The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has disclosed that the central bank frittered away a whopping $66 billion over an 11-year period funding Bureau de Change (BDC) operators, blaming this as one of the several policies that led to the erosion of Nigeria’s foreign reserves and is partly to blame for the economic crisis in the country today.
Speaking to journalists at the weekend, Emefiele recalled that in September 2008, Nigeria’s foreign reserves stood at $62 billion when crude prices peaked at $147 per barrel, noting however that rather than save the money or invest it in infrastructure and industry for wealth creation, previous governments embarked on frivolous spending, disclosing that in 11 years, Nigeria spent $66 billion funding BDC operators.
He said: “In September 2008, Nigeria’s foreign reserves stood at $62 billion. But what did we do with $62 billion at a time crude price was in excess of $120 per barrel?
“What we could have done was to save the money, if we couldn’t save the money, invest it in infrastructure and industry that will create productivity and wealth for our people.
“Instead, the central bank at that time went about licensing Class A, Class B and Class C bureau de change operators. For Class A BDCs, the central bank was allocating $1 million per week, for Class B, the CBN was allocating $750,000 per week and for class C BDCs, the central bank was allocating $500,000 per week. The CBN was among one of the few central banks in the world allocating dollar cash for BDC operations.”
He revealed that between 2005 and January 2016 when it was stopped, the CBN had disbursed $66 billion to fund the cash operations of BDCs in Nigeria.
“What that meant was that in 11 years, we spent $66 billion funding the operations of BDCs which came to an average of $6 billion a year. If we had thought of other ways to utilise our reserve, especially in 2008 when our reserves were as high as $62 billion, certainly we will not be where we are today,” said the visibly agitated Emefiele.
The CBN boss, who recalled his worst experience as the chief executive of Zenith Bank Plc and how he was punished for not participating in funding of BDC operations, said: “We had a situation where at that time, as the MD of Zenith Bank, there was a deputy governor of the central bank that would call to query me as to why I was not coming to the central bank to collect dollar cash to sell to BDCs.
“I was informed that some people in Port Harcourt, Lagos and Kano were calling to complain that Zenith Bank was not selling dollar cash to BDCs, but of course the bank did not see any serious need to sell dollar cash for BDC operations at that time. So that was what we did with part of the $62 billion foreign reserves.
“Between 2009 and 2014, you remember in 2009 when we had the crisis, when it started with the Lehman Brothers collapse, America pumped a lot of money to stimulate its economy and as a result of that, money flowed into emerging markets including Nigeria.
“At that time again, Nigeria removed all forms of captive controls to encourage the flow of capital into Nigeria. So what happened during that time was that for five straight years, we saw crude prices at above $105 per barrel on the average for five straight years.
“In that period, we also saw flow of capital into emerging markets including Nigeria. So we should have at that time built our reserves but we did not, and these were some of the actions they took at the central bank that got us where we are today.”
EFCC Finally Arrests Okorocha After Hours of Siege, Gives Reason
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has finally arrested the All Progressives Congress’ presidential candidate and former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha after laying siege on his residence for hours.
Security operatives attached to the EFCC had surrounded the residence of the former governor earlier on Tuesday and before they finally arrested him late in the evening.
Investors King can confirm that lots of gunshots and tear gas canisters were fired to disperse angry supporters of the lawmaker who tried to resist the arrest before he was finally arrested.
According to an official of the anti-graft agency, Okorocha will be taken to the headquarters of the commission where he will be until May 30 when he will be arraigned in court.
In an official statement obtained by Investors King, signed by the EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, “the move to arrest Okorocha was followed by the refusal of the former governor to honour invitations after jumping the administrative bail earlier granted him by the Commission.
“EFCC had on January 24, 2022, filed a 17-count criminal charge bordering on diversion of public funds and properties to the tune of N2.9bn against Okorocha.
“The case was assigned to Honourable Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja but attempts to arraign Senator Okorocha was twice stalled owing to the absence of the ex-governor who evaded service of processes”.
