Thieves in the treasury

nigeria currency


CLEARLY, the heavy grime and dirt on Nigerian currency notes readily serve as vector for the spread of germs and diseases, particularly in an environment where the culture of regular hand washing is not well grounded.

However, despite commendable progress in the adoption of E-transactions, cash handling still remains very popular regardless of the quality of the notes and the attendant health hazard.

Curiously, however, new currency notes have become easier to obtain at social parties and event centres where they are brazenly hawked with up to 20 per cent discount, even when commercial banks continue to plead non-supply from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Nevertheless, the popular suspicion of ‘under table dealings’ in currency supply was probably validated last week by media reports, such as “EFCC nabs six CBN officials and 16 other bankers over N8bn fraud”, (pg 9 in Vanguard edition of 1/ 6/15).

Apparently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) picked up the suspects for “stealing and putting back into circulation about N8bn stock of defaced and mutilated Nigerian currency notes which were meant for destruction”; investigations also revealed that in September 2014, “a box that was supposed to contain N5bn in N500 note denominations was discovered to be filled instead with old newspapers” at the same Ibadan branch of the CBN.

Clearly, the sum of N8bn indicated, may actually be an understatement, since the EFCC also claims that such escapades had enjoyed considerable mileage over several years. Besides, the N134m credit balance in one of several bank accounts and the value of other listed properties allegedly acquired by a Standard Six certificate cash assistant, who is, incidentally, a junior member of the Ibadan syndicate, may already exceed N1bn!

Nevertheless, the EFCC also recognized that “this currency fraud is partly to blame for the failure of CBN’s monetary policy, as the surplus cash mop up exercises by the apex bank inevitably failed to check the inflationary pressure on the economy”.

The above EFCC’s statement seeks to explain that in order to reduce the inflationary threat from perceived surplus Naira in the system, the CBN commits the hari-kari of adopting high monetary policy rates which are antagonistic to economic growth and job creation.

Worse still, as counter measure against rising prices, the CBN becomes forced to reduce the extant surplus money supply by borrowing hundreds of billions of Naira that would simply be kept as idle funds, despite the attendant oppressive interest rates of up to 15 per cent, in order to restrain commercial banks from promoting spending by lending to other customers and fueling inflation.

Curiously, the modus operandi of the Ibadan currency theft is awkwardly similar to the process CBN also formally adopts for its excess liquidity mop up operations. For example, while CBN on one hand pretends to be socially responsible in attempting to stop inflation by reducing Naira surplus and liberal spending, the same Reserve bank also deliberately promotes the disenabling liquidity surplus syndrome when it substitutes humongous Naira allocations for the distributable portion of dollar-denominated revenue every month!

Indeed, with the prevailing culture of impunity in governance, it would be a hard sell to convince Nigerians that the Ibadan currency scam is an isolated case; thus, it would be presumptions to approve a clean bill to the other 36 stations where such CBN cash operations are executed nationwide. Expectedly, the arrests in Ibadan would obviously trigger cover-up strategies in other CBN cash centres nationwide before the investigators arrived.

Incidentally, currency scams involving CBN staff are not unusual; for example, in December 2012, the House of Representatives expressed shock to “hear that N2.1bn of newly printed N1000 notes was missing at the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company”, a corporation over which CBN has supervisory role. Media reports suggested then, that in order to facilitate investigations, the Managing Director of the NSPMC who reportedly enjoyed extravagant lifestyle, and the subsisting Head of Security of the Mint Company were sent on compulsory leave.

In another related development, the cover report of the Sun Newspaper edition of 16th April 2013 also carried a story titled “EFCC detains ex Mint MD over N750m polymer scandal!” The story was sequel to allegations that an Australian Newspaper had reported that, SECURENCY (a note printing subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia) paid N750m in bribes to some officials of CBN between 2006 and 2008 to secure the contract to make polymer notes in Nigeria.

According to the report, apart from a former CBN Governor, senior officials of the Finance Ministry and a former President were named as beneficiaries of the bribes.

While no official of the Central Bank has so far been indicted, the EFCC is presently in court with the ex-MD over a request to extradite him to the UK to face prosecution over bribery allegations on the contract for the N20 polymer note.

However, in a curious twist of events, the same CBN which had, earlier zealously promoted attributes of the polymer notes at great public expense, has lately turned around to condemn the adoption of such currency as ill-advised because polymer notes were found to rapidly deteriorate.

Surely, the autonomy of the CBN should not provide a cover for the perpetuation of financial crimes, especially when the success or failure of the Nigerian economy rests squarely on its performance. The source of billions of Naira unilaterally expended as interventions in various sectors of the economy by former governors is yet to be determined.

Furthermore, the source of billions of dollars liberally auctioned to Bureau de Change, even when the real sector is deprived is also yet to be ascertained; why for example, should the CBN sit on tens of billions of dollars as idle deposits, while our government goes cap in hand to borrow at atrocious interest rates from external creditors.

