- N500bn: NECA, Experts Demand Independent CBN Audit
Financial and economic experts have demanded an independent audit of the Central Bank of Nigeria following the alleged missing of N500bn.
They made this call while speaking in exclusive interviews with our correspondents.
The Director-General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, Mr Timothy Olawale, said despite the denial of the CBN that no N500bn was missing, there was still a need for due diligence to be followed, in unravelling the controversy surrounding it.
He specifically asked relevant government security and anti-graft agencies to look into the allegation to allay the fears of Nigerians on the alleged missing money.
He said, “Despite the denial of the CBN, there is still a need for due diligence to be followed in unravelling the controversy surrounding the alleged missing of N500bn. This is necessary in order to allay the fears of Nigerians on the issue.
“The relevant security and anti-graft agencies like Criminal Investigation Department and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission must be brought in to unravel whatever gave rise to such an allegation. It is only then that Nigerians will know what is really happening.”
The Registrar, Institute of Finance and Control of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Eohoi, said while the apex bank boss had done a lot to stimulate the economy through various intervention programmes, there was a need for an independent audit of activities under his leadership.
This, he noted, would help to ensure that proper books of account were kept under the apex bank boss.
He said, “Every allegation is subject to investigations by the security agencies based on the fact that the current administration is fighting corruption.
“This is vital to clear the air for a better Nigeria. Someone can be investigated and not found culpable. If the tape is not to blackmail the CBN governor, then it should be investigated.
“The government should set up an audit panel to check what actually transpired at the CBN. The volume of money involved is huge and should not be swept under the carpet.
“At the Institute of Finance and Control, we stand for a sound financial control system. Finance should be well controlled that it would not lead to any misappropriation.”
A developmental economist, Odilim Enwangbara, said the allegations should not be dismissed based on the fact that it was coming at a time when the appointment of the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, was being renewed for a second term.
He said, “Of course, the allegations should be investigated. The transaction involved should be looked into. It is not enough to say the allegation is not true. It should be looked at to determine what actually happened.
“We have got to a level in this country when we cannot continue this way.”
A former President, Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Dr Sam Nzekwe, worried that during the tenure of a past CBN governor, there was a similar issue like that when money was reported to be missing but nothing happened after that.
He said, “When they talk about this one again, we are confused. Even though the CBN is saying that the reporter did not get the beginning of the conversation, there must be something going on. The public needs to know and if the current CBN governor wants to keep on creating confidence or wants the public to have confidence in his second term, he has to come out clearly to tell us exactly what is the issue surrounding that so that the public can also be able to make an informed decision.
“But if you are telling us that nothing like that happened and we don’t have the background information on that and people are saying that something happened, it behoves on the CBN to come out and give us the information of what has transpired for the public to stop feeling that way.
“Let them give us the beginning part of what happened because we are dealing with people’s money. It is not just denying,”
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Rafsanjani, said the purported confession by Emefiele that money was missing showed that many officials working in the government of President Muhammadu Buhari did not share his anti-corruption drive.
Rafsanjani said, “I am not surprised, given the nature and character of this administration, which some of its personnel have been exhibiting. They act in a way that shows they don’t believe in the government that is fighting corruption.
“These kinds of leaks are not new. Audio bearing the voice of the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, also leaked some time ago. It is because there is a disconnect between the officials on the one hand and the nation and the administration they represent.
“It is the same with the National Assembly leadership and the issue is that even when they are found wanting, they will never resign because, for them, it is not about service.”
He said the CBN governor could be given the benefit of the doubt since he had claimed that the audio misrepresented facts.
Rafsanjani, however, said if it was true that N500bn was missing, then the National Assembly and other bodies in charge of oversight had failed in their jobs.
The CBN on Sunday night said that contrary to claims in some quarters, there was no money missing or stolen from the apex bank.
The bank said this in a statement signed by the Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Isaac Okorafor.
The statement said contrary to the narrative that the discussion was about a fraudulent transaction, the beginning of the conversation was omitted to create a different impression to a misunderstanding that affected the bank’s balance sheet.
COVID-19: CBN Has Disbursed N83B Loans to Healthcare Sector
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday, said the central bank had disbursed over N83.9 billion to pharmaceutical and healthcare practitioners in the country since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Also, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has stressed the need for a slash in the cost of governance in the country, saying a lot more resources could be dedicated towards healthcare and critical infrastructure.
They both said this yesterday, at the premiere of ‘Unmasked’, a documentary on Nigeria’s response to the pandemic held in Lagos.
Emefiele, who was represented by the CBN’s Director of Corporate Communications, Osita Nwasinobi, explained: “Building a robust healthcare infrastructure was also vital from a security perspective, as some nations had imposed restrictions on the exports of vital medical drugs as well as the use of drug patents that could aid in containing the spread of the pandemic.
“As a result, we focused our interventions in the healthcare sector on three areas. Building the capacity of our healthcare institutions supporting the domestic manufacturing of drugs by businesses, and providing grants to researchers in the medical field, in order to encourage them to develop breakthrough innovations that would address health challenges faced by Nigerians.