EFCC added that at the last adjourned date, March 28th 2022, Justice Ekwo, before adjourning until May 30th, 2022, had warned that it was “the last adjournment I shall grant in this matter”.
“In the circumstances, the Commission is left with no option but to effect the arrest of Senator Okorocha and bring him to trial”, the statement had read.
Russia Halts Supply of Gas to Finland, Disagrees on Payment Mode
Russia’s majority state-owned multinational energy corporation, PJSC Gazprom, on Saturday, halted gas exports to one of its neighbouring countries, Finland, in the latest escalation of an energy payments dispute with Western nations.
A statement released by Finland’s gas system operator, Gasgrid said: “Gas imports through Imatra entry point have been stopped.
“Starting from today, during the upcoming summer season, Gasum will supply natural gas to its customers from other sources through the Balticconnector pipeline”.
Investors King gathered that majority of the European supply contracts are denominated in Euros or Dollars and Moscow already cut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland last month after they refused to comply with the new payment terms.
Imatra is the entry point for Russian gas into Finland and even though majority of the gas used in Finland comes from Russia, gas only accounts for about five per cent of its annual energy consumption.
Gazprom Export has requested that European countries pay for Russian gas supplies in Russian currency (roubles) because of sanctions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but Finland refuses to do so.
Gazprom Export, on Friday, said: “flows would be cut because Gasum had not complied with the new Russian rules requiring settlement in roubles.”
Earlier on Friday, the Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler, Gasum had said the Russian Gazprom warned that flows would be halted from 04:00 GMT on Saturday morning.
The decision is coming at a time when Finland and Sweden announced that they were going to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military alliance, a decision inspired by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, the Finish Prime minister, Sanna Marin had said: “When we look at Russia, we see a very different kind of Russia today than we saw just a few months ago.
“Everything changed when Russia attacked Ukraine. And I personally think that we cannot trust anymore that there will be a peaceful future next to Russia.”
Marin noted that joining NATO is “an act of peace [so] that there will never again be war in Finland in the future”.
According to Swedish leader Andersson, “to ensure the safety of Swedish people, the best way forward is to join NATO together with Finland”.
The announcements were met with support from leaders in almost all NATO nations.
US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken told reporters that the United States would strongly support the NATO application by either Sweden or Finland should they choose to formally apply to the alliance.
Investors King recalls that Russia had in April, announced the suspension of gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria on the same payment disputes.
FG Resumes Conditional Cash Transfer Programme Across Six Local Govt. In Kebbi
The Federal Government has resumed the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme in Kebbi State, commencing with a payment of N9.24bn to 76,107 CCT beneficiaries.
The National Coordinator of the programme, Hajiya Halima Shehu, made the announcement during a state visit to Governor Atiku Bagudu in Birnin Kebbi.
“As at now, payment to CCT beneficiaries is ongoing in the state. A total number of 76,107 beneficiaries across six local government areas of Bagudu, Danko, Wasagu, Dandi, Jega, and Shanga, will be receiving the payment. The beneficiaries will be receiving 26 months of payment circles, starting from January to February 2020.
“The payment will be in two batches of those 60,000 beneficiaries for four payment cycles, using the virtual account. The second batch has 70,107 beneficiaries for nine payment cycles through the debit cards. The total amount for the two batches in the state, according to Shehu, was over N9.24 billion.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria, in partnership with the World Bank in 2016, designed and developed a safety net programme for Nigeria under the platform of National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP).
“One of the components of NASSP is the national conditional cash transfer office responsible for implementing the household uplifting- conditional cash transfer to the poor and the vulnerable households across the country,” she said.
Shehu commended the governor for providing her an audience and the chance to update him on the commencement of payments and the state’s successful implementation of the program.
Responding, Gov. Bagudu, represented by his Deputy, Alhaji Samaila Yombe-Dabai, thanked the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, headed by Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq, for actualising the programme in the state.
“I assure you that the state government will do all it takes to support the success of the programme in the state.
“We are looking forward to getting more local governments to be involved in the cash transfer programme,” Bagudu said.
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