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Who Stole ₦38.23billion At Nigeria’s Central Bank? By Seyi Olu Awofeso

March 7, 2014

To avoid passing on a key issue of the audit-proved theft of ₦38.23 billion at the Central Bank of Nigeria – uncovered by the Financial Reporting Council (F.R.C) - longish editorials were gaily written by broad sheet journalists in Nigeria as off-ramp.

To avoid passing on a key issue of the audit-proved theft of ₦38.23 billion at the Central Bank of Nigeria – uncovered by the Financial Reporting Council (F.R.C) - longish editorials were gaily written by broad sheet journalists in Nigeria as off-ramp.

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The writers, for the most part, obliquely avoided this theft issue by conflating it with a totally un-related matter of suspected but yet un-investigated and un-proved scam at the national oil company (NNPC). But when stripped of its pretentious fighting words - signifying nothing – those editorials are but devious escape routes journalists fled through in pretext.

The actual facts, as follows, however remain cast in stone. The F.R.C had firstly confronted the Governor of Central Bank at the time (Sanusi Lamido Sanusi) on this ₦38.23 billion missing in CBN accounts. Sanusi Lamido reflexively chose to weasel out of it in writing to the auditors.
 

Sanusi Lamido admitted a shortfall of ₦38.23 billion but said he gave the money to MINT; a subsidiary company owned substantially by the Central Bank of Nigeria - but having two other minority shareholders, one based in France. The F.R.C audit surveyors smelled rat and followed the scent. They took the initiative and checked on Sanusi Lamido’s alibi. Eureka, they discovered from MINT’s books of accounts that Sanusi Lamido lied.

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The auditors saw the gross total business MINT did for hundreds of its customers - including the Central Bank of Nigeria under Sanusi Lamido in the year 2012 – as being just ₦29billion. The F.R.C audit surveyors saw no evidence at all of MINT ever receiving ₦38.23 billion from Sanusi Lamido which should have reflected in MINT’s annual turnover.

The long and the short of it is that till today the ₦38.23 billion is missing and remains stolen. That stark and simple fact is the elephant in the room.
Reacting to this F.R.C audit survey proof, a clutch of Nigerian journalists somewhat un-cleverly weaved words in a spool to blur this theft and never once drew the intelligent inference that a prosecutable theft case of ₦38.23 billion has occurred at the Central Bank of Nigeria.  Not one Nigerian journalist drew that logical inference till date, despite that the F.R.C audit was released to the public since two weeks ago.

Whereas, a newspaper as public trust, is improper for use in an intellectual war to defeat one’s own country. A country is one because it has operative laws prohibiting crimes and thefts. It is not the duty of a journalist to undermine those prohibitions by a self-induced trade-off.   

But not just a few journalists traded off the pursuit of the whole truth - a large swathe of the country’s educated class of lawyers, activists and public commentators also did. On the overall, many Nigerians let themselves down on the Sanusi Lamido case when they delusively saw a clash of principles, when theft at the Central Bank was all there was.  

Paradoxically, several trees were felled in Nigeria in the last two weeks for journalists to have more reams of paper to foster the delusion with more weasel words by doing all that was un-necessary as if to assure that everyone else will also fail to see the wood for the trees.

The Sanusi Lamido case thus exposes a latent but certain illogic in the Nigerian populace with educated Nigerians taking the lead in somersaulting over a stark simple matter. They all but lost their way in the mental web they spun to becloud the sole fact by deeming an audit survey of Central Bank of Nigeria conducted by the F.R.C as having the same credibility as Sanusi Lamido’s own merely verbal say-so that three contradictory figures of money are altogether or separately missing in the national oil company, NNPC.

Immediately after finishing that intellectual somersault, the Nigerian commentariat went astray. Most craftily overlooked the audit-proved ₦38.23 billion theft at Central Bank and instead hollered that there is a likely scam at the NNPC - to detain further criminal processing of an already proved theft at CBN - whereas, the audit of NNPC accounts is yet to start till date, to provide a scintilla of evidence of theft at NNPC.

So how can anyone know that a specific of money is (surely) missing in NNPC without audit proof?  

It beggars belief that supposedly educated Nigerians deem a completed audit of Central Bank as evidentially equal to a verbal allegation by Sanusi Lamido against the NNPC, when quite clearly a verbal allegation is at best mere speculation until tested by NNPC audit investigation which hasn’t started.

Indeed, on what documentary facts do Nigerians run to town that $20.8b is surely missing in NNPC as at today? They'll tell you they have none - except that one Sanusi Lamido said so. Then ask them: what is the reputation of that Sanusi Lamido for honesty? They'll have no answer after splitting hairs and clutching at straws. Oh, but sensible people don't do that; they’ll rather assess whose word to take as gospel truth without proof.

When Sanusi Lamido said $49.8billion was missing at NNPC last September he apologized for that nonsense only to rebounce within weeks to say $12billion was missing, and without apologizing on why he falsified himself on that $12billion, he inflicted himself on the public, yet again, to say $20billion is the amount missing - all within three months.

