The recent naira redesign, according to Special Investigator Jim Obazee on the Central Bank of Nigeria, lacked explicit approval from former President Muhammadu Buhari but was reportedly sanctioned by his aide, Sabiu Tunde ‘Yusuf.’
The final report, titled ‘Report of the Special Investigation on CBN and Related Entities (Chargeable Offences),’ was submitted to President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday. Obazee, appointed by Tinubu in July 2023, disclosed that the redesign implementation involved the embattled former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, and Sabiu, who is the former President’s nephew.
Emefiele, currently facing prosecution for N1.2bn in procurement fraud and held in Kuje Custodial Centre, may face fresh criminal charges over the handling of the CBN naira redesign policy. The investigation suggests potential prosecution under Section 19 of the CBN Act for illegal currency issuance, involving Tunde Sabiu and 12 top CBN directors.
It was revealed that the naira redesign initiative was presented to Buhari by Sabiu without CBN board approval. Despite Buhari’s non-approval, Emefiele pursued the redesign, notifying the board only on December 15, 2022, after awarding the contract to Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc on October 31, 2022.
Emefiele contracted the redesign to De La Rue of the UK for £205,000, as Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc couldn’t meet the short timeframe. The special investigator found that N61.5bn was allocated for printing new notes, with N31.79bn already paid, and as of August 9, 2023, N769bn of the new notes were in circulation.
The CBN probe also uncovered the misuse of N26.627tn Ways and Means, and the COVID-19 intervention fund. Documents revealed instances of fraudulent use, including a debit of N124.860bn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account and an ‘anticipatory approval’ for N250bn to address challenges, implemented on December 15, 2020.
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The investigation discovered the abuse of CBN Ways and Means under the Buhari administration, permitted by the CBN Act to provide short-term or emergency finance. Despite the scarcity of naira in late 2022, the CBN spent N74.84bn on currency production, a 40.42% increase from the previous year’s expenditure of N53.29bn.