April 14, 2024

The special investigator tasked with probing the Central Bank of Nigeria, Jim Obazee, has returned with recommended charges for some senior officials of the past administration, saying they were linked to a brazen and relentless heist of public coffers.

Jim Obazee said President Bola Tinubu should authorised prosecution of former secretary to the government of federation, Mr Boss Mustapha and ex-central bank governor, Godwin Emefiele for their roles in the removal of $6.23 million cash from the bank’s cellar in Abuja.

Those recommended for trial include some Directors, Deputy Directors, Assistant Director and Branch Controllers of the CBN.

The alleged theft, said to have taken place on February 8, 2023, roughly two weeks ahead of the February 25 presidential election, was listed among a laundry of alleged corrupt diversion of public money linked to Emefiele and other officials of the Buhari administration.

Narrating the heist to Tinubu in an undated memorandum believed to have reached the president on December 20, 2023, Mr Obazee said it was around February 7-8, 2023, that his investigators discovered that “$6.23 million was unlawfully removed from the vault cash from the foreign payments office, Abuja branch, of the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

“The physical acts of unlawful removal of this amount were captured on the CCTV footage and preserved,” Mr Obazee added.
Mr Obazee said efforts to steal the cash commenced on January 26 when Mr Mustapha sent a memo to Mr Emefiele requesting $6.23 million in cash. The memo itself followed a precious one dated January 23 from Mr Buhari to Mr Mustapha, which carried the header: “Presidential Directive on Foreign Election Observer Missions.”

Mr Obazee said the investigation suggested that the money was not given to foreign observers, adding that a CBN employee flagged the transaction as suspicious but failed to act. The investigator held the unreported transaction as part of an elaborate conspiracy to cover up wrongdoing by the previous regime at the CBN.

“A fraudulent cash withdrawal of $6.23 million perpetrated since February 8, 2023, was not discovered nor taken seriously until December 4, 2023, when a request for information was issued by the officer of the special investigator,” Mr Obazee said, adding that there was “an appearance of concealment” by CBN directors and departmental heads, including Ogbu Onyeka, Samuel Chukwuyen Okojere, Elizabeth Fasoranti.

Consequently, Mr Obazee said Messrs Mustapha, Emefiele and those listed above, among others, should be charged for forgery, concealment, stealing, conspiracy and fraud.

Mr Obazee said his investigation into CBN’s actions under Mr Emefiele would continue. He did not immediately recommend charges against Buhari himself, although it was unclear if future evidence would compel him to bring charges against the former president, which would be the first in Nigerian history. (Gazette NG)

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