Guardian News – Ongoing investigations into how $2.1bn meant for the procurement of arms was squandered may lead to the premature exit of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele.
A source in the presidency told The Guardian that circumstances that surrounded the appointment of Emefiele, including recent revelations about movement of the funds, and his involvement in the unexplained presence of two former heads of commercial banks, when President Buhari hosted members of the international business community in London, are being counted against the governor.
“Already,” the source said, “a small team of legal and financial experts has been directed to weigh the various implications the removal of the CBN chief could trigger, especially to prevent a similar backlash, as when the past government engineered the untimely retirement of former CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.”
The source explained that the team was set up to examine all sides to the issue, adding that the presidency is worried that such enormous amounts of money were carted away from CBN as if “it was in Idi Amin’s era.”
“One thing you should known about Buhari is that before he takes a crucial decision that involves prominent appointees, he sets up a small committee to investigate the issues and report back to him”
The source said the embarrassing presence of the two top bankers at the London meeting infuriated the President to the extent he approached the duo, asking how they were invited, and informing them that he personally handled the selection of who attended.
“Checks revealed the possibility that since the well-known bankers added their voices in recommending Emefiele for the CBN job, he (Emefiele) might have hinted the two, convinced their clout would open doors for them.
“There is also information that the current CBN governor is remotely related to the immediate past Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy (CME) in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.”
Another source disclosed that should the plan to have the CBN governor resign sail through, a replacement might be sought from the South East or South South geopolitical zones to avoid outrage and cries of marginalisation by the present administration.
“We cannot speculate on the possible candidates but former President Olusegun Obasanjo is believed to have dropped some hints to President Buhari about the right calibre of persons, including Professor Chukwuma Soludo and Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili.”
Former Director of Finance in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Shuaibu Salisu, recently made shocking revelations about how $47m was removed from the CBN in 11 suitcases, adding that though he signed for the withdrawal, he was, as a civil servant, only obeying the directives of former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki.
Salisu also told investigators at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) how another sum of N10bn was taken from the CBN to support the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates for governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
He said payment of the N10bn was authorised by the former finance minister, pointing out that he did not get any share but instead forwarded the money to Dasuki in the suitcases.
The sources said it was the belief in presidency circles that since the former CME may be invited to shed light on whether the manner of releasing the huge sums followed due process, the need to re-examine the continued stay of Emefiele at the apex bank is also being weighed.
Meanwhile, former Internal Affairs and Education Minister, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, has said he does not deal in arms procurement and could not have collected monies from the federal government to buy military weapons and equipment.
Ayu is alleged to have collected the sum of N345m from the office of Dasuki.
Reacting to the report, in a statement he personally signed, yesterday, in Abuja, he explained that any funds from the office of the NSA, remitted to Starbriid Limited, a company he confirmed he has interest in, were solely for the provision of consultancy services on security and electoral matters.
Charges against Dasuki by the EFCC included approval of the transfer of “an aggregate sum of N345m, being part of the funds in the account of the ONSA with the CBN, to the account of Starbriid Limited.”
Ayu, a Senate President in the short-lived Third Republic, noted that neither Starbriid nor himself deal in satellites and security equipment as alleged by the report, which quoted the EFCC. He said, “To the best of my knowledge, neither the company or I deal in satellites and security equipment.”
“However, when I served on the National Security Council as Minister of Internal Affairs, I got educated that various aspects of security work could be pushed under different classifications. Any funds remitted to the company were for consultancies on security related and electoral matters,” Ayu added.
The former President of the Senate further explained that he was approached at some point by the former NSA to provide requisite advice and consultancy on difficult issues, adding, “When Colonel Sambo Dasuki assumed duty in June 2012, he approached me for assistance, based on my background as a social scientist, and my previous involvement in government.
“Understandably, I provided the requisite advice whenever consulted on difficult issues. It is also public knowledge that I have considerable knowledge of Nigerian politics and skills about competitive political organisation.”
Ayu continued, “This is why in 1999, General Olusegun Obasanjo appointed me as Director-General of his campaign. Similarly, in 2007, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar turned to me to assist him in the same capacity.
“Not surprisingly, I was approached in 2014 if I could coordinate former President Jonathan’s 2015 campaign. I politely declined by offering advisory services.”
Ayu said he is proud of his unblemished service to Nigeria in the various capacities he served, noting, “If I didn’t deem it necessary to abuse such public trust, there is no justification for jettisoning my fundamental beliefs after 10 years in private life.