“In this regard, we disbursed over N83.9 billion in loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners, which is supporting 26 pharmaceutical and 56 medical projects across the country. We were also able to mobilise key stakeholders in the Nigerian economy through the CACOVID alliance, which led to the provision of over N25 billion in relief materials to affected households, and the set-up of 39 isolation centres across the country. These measures helped to expand and strengthen the capacity of our healthcare institutions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to the CBN Governor, the banking sector regulator also initiated the Healthcare Sector Research and Development Intervention Grant Scheme, which was to aid research on solutions that could address diseases such as COVID-19, and other communicable/non-communicable diseases.
He said so far, five major healthcare-related research projects were being financed under the initiative.
Speaking further on the call to increase access to health insurance, Emefiele said: “One key aspect which we would have to address is improving access to healthcare for all Nigerians. A key factor that has impeded access to healthcare for Nigerians is the prevailing cost of healthcare services.
“According to a study by World Health Organisation (WHO), only four percent of Nigerians have access to health insurance. Besides food, healthcare expenses are a significant component of average Nigeria’s personal expenditure.
“Out of pocket expenses on healthcare amount to close to 76 percent of total healthcare expenditure. At such levels of health spending, individuals particularly those in rural communities may be denied access to healthcare services.
“Expanding the insurance net to capture the pool of Nigerians not covered by existing health insurance schemes, could help to reduce the high out of pocket expenses on healthcare services by Nigerians. It will also help to increase the pool of funds that could be invested in building our healthcare infrastructure and in improving the existing welfare package of our healthcare workers.”
“The private sector has a significant role to play in this regard given the decline in government revenues as occasioned by the drop in commodity prices. Leveraging innovative solutions that can provide insurance services at relatively cheap prices could significantly help to improve access to healthcare for a large proportion of Nigerians particularly those in our rural communities.”
According to Emefiele, the CBN remains committed to working with all stakeholders in improving access to finance and credit that would support the development of viable healthcare infrastructure in our country.
On his part, Sanwo-Olu said: “What are the lessons that we have learned with the Covid-19? Looking at all the things that Covid-19 has cost us, how are we preparing ourselves?
“The truth be told the structure of our governance system needs to change particularly the cost of governance. We need to speak up and ask ourselves are we ready to change.”
“When it gets to the election it is the same set of people that will come up and people don’t come out to vote and we end up having 20 percent out of 100 percent that will elect those that will govern. So, the change has to be about all of us. That is how the real change that will help us will come,” he added.
Emefiele Says CBN Will Resist All Attempts to Continue Maize Importation
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has vowed to resist all attempts to continue the importation of maize into the country.
Godwin Emefiele, the governor, CBN, in a statement titled ‘Emefiele woos youths to embrace agriculture’, said: “the CBN would resist attempts by those who seek to continually import maize into the country.”
Emefiele, who spoke in Katsina during the unveiling of the first maize pyramid and inauguration of the 2021 maize wet season farming under the CBN-Maize Association of Nigeria Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, said maize farmers in the country had what it takes to meet the maize demand gap of over 4.5 million metric tonnes in the country.
“With over 50,000 bags of maize available on this ground, and others aggregated across the country, maize farmers are sending a resounding message that we can grow enough maize to meet the country’s demand,” Emefiele said.
He explained that the maize unveiled at the ceremony would be sold to reputable feed processors.
He added that this would in turn impact positively on current poultry feed prices, as over 60 per cent of maize produced in the country were used for producing poultry feed.
Nigeria’s Spending Structure Unsustainable, Budget Head Says
Nigeria’s current trend of spending more money on running the government than on building new infrastructure is unsustainable, the country’s top budget oversight official said.
Low revenue collection and high recurrent costs have resulted in actual capital expenditure below two trillion naira ($4.88 billion) a year for a decade, Ben Akabueze, director-general of the Budget Office, said Tuesday in a virtual presentation.
“Hence, the investments required to bridge the infrastructure gap are way beyond the means available to the government,” Akabueze said. Recurrent spending, allocated towards salaries and running costs, has accounted for more than 75% of the public budget every year since 2011, he said.
Africa’s largest economy requires at least $3 trillion of spending over the next 30 years to close its infrastructure gap, Moody’s Investors Service said in November. The country’s tax revenue as a proportion of gross domestic product is one of the lowest globally, according to the International Monetary Fund.
“Huge recurrent expenditure has constrained the provision of good roads, steady power supply, health care services, quality education and quality shelter,” Akabueze said.
Nigeria should amend its constitution to create six regions to replace the existing 36 states, which each have their own governments, Akabueze said. The country also needs to reduce the number of cabinet ministers to a maximum of 24 from more than 40 and cut federal ministries to fewer than 20 from the current 27, he said.
“No country can develop where a large part of its earnings is spent on administrative structures rather than on capital investment,” Akabueze said.
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