Findings may lead to a request that the Central Bank of Nigeria retract its audited annual financial reports, which were published last month.
This happened as a result of anomalies and irregularities in the financial statements being identified by the team looking into the apex bank.
As part of an ongoing investigation into the financial services industry regulator by a Special Investigator appointed by President Bola Tinubu, the CBN revealed its financial statements for the years 2016 to 2022 in August.
In order to look into the actions of the top bank under its suspended governor, Godwin Emefiele, Tinubu had on July 28 recruited Jim Obazee, a former CEO of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, as a Special Investigator.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, FRC, and other government business entities are among the targets of the Special Investigator’s investigation in addition to the CBN.
In the letter that he personally signed, the President stated that the action was a continuation of the government’s anti-corruption campaign.
In accordance with the primary goals outlined in Section 15(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the letter, dated July 28, 2023, stated, “This administration is today continuing the fight against corruption by appointing you as a Special Investigator, to investigate the CBN and Related Entities. You are to report directly to my office for this appointment, which will take place right away.
“The full terms of your engagement as Special Investigator shall be communicated to you in due course but require that you immediately take action to ensure the strengthening and probity of key GBEs, further plug leaks in the CBN and associated GBEs, and provide a thorough report on public wealth currently held by corrupt individuals and establishments (whether private or public).
To complete this project, you must conduct an investigation of the CBN and connected entities using a team that is appropriately qualified, experienced, and capable, as well as necessary security and anti-corruption authorities. I’ll anticipate receiving a weekly update on the situation.
Additionally, the President had a copy of his order suspending Godwin Emefiele as CBN governor on June 9, 2023, attached.
A group of forensic accountants, auditors, and accountants is assisting the CBN Special Investigator in conducting the probe.
In the meantime, it was learned on Monday that the CBN would be asked to retract its seven-year audited financial account reports (covering 2016 to 2022) due to claims that they contained fraudulent and misleading information.
According to numerous individuals familiar with the probe, a presidential approval would soon be secured, allowing the relevant agency (FRC) to direct the CBN to close the contentious financial accounts.
The CBN financial accounts were allegedly prepared using guidelines allegedly obtained from the FRC in a contentious manner, according to top sources close to the Special Investigator and his team, even though they were not done so in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards 9, which require full disclosure of all financial transactions.
Further information revealed that the CBN allegedly paid N401.75 million to the IFRS Academy for the rules applied in creating the accounts.
“As a government institution, you must deposit all income you receive into a Treasury Single Account, where a portion will be set aside for the government. The N401 million that the CBN spent for the accounting standards between 2016 and 2022 was deposited into the IFRS Academy account, according to papers. Under the condition of anonymity, a senior official involved in the probe claimed that the academy is a limited guarantee company that the FRC established to train employees in IFRS accounting.
The problem is that the rules utilized in the CBN accounts preparation between 2016 and 2022 were not intended to be paid for. Additionally, the FRC’s board must approve and post on its website any accounting policies it issues. These items weren’t carried out. To understate figures, IFRS 9 was circumvented, the official continued.
Giving the FRC accounting principles to external organizations, according to several individuals involved in the probe who sTATED, was improper.
As a result, it was discovered that the Special Investigator team had included its suggestions that the presidential approval be given to the FRC to force the CBN to retract the released annual financial records for the years 2016 through 2022.
The auditors who created the accounts were also invited for questioning by the team. As far as the investigating team is concerned, some of the information found in the CBN financial accounts cannot be trusted. After the President gives his approval, the CBN would be asked to withdraw the accounts so that fresh ones can be prepared using the correct accounting standards and technique, according to a second official close to the team.
According to research, the Department of State Services may also interrogate some of the agency’s top executives, including Shuaibu Ahmed, the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the FRC.
Additionally, it is anticipated that the Special Investigator and his team will interview FRC officials on complaints regarding the contentious accounting standards employed by the CBN, among other things.
While the probe is ongoing, the DSS has already questioned a few CBN deputy governors.
Additionally, it was discovered that additional instances involving Emefiele may soon be discussed in court.
On July 28, Tinubu issued a directive to the CBN Special Investigator directing them to collaborate with security and anti-corruption agencies to provide a thorough report on the public wealth now held by corrupt individuals and organizations, whether they be private or public.