Is Sanusi Lamido the sort of fellow, in this specific context, that a reasoning person should take for his word? Of course not, but there you have it, with several educated Nigerians blithely quarterbacking Sanusi Lamido's lack of fidelity to veracity.

Now, ask the knaves: 'this $20.8 billion-is-missing sing-song that you parrot without thought, does it include the $9.8billion the PPPRA confirmed on the Senate floor as lawfully deducted by NNPC under the petrol and kerosene subsidy reimbursement law in force?’

Of course it includes it, according to Sanusi Lamido's own allegation. So the next question is: did Sanusi Lamido accept that he was in error on that $9.8b component of his $20billion-is-missing claim? Yes, of course, he did admit his error openly on the Senate floor.

Now, after deducting Sanusi Lamido’s fourth admitted error of $9.8b from the $20billion he’d alleged missing, what do you get as remainder? The spin-masters in Nigeria say you'll still get $20billion - and that’s the din they all run to town with today.
What a betrayal of education in Nigeria!

Some of those running with the din even more daringly say nobody should look into whatever Sanusi Lamido might have pocketed “until the government prosecutes the $20billion theft at NNPC”, but pray, who did Sanusi Lamido say should be specifically prosecuted at NNPC and for what proved and specific amount of money in each culprit’s pocket?

Nobody – because Sanusi Lamido himself merely guesses, since only a financial audit can reveal conclusive thefts at NNPC and by whom.

The official position today is that Central Bank external auditors who signed off the Central bank’s 2012 annual accounts are to be criminally investigated for complicity if the external auditors did not flag this CBN theft and other financial irregularities in a separate Management report.

Secondly, an audit of the NNPC is now to be supervised by the Nigerian Senate, rather than the Ministry of Finance. In advance of that Senate-supervised audit of NNPC, a wise person will not take to the street hollering that a specific amount of money ($20b) is missing in the course of trading business at NNPC. But quite a few Nigerians hardly see that mental contradiction as diminishing themselves for doing the opposite in plainly illogical disorder.

In their desultory flit, some educated Nigerians clutch at more straws. They accuse the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, of malice for acting on the official report of a statutory body – the F.R.C – without their showing proof that similar audit indictment of theft also exists against a specific person in the NNPC which the government refuses to act on.

This particular charge of uneven-handedness dripping in some newspaper editorials is syrupy for conflating a speculation ($20b missing at NNPC) with an established fact (₦38.23 billion is stolen at the Central Bank), moreso that the audit of NNPC accounts is yet to commence.

At any rate, there’s no nexus between the F.R.C audit survey of Central Bank (concluded since February 2013 and notified to Sanusi Lamido in March 2013), and, Sanusi Lamido’s later allegations of likely scam at the NNPC much later in September 2013. No nexus at all.  

For starters the ₦38.23 billion stolen at Central Bank of Nigeria is the cash asset of Central Bank. So where does NNPC come in?

•    If theft is later discovered at NNPC, how will that justify or explain away the theft of ₦38.23billion un-covered much earlier in February 2013 by the F.R.C?

•    What does NNPC have to do with the cash assets of Central Bank proved stolen by F.R.C audit survey?

•    Under what law in Nigeria is the theft of ₦38.23billion at Central Bank of Nigeria to be overlooked or allowed to stand if theft is later discovered in NNPC?

•    Is the ₦38.23billion proved stolen at the Central Bank of Nigeria to be taken free by the thieves, without any obligation to return it, if theft is later discovered at the NNPC?

Well, perhaps the red-herring allusion to NNPC in a specific discussion of ₦38.23 billion theft in Central Bank is all a stalling trick, who knows? But for so long as prosecution follows audit-proved indictment under the law, and for so long as F.R.C specifically demands prosecution in its submitted official report, the odds are that Sanusi Lamido and some other CBN directors will sooner or later be arraigned on at least two criminal counts of stealing contrary to the Penal Code, and, for official false accounting contrary to Nigeria’s Procurement Act (2007).

To hope to stall that natural progression of a financial crime indictment by interposing a totally un-related oral allegation that fraud might be occurring in NNPC, but without a beyond reasonable doubt documentary proof, is a no-brainer.

 By the laws of Nigeria, President Jonathan, powerful as he may consider himself, has no option at this stage but to refer Sanusi Lamido for criminal trial on the missing and stolen ₦38.23 billion in Central Bank, not least because President Jonathan lacks legal right to forgive either the theft or the loss of public money.

Much more than that, it is a criminal offence of ‘compounding a felony’ should President Jonathan attempt to privately settle a financial crime all by himself. And in extent the ‘compounding of a felony’ is itself a crime; it may be a basis for the impeachment of President Jonathan himself in accordance with the 1999 Constitution (as amended to its 3rd alteration), which risk President Jonathan will not like to needlessly run for Sanusi Lamido’s sake.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters