telephone conversation between Governor Emefiele and the others. At the beginning of the tape, as reported, the CBN Governor’s hysterical voice could be heard asking the CBN Director for Finance, Dayo M. Arowosegbe the following:
“So, can we think of anywhere across both ends where we can, you know, push things or either move things from CAD or other places, bring it back, you understand, or delay? Anything!”
That question set the tone for the alleged fraud, as reported by the above-named media organisation. Now, in all fairness, after listening to the entire audio, it is hard not to assume that something fishy had happened and the CBN big wigs were trying to either sort it out or cover it up, as the case may be.
Sahara Reporters believes that over N500 billion had been lost, stolen from the CBN in a private investment that went bust.
The CBN is denying this allegation, albeit vehemently: Contrary to the media report, the press statement from the Central Bank of Nigeria has a different narrative about what was being discussed in the tape by Godwin Emefiele and the others.
The press statement recounted how, in 2015 following the global oil crash, the CBN was approached by the National Economic Management Team and the National Economic Council (NEC), to help State Governments with Conditional Budget Support. This is bearing in mind that the depreciating oil prices had affected FAAC allocations to states, thereby making it nearly impossible for some states to pay workers’ salaries.
The CBN responded by providing a N650 billion loan to 35, out of the 36 states in the Federation.
“In order to ensure that ordinary Nigerians workers got their salaries, pensions and gratuities, and that the economy continued to recover from recession, the Bank provided about N650 billion in loans at 9% with a two-year grace period to 35 States of the Federation. These monies were distributed to the States monthly with documented approval of the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Presidency.”
Three years later, an accounting error caused controversy: Fast-forward to 2018, external auditors classified about N150 billion of the CBN loan to states as bad loans. This is said to have “negatively affected the Bank’s Balance Sheet and shareholders fund.”
Now back to the “purported report” about missing billions: The CBN press statement, therefore, clarified that the leaked conference call between Governor Emefiele and his colleagues, was held in a desperate attempt to understand why the auditors categorised the loan as bad debt.
The statement went further to clarify that the misunderstanding was later rectified, thanks in part to the intervention of the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“The Bank then reached out to the Federal Ministry of Finance and they jointly gave comfort to the auditors who accepted in writing that these monies would be repaid. On this basis, the auditors reversed the negative entry and the certified that the CBN’s 2018 accounts were a true reflection of the State of Affairs.”
No stolen/missing money? Having explained what happened, the apex bank is urging Nigerians to disregard the purported report about missing billions. The CBN claims that Governor Godwin Emefiele has always been an upright public leader who stands for transparency.
Now, while this CBN account may be true, many Nigerians are not yet convinced. Instead, they believe that something fishy had, indeed, happened. Perhaps, the CBN may need to be more careful in the administration of its affairs, so as to avoid another scandalous development such as this.