The allegation of N500bn missing from the CBN; an alarm government must take seriously » YNaija

About 48 hours ago, online medium Sahara Reporters  released two telephone audio tapes which revealed how the Governor of the  Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emiefele, his Deputy, Edward Lametek Adamu, the Director for Finance, Dayo M. Arowosegbe and one of the Special Advisers to the CBN Governor, Emmanuel Ukeje allegedly discussed plots to cover up the loss of monies which it reported to be shareholders’ funds from commercial banks entrusted to the bank, but diverted to a private investment in Dubai that ran aground, to the tune of N500 Billion sometimes towards the end of 2018.

In one of the audio tapes, Emefiele while speaking to the top officials said: “I’ll have to think of a way out because we cannot afford it at all. “The implications are just too many to even think about and damaging. We cannot allow this like this, we cannot” he said.

As heard in the tape also, Emefiele and the officials while lamenting the hopelessness of a way out of the said problem said:

“I am not too happy that Arowosegbe led us like this, in fact, that was what i was asking, i said we have an impression that we had 500 billion, he said no…where are we going to find this? Now we are in a very bad situation. The implication for the economy is a no, no, no” he added.

Some part of the conversation led to a suggestion of asking the federal government for the shortfall through the Ministry of Finance that was turned down to limit outside exposure, but Sahara Reporters claims that its sources at the CBN say Emefiele and others in the bank eventually found a way out of their dilemma by diverting funds in possession of the CBN and also printing hard cold cash.

Although the CBN had on Sunday in a press statement through its Director of Corporate Communications, Issac Okorafor, admitted that the audio conversation was between the governor and top officials of the bank, it dismissed the speculations as “reconciliation of Balance Sheet items which are regular conversations amongst Senior Management of many agencies that should not be misconstrued as fraudulent:

“In closing the Bank’s 2018 accounts, external auditors in their Draft Account erroneously classified about N150 billion of these loans as bad, which negatively affected the Bank’s Balance Sheet and shareholders fund, adding that the selective  conversation being circulated was simply a discussion to ascertain why the auditors took that position and next steps to resolving it.”

According to the statement, “it soon became clear that a State Government loan cannot be classified as “bad” or “irrecoverable” when the State still exists and getting FAAC allocations, while 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 leading the auditors to reverse the negative entry and the certified that the CBN’s 2018 accounts were a true reflection of the State of Affairs.

While this rebuttal by the apex bank appears believable as it it’s officials are the ones involved, the repeated expressions of the CBN governor in those tapes is a huge source of worry and the federal government should urgently investigate the issues to forestall any negative consequence on the country’s struggling economy.

This is especially important judging from a similar experience of 2014 when then Governor of the bank, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi alleged that huge sums of money were missing from the country’s coffers, ultimately leading to his suspension from office, but it is common knowledge that the country had to battle recession for about three years after that alarm , while the Anti-corruption initiative of this current administration, has led to the forfeiture and recovery of billions of naira either diverted or stolen under the previous administration, with the actors involved undergoing prosecution in court.

On Tuesday, September 25, 2018, at the end of a two-day meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee in Abuja, the CBN warned that the Nigerian economy has started showing signs of weakness again and may slip into a recession, blaming the slowdown on the oil sector with strong linkages to employment and growth.

This warning has also been recently echoed by the Zamfara governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Abdulaziz Yari during the induction ceremony of newly elected governors into the forum, when he called for the full diversification of the economy and strengthening of tax laws while urging Nigerians to prepare for another cycle of recession by mid 2020 and the third quarter of 2021.

If any of these warnings are to be taken seriously, allegations such as this must not be treated with kid gloves to avoid the unbearable in our dear country.