There is disagreement among economists and civil society organizations on the president’s investigation into the CBN, NNPCL, and other government business entities.
While some were in favor of the action, others voiced their opposition, saying it might send the incorrect message to the community of international and foreign investment.
Some experts and organizations, however, stated that the probe was required to determine whether the suspended CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and other senior government officials, had engaged in any violations or suspected misuse of their positions.
Muda Yusuf, the chief executive of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, stated that the investigation had become necessary to see whether there had been any violations or abuses of authority.
The only way to learn the truth, he said, “is through the regular audit and possibly a forensic audit. It is a new administration, and if there is any cause to assume that the case has not been managed appropriately. It fits in perfectly.
A forensic investigation is typically conducted whenever there is any suspicion of abuse of office to determine whether there was an infringement or abuse of office. Before taking any action against anybody, you need to gather the information. It is exactly that.
Additionally, the investigation was assisted by Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella, an economist and professor at Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State.
Any probe is valuable, he added. To ascertain the openness and accountability of their position and to confirm that they have been operating within the bounds of corporate etiquette, an investigation is required. Therefore, the research is in perfect order.
Prof. Bright Eregha, an economist at Pan-Atlantic University’s School of Management and Social Sciences, speculated that the Federal Government may have requested the investigation because it believed the apex bank was not operating effectively or adhering to its mandate.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and other government-run businesses will also be included in the examination, he continued, highlighting the possibility that it would help rebuild trust in the system.
“The CBN ought to be an independent body, but as we can see from the previous administration, the governor’s lack of involvement in political matters shows that independence was not really present,” Eregha added.
“We observed his allegiance and movements, as well as what happened. The Naira redesign issue is another concern. This government may have simply believed that the CBN was failing to uphold the independence and sanctity of the central bank. They felt the necessity to conduct several investigations as a result.
”Don’t forget that the CBN has historically provided significant financial support to a number of sectors. The current administration, in my opinion, believed that an investigation was necessary before we could advance.
In addition to the CBN, other financial institutions are being examined in the probe. In my opinion, it will also affect organizations like the NNPC and other places that we need to look into in order to reestablish some kind of confidence in Nigeria, in addition to banking institutions.
However, Professor Akpan Ekpo, the chairman of the Foundation for Economic Research and Training, voiced concern that the audit of the apex bank would send the incorrect signals to potential investors.
The President, he continued, “might have his reasons for ordering the probe.”
“My concern is that having the audit of the central bank so publicly available will send the wrong signals to potential investors, particularly foreign investors, who will start wondering whether our apex bank has serious issues,” he said. My opinion is that.
But perhaps he knows things that we don’t because he is the president. When you begin investigating your apex bank, you send the wrong message about the economy’s trajectory and what will happen moving forward. Getting investors to participate and maintaining our FX reserve are already challenges. Every day, it is getting smaller.
Ekpo expressed disapproval with the choice of the special investigator, saying, “I don’t know him but I wish he had sent someone completely neutral.”
The suspended central bank governor’s monetary policy and the legality of the redesign of the naira note must be investigated, according to Debo Adeniran, chairman of the Center for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership. He also stated that the former CBN boss should be tried for crimes against humanity if it is discovered that the implementation of the policy had political overtones.
They should look into how the former CBN governor altered the monetary policy of Nigeria and the illegality that resulted from his failure to conduct adequate research prior to changing the naira’s color, according to Adeniran. Because the naira, in general, doesn’t have an issue, we need to determine whether he had good reasons for changing the color of the naira. He may have had an issue with the monetary policy he implemented.
“They should examine the monetary policy he implemented, and if there is any political undertone for its implementation or the changing of the naira’s color without following due process, and if he were to be playing politics with Nigerians’ lives, then he should be seen to have committed a crime against humanity,” said the author.
Auwal Rafsanjani, executive chairman of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center, said the appointment demonstrated the laxity of government agencies like the National Assembly, which ought to ideally checkmate government activities. He added that anyone found to have stolen public funds should face legal action and be barred from holding public office.
“We applauded the attempt to retrieve every stolen dollar from every theft. As a result, we are urging Bola Tinubu’s administration to make sure that everyone who has committed a wrong must not only be investigated but also, if there is any proof of looting or stealing public funds, the funds must be returned, and those people must be disqualified from holding public office. We hope that this investigation won’t be influenced by politics or covered up in any way,” he said.