My attention has just been drawn to an article published in online news media, Premium Times and Sahara Reporters entitled “Falana wants EFCC to probe ‘diversion’ of state funds by Sanusi, Soludo, others.” Part of the said publication as it pertains to me reads:
“Sometime in 2006, former Central Bank Governor, Profesor Chukwuma Soludo removed $7 billion from the nation’s external reserves and doled it out to 14 Nigerian banks. Two years later, the Central Bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (the current Emir of Kano) also gave a bailout of N600 billion to the same banks. The request of some civil society organisations for the recovery of the huge loan of $7 billion and N600 billion from the commercial banks has been ignored by the management of the Central Bank|”.
I have come to terms with the fact that part of the burden one bears for having held public office in Nigeria is that one has to endure all kinds of uninformed and sometimes mischievous attempts to malign one’s character. I largely ignore such ignorant commentaries. However, Femi Falana is one of the Nigerians I deeply respect, and I am sure many Nigerians also hold him in very high esteem. I was therefore shocked beyond belief that someone like him could fabricate and peddle blatant lies. From the above quotation, Falana alleged that I “removed” $7 billion from Nigeria’s external reserves and gave same as a “loan” to 14 Nigerian banks in 2006, and apparently such a “loan” has not been recovered. This is a blatant lie, and I challenge Falana to publish the details of such a “loan” which remains unpaid or as a person with honour, publish a retraction and unreserved apology immediately. For the avoidance of doubt, I wish to state as follows:
One of the legacies of my tenure as CBN Governor was the highest rate of reserve accumulation in Nigeria’s history as well as its effective and efficient management. On the assumption of office, I met exactly $10 billion in foreign reserves. With an average monthly oil price of $59 during my tenure, we accumulated reserves to all-time high of over $62 billion. Even after paying off Nigeria’s external debt with $12 billion and facing unprecedented global financial and economic crisis, I still left $45 billion upon leaving office in 2009.
Throughout my tenure, Nigeria never lost one penny of the reserves. It is particularly important to note that even during the global financial crisis of 2008/2009 when major international banks collapsed and some countries lost some of their reserves, our prudent management ensured that Nigeria never lost a penny but earned returns on the reserves. Given the powerful interests that I fought during the consolidation of banks and even since I left office, one can only imagine the international headlines that would have been made if just one penny of the reserves was unaccounted for.
That under the provisions of the CBN Act as well as the guidelines for the management of foreign reserves, it is impossible for anyone to “remove” any sum of money from the reserves and give out as “loan” to commercial banks in Nigeria. To qualify as “foreign reserves” such reserves are held in foreign currency abroad as deposits with banks or in sovereign instruments such as the US treasury bills.
Finally, let me state that my records at the CBN are there for anyone to see, and I am ready at any time any day to respond to any questions regarding my stewardship. If the allegation had been made by certain people, I would have dismissed such persons as ignorant but certainly not Chief Falana.
-Chukwuma C. Soludo