The Peoples Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party, and Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that the allegation of missing N500bn in the Central Bank of Nigeria is thoroughly investigated.
Also, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, in a statement, has requested an independent probe into claims of financial fraud.
These calls followed a leaked audio tape wherein the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, claimed N500bn was missing.
In the leaked tape, which was published by Sahara Reporters, Emefiele, his Deputy, Edward Adamu; and the Director for Finance, Dayo Arowosegbe; including one of the Special Advisers to the CBN Governor, Emmanuel Ukeje, were caught on tape discussing how to cover up the loss of over N500bn stolen from the CBN in a private investment that failed.
In one of the clips, the CBN governor was heard saying the Ministry of Finance, as well as the National Assembly, must not know about the development.
In another part of the audio clip, N2bn was said to have been earmarked for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for no clear reason.
However, the CBN had claimed that no N500bn was missing in its accounts.
Speaking with one of our correspondents on the development, Falana said the rebuttal by the CBN was not sufficient enough to exonerate the CBN governor.
He said, “Having carefully listened to the recorded telephone conversation of the governor and top management staff of the CBN, it is indubitably clear that the sum of N500bn is missing from the CBN.
“The discussions clearly centred on how to cover up the monumental fraud including cooking up the books. It was even suggested that N2bn be set aside to compromise the EFCC. In view of the confirmation of the missing N500bn and the desperate moves to cover it up, President Buhari should set up a panel of enquiry to probe the scandal.
“The press statement of the CBN management denying the fraud should be treated with disdain as it is a dubious attempt to play on the collective intelligence of the Nigerian people.”
The anti-corruption crusader said this was not the first time that monies would go missing from the CBN.
He recalled how a former CBN Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, questionably invested $7bn in 14 unnamed banks with no consequence, an allegation which Soludo denied.
Falana added, “The CBN has a penchant for covering up the criminal diversion of huge public funds. The bank covered up the sum of $12.4bn in the dedicated accounts withdrawn from 1988-1993 by military President, Gen Ibrahim Babangida.
“In the same vein, CBN covered up the $7bn withdrawn by Ex-Gov of CBN, Prof Charles Soludo, and purportedly placed as deposit in some unnamed banks. The Buhari regime which claims to be fighting corruption must not allow the CBN to cover up the missing N500bn.”
The Peoples Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party on their own part said the allegation was too weighty to be ignored by the Federal Government and the National Assembly.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said, “The allegation is too weighty to be ignored. I think I understand why the Federal Government is foot-dragging. The money could have been used for election and all that.
“But I want to appeal to the National Assembly to rise to the occasion and do something about it. We cannot just close our eyes and allow that to go under the carpet.”
Also, the SDP National Publicity, Secretary, Alfa Mohammed said, “It is unfortunate that this kind of allegation about corruption is coming up under an administration that claims to be fighting corruption.
“Some whistleblowers have come up, suggesting that there is corruption in the CBN. This suggests that there is something negative fishing in the apex bank.
“What one will expect in a system that works is for the President to initiate a thorough investigation into the allegation. This is the minimum required of him.
“We are, therefore, demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari should constitute a probe panel on this matter without further delay.”
The Executive Chairman, CACOL, Mr Debo Adeniran, in a statement by the group’s Coordinator, Media and Publications, Adegboyega Otunuga, said, “Though, the CBN, through one Issac Okorafor, its Director, Corporate Communications, confirmed the authenticity of the ‘selective conversation,’ which it claimed was just a routine ‘conversations among senior management of many agencies and should not be misconstrued as anything but that’, there are threads of conversation in the tape that simply do not tally with such a ‘hand waive ’ of the CBN management.”
It stated further, “Hence, CACOL calls on the two anti-graft agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, to immediately wade into the matter.
The agencies should thoroughly investigate all allegations surrounding this story and bring culprits (if any) to justice, so as to save this nation from further embarrassment and arrest the drift into financial chaos which the alleged heist was capable of throwing the country into.”
In the same vein, a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Timi Frank, equally asked the Senate to withhold the confirmation of Emefiele for the second term over the leaked audio exposing the missing N500bn under his watch.
Frank said it would amount to a disservice to the nation if the Red Chamber went ahead on Emefiele’s confirmation without the public knowing how such a huge of amount of money disappeared from the treasury.
However, the African Democratic Congress described the allegation as a distraction.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Yemi Kolapo, said while the initial report on the alleged missing money appeared damning, she did not feel much energy should be dissipated on it.
She said, “Though initial reports on the alleged missing money seemed damning, I do not think we should linger too much on that.
Meanwhile, the Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, said that the leaked audio of the conversation among the CBN Governor and some senior officials might not provide a sufficient ground for the matter to be investigated.
Onyekpere said in an interview with one of our correspondents that there was a need for more evidence to be provided that the money was missing before a prima facie case could be established on the issue.
He also said that the timing of the release of the audio conversation to the public was suspicious as it was coming at a time when the announcement of the renewal of the appointment of Emefiele was made by President Buhari.