Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN) has been accused of a N500 billion fraud alongside other top CBN officials. The allegations began making rounds online on Sunday, May 12th after Sahara Reporters released an exclusive publication containing a leaked audio recording of a conference telephone conversation between the governor and other officials.
The publication explained how the CBN officials in question were trying to control the damage of missing N500 billion after a supposed failed private investment. It stated that the voices in the tape are recognised to be that of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; Deputy governor of the Central Bank, Edward Lametek Adamu; Director for Finance, Dayo Arowosegbe and Special Adviser to the CBN Governor, Emmanuel Ukeje.
According to recording, Emefiele could be heard speaking to his deputy governor Adamu, “To avoid any serious problem, the government will have to agree to give us at least 100 billion cash but the government will not agree. They will kick against it.”
In response to the allegations, the CBN has denied that money was neither missing nor stolen from its vaults. The bank says the misinformation about the conversation in the audio tape by the media is a deliberate attempt to undermine the efforts of the CBN management. According to a press statement by the CBN spokesperson, Isaac Okorafor, the bank notes that it will pursue every legal means to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“Under the leadership of Governor Emefiele, the CBN has always stood for, and vigorously pursued transparency in its stewardship of public resources and policies. No monies are missing or stolen,” the statement reads.
In the statement, which was made available to the media, the bank says contrary to the narrative that the discussion was about a fraudulent transaction, the conversation – the beginning 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 statement further explains that the CBN was approached in 2015 by the National Economic Management Team and the National Economic Council (NEC), chaired by the Vice President, to assist State Governments with Conditional Budget Support, in the aftermath of the significant nose-dive in global oil prices and associated FAAC allocations.
The CBN responded by providing about N650 billion in loans at nine percent with a two-year grace period to 35 States of the Federation. Unfortunately, external auditors made an accounting error in their Draft Account in 2018, classifying about N150 billion of the CBN loans to states as bad debt – an error which negatively affected the Bank’s Balance Sheet and shareholders fund.
The bank further clarifies that the selective conversation being circulated was simply a discussion to ascertain why the auditors took that position and the next steps to resolve it. With the joint support of the Federal Ministry of Finance, the misunderstanding was finally rectified. It became clear that a State Government loan cannot be classified as “bad” or “irrecoverable” when the State still exists and getting FAAC allocations.
“On this basis, the auditors reversed the negative entry and certified that the CBN’s 2018 accounts were a true reflection of the State of Affairs. Reconciliation of Balance Sheet items are regular conversations amongst Senior Management of many agencies and should not be misconstrued as anything but that. Had the online media which released the selective recordings sought the comments of CBN as required of journalism practice, we would have provided it,” the statement added.
The statement also urges the public to disregard the misleading audio and continue to trust that the Bank is always working to represent their best interest.