In a mounting legal challenge for former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele, a Special Investigator’s report exposes a trail of alleged misconduct, ranging from the illegal lodging of billions in foreign accounts to unapproved currency redesign initiatives.
The report, submitted by Special Investigator Jim Obaze to President Bola Tinubu, details Emefiele’s unauthorized actions during his tenure, particularly in managing Nigeria’s finances. The former governor is currently facing prosecution for N1.2 billion procurement fraud and struggling to secure bail granted on November 22, 2022.
Fresh charges may await Emefiele as the investigation uncovers potential criminal liability for the handling of the CBN naira redesign policy. Section 19 of the CBN Act could implicate Emefiele, along with Tunde Sabiu, a former aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, and 12 top directors of the CBN, for illegal currency issuance.
The report reveals a complex sequence of events, indicating that the naira redesign policy was sold to Buhari without proper approval and initiated by Sabiu. Despite Buhari’s non-approval of the redesign, Emefiele allegedly proceeded, writing to Buhari in October 2022 about redesigning N1000, N500, and N200 notes.
The controversy deepens as documents suggest that the redesign contract was awarded to De La Rue of the UK for £205,000 pounds, bypassing local options. The investigation found that N61.5 billion was earmarked for printing new notes, with N31.79 billion already paid, and approximately N769 billion of the new notes in circulation as of August 9, 2023.
Beyond the currency redesign, the CBN under Emefiele faces allegations of fraudulent use of N26.627 trillion in Ways and Means and misuse of the COVID-19 intervention fund. The investigation exposes instances where senior CBN and government officials allegedly manipulated funds, padded approvals, and created misleading narratives.
Further scrutiny reveals questionable legal fees amounting to N1.7 billion and the unlawful withdrawal of $6.23 million from the CBN vault. Two suspects, currently in custody, presented a forged presidential letter on February 7 and 8, 2023, purportedly signed by Buhari, aiming to withdraw funds supposedly meant for foreign election observation missions.
The report outlines a complex web of financial irregularities, shedding light on how Emefiele may face a broad spectrum of charges, including manipulation of the naira exchange rate, fraudulent implementation of the e-naira project, and exemptions of foreign firms from income tax.
As legal proceedings unfold, Emefiele’s tenure at the CBN faces intense scrutiny, raising questions about transparency, financial management, and adherence to legal protocols within Nigeria’s financial institutions.