Moreso, CBN’s unhealthy collusion with commercial banks has openly promoted the scam of margin trading, round tripping and the provision of free funds, which are subsequently mopped with atrocious interest rates which inordinately bloat the profitability of banks despite their zero added value, while the real sector totters and unemployment spirals. A forensic audit of the uses and sources of funds by the CBN is certainly and urgently required.

•Boyo is a public finance analyst.

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  • amador kester

    So what cant you expect in a virtual republic of corruption,, as lawless as it is opaque to light and transparency? And when you wake up and hear that a state house in one of the states was sold by some crooks will anything look preposterous at all to anyone if not your surprise?

  • Boboke Nemesi

    Senator Akpabio Exposed For Plundering Akwa Ibom As Governor, Sources Reveal He Refuses To Leave Governor’s Mansion

    The withdrawals were made by three officials within the Akwa Ibom State Government. The trio of Godswill Akpabio, Mr. Etekamba Umoren, and Mr. Udo Isobara all conspired and successfully ransacked the Akwa Ibom State Government Accounts together.



    Governor Akpabio, accused of embezzling millions from Akwa Ibom State

    SaharaReporters has learned that former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio has brazenly refused to leave the Governor’s mansion of the State. Sources close to the current government have said that Akpabio has moved from the presidential suite of the Gubernatorial Lodge to the luxurious VIP suite, despite the fact he is no longer Governor of the State.

    These developments come at a time when the former Governor is also being accused of gross abuse of public trust, embezzlement of public funds, financial recklessness, and laundering Akwa Ibom public funds for his own enrichment.

    Godswill Akpabio, Mr. Etekamba Umoren, former Permanent Secretary Government House and Mr. Udo Isobara, former Accountant General of the State are all being accused of pilfering State funds.

    Leo Ekpenyong and Co., a soliciting and legal practitioner’s firm based in Abuja, has filed a petition personally against the former Governor, Godswill Akpabio, accusing him of “graft and money laundering perpetrated with impunity and utter disregard of laid down financial regulations and due process.” The firm possesses powerful evidence that the former Governor, now Senator, Godswill Akpabio has been involved in money laundering, and they are demanding that the EFCC and Federal Government investigate him thoroughly.

    The petition states that between January and December of 2014, N22 billion was extracted from the Akwa Ibom State Government Account with Zenith Bank, Uyo (Account Number: 1010375881). Their thievery was concealed by taking the money they stole and breaking it into N10 million clusters, which were then converted into housing and mortgage bonds that they will later spend on themselves.

    Former Governor Akpabo, was inaugurated on June 9th as Senator, representing Akwa Ibom North-West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District. He previously served as Governor of the State from 2007-2015.

    The stolen State funds, which were described as “ungodly” in the petition, were used by Godswill Akpabio, Mr. Etekamba Umoren, and Mr. Udo Isobara for themselves throughout the Akpabio administration of the State.

    The withdrawals were made by three officials within the Akwa Ibom State Government. The trio of Godswill Akpabio, Mr. Etekamba Umoren, and Mr. Udo Isobara all conspired and successfully ransacked the Akwa Ibom State Government Accounts together.

    The funds were fraudulently extracted on the basis of fictitious expenditure requests made by Permanent Secretary Etekamba Umoren, which were authorized by the then Governor Godswill Akpabio, according to the petition.

    Umoren was rewarded by Akpabio for his role in this nefarious scheme with the post of Chief of Staff of Government House.

    Another whopping N18 billion was embezzled by this trio. They concealed this scheme by withdrawing the N18 billion in several smaller increments and falsifying requests under the Special Services Department of the Governor’s Office, before using it for themselves.

    The N18 billion was pillaged using multiple cash withdrawals of mostly N10m from the Akwa Ibom State Government main account with the United Bank for Africa, Uyo in order not to attract attention to the fraud.

    The total sum of N40.1 billion fraudulently withdrawn as cash by the Offices of the Permanent Secretary, Governor’s Office and the Permanent Secretary, Special Services Department in 2014 was never spent on any public projects. The total amount of monies stolen by Godswill Akpabio in just one year is equal to the annual budget of some States in Nigeria put together, according to the petitioners.

    A forensic examination of the financial records of the two offices will confirm that government funds were used to unlawfully to purchase properties acquired by Godswill Akpabio, including: a multi-billion Naira mansion at plot 5 Ikogosi Spring close off Katsina Ala Crescent Maitama, Abuja, a multi-billion Naira mansion at plot 28 Colorado Close, Maitama, Abuja, a multi-billion naira Mansion at 22 Probyn Road, Ikoyi Lagos, a multi-billion Naira mansionette at plot 23 Olusegun Aina Street, Parkview Lagos, a multi-billion Naira 25 story building at Akin Adesola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.

    The EFCC and the Federal Government are being urged to bring the Godswill Akpabio to justice “for [this] uncommon but unprecedented display of fraud and plunder of the resources of the good people of Akwa Ibom, who are crying for justice.”

    Read the full petition below: