In his rather hasty reaction to my petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the criminal diversion of public funds from the Federation Account and the mismanagement of the nation's foreign reserves, a former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, accused me of peddling falsehood by saying that he removed $7 billion from the nation's foreign reserves and doled it out to 14 commercial banks in 2006. While insisting that the issue of $7 billion was a figment of my imagination, he asked for a retraction of the allegation and an apology from me. Although Professor Soludo's rejoinder was full of vitriolic attack and unwarranted innuendoes, I decided not to react to them since he claims to have respect for me!

However, in rejecting his baseless demand for apology and retraction, I had pointed out that it was the CBN management that issued a statement on October 3, 2006 to the effect  that its share of $7 billion had been released  to the 14 banks. While confirming that the CBN management actually issued the statement, Professor Soludo has turned round to say that it was a deposit and not a loan. So the $7 billion transaction is no longer a lie emanating from me! But in a display of empty arrogance the former CBN governor proceeded to accuse me of exhibiting ignorance by referring to the deposit placed in the 14 banks as a loan. In his tirade, Professor Soludo never disclosed the terms of the "deposit" of the sum of $7 billion or when the principal sum and the accrued interests were paid back to the nation's foreign reserves. 

For the avoidance of doubt,  I  wish to reiterate that it was the management of the CBN which claimed to have given out its own "share" of $7 billion from the foreign reserves estimated at $38 billion at the material time. Is Professor Soludo insisting that the CBN under his management was entitled to any "share" of the nation's foreign reserves? In any case, whether it was a deposit or its own "share" of the foreign reserves, did the CBN ever announce that the deposit had been paid back to the foreign reserves which belong to the three tiers of Government of Nigeria? If there is nothing to hide why did the CBN ignore the request for information on the "deposit" of $7 billion?

In my petition to the EFCC, I had equally alleged that the CBN also gave a bailout of N600 billion to the banks in 2008, made available intervention funds of trillions of Naira to the captains of industry, and paid N2.5 trillion for fuel subsidy in 2011 when the National Assembly had appropriated the sum of N245 billion. As far as Professor Soludo is concerned, these allegations are "laughable and betray a lack of knowledge of how a bank such as CBN works." Since the allegations of gross mismanagement of public funds are "laughable," are we to believe that these were "deposits" as well? Or the "share" of the CBN mismanagement under his predecessor? Has AMCON not been set up to recover those loans and deposits running to several trillions of Naira? For goodness sake, how does the CBN work outside the ambit of the Constitution and the Central Bank Act, 2007?

Frankly speaking, I am of the strong view that the demand for an apology by Professor Soludo is a joke since it was the CBN management under him that claimed to have given its own "share" of $7 billion to the 14 banks. Certainly, mine is not like the case of a banker who once alleged that the sum of N30 trillion was missing from the Federation Account without any scintilla of evidence to back it up.

Femi Falana

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