Emefiele Consented To Unlawful $6m Cash Withdrawal From CBN Vault, Forged Buhari’s Signature — Probe Panel

The special investigation panel on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Related Entities, has accused ex-Governor Godwin Emefiele of consenting to the “unlawful removal” of $6.23 million from the vault of the apex bank’s Abuja office.

This was disclosed in its final report, titled, ‘Report of the Special Investigation on CBN and Related Entities (Chargeable offences)’, submitted to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Wednesday.

The panel is chaired by Jim Obazee, the special investigator, who was appointed the President to probe the activities of the financial regulator under Emefiele.

According to the report, the funds, withdrawn from the foreign payments office, CBN’s Abuja branch, were “purportedly for foreign election observer missions”.

The panel said the physical acts of the “unlawful removal” were captured on a closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage “which was viewed and preserved.”

The report said a letter, dated January 23, 2023, with a signature mark of former President Muhammadu Buhari, was sent to Boss Mustapha, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, with the caption, “Presidential Directive on Foreign Election Observer Missions.”

But it was later found that “Buhari’s signature appeared to have been forged.”

The panel’s report also referenced another letter, dated January 26, 2023, and directed to Emefiele “for payment of the sum of $6.23 million as a contingent logistics advance…in line with Presidential directive.”

“A follow-up letter dated 31st January, 2023, from Director, Banking Services Department, with signature mark of a Deputy Director, Mrs Katherine Igundunasse, signing for the Director Banking Services Department, was sent to the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, requesting for approval to effect payment of the sum of $6.23m.

“The letter referred to in (iii), above, contained a signature mark and approval notation of the Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, and conveying consent to pay the sum of US$6.23m.

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“The letter referred to in (iv), above trail a letter dated 7th February, 2023, from Director, Banking Services Department, with signature mark of a Deputy Director, Mrs Catherine Igundunasse, signing for the Director Banking Services Department, Mr Samuel Chukwuyem Okojere, on 7th January 2023, and sent to Branch Controller Abuja Branch, furthering process for the payment in cash of the sum of $6.23m to persons yet to be identified.

“The letter referred to in (v), above, was brought by Emmanuel Odeh Dickson and received by the Secretary to the Branch Controller and delivered to the Branch Controller, Abuja Branch, Mr Onyeka Mcchaey Ogbu who gave instructions represented by a written minute on same to Mr Kareem Williams Dauda, the Head Banking Unit, requesting him to treat the document.

“Mr Kareem Williams Dauda, further directed the Head Forex, Mr Mohammed Mohammed Kudu, to ‘deal as approved’.

“The Head Teller, Mr Yakubu Maaku Samuila, directed Mr Uzero Emmanuel Oghenefego to ‘pls treat as directed by the Governor’,” the report disclosed.

Oghenefego took steps, according to the report, by procuring the dollar cash and releasing it to persons yet to be fully identified.

“As at date, Addulwaheed Muhammed has admitted in a written statement that he acted in collaboration with one Bashirdeen Mohammed Maisanu, an Assistant Director in the Banking Supervision Department of the Central Bank of Nigeria and some persons he is yet to identify, to conceive and carry out the act of stealing the sum of $6.23million out of the vault of the Central Bank of Nigeria,” the report added.

According to the report, the “fraudulent cash withdrawal,” perpetrated on February 8, 2023, was not discovered nor taken seriously till December 4, when the special investigator’s office issued a request for information.

The panel’s report, therefore, said there is an appearance of concealment by some officers who occupied positions around the period.

The officials listed in the report are Ogbu Mcchael, the branch controller, Abuja branch of the CBN; Samuel Okojere, director of banking services, CBN; and Elizabeth Fasonranti, director branch operations department of CBN.

The report said the officials who carried out the heist “have been arrested and investigation continues”.