News

June 11, 2024

Emefiele’s Trial: Buhari gave approval for Naira redesign – Ex-CBN Director

Emefiele

Emefiele

 By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

Trial of the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, resumed before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, on Tuesday, with a key prosecution witness, admitting that former President Muhammadu Buhari, gave approval for the Naira to be redesigned.

The witness, Mr. Ahmed Bello Umar, who is a former Director of Currency Operations at the apex bank, testified and tendered evidence before trial Justice Maryann Anenih.

Led in evidence by counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, the witness, among other things, tendered a copy of the approval letter that the erstwhile President, Buhari, gave for the currency to be re-designed.

The approval, dated October 6, 2022, which emanated from the State House and personally signed by ex-President Buhari, was conveyed to the CBN under Emefiele’s leadership.

According to the witness, it okayed both the redesigning and printing of new Naira notes.

The Chief of Staff to President Buhari was said to have transmitted the written presidential approval to the CBN.

However, the witness, tendered samples of the designs that were approved by the former President, which he noted was slightly different from what was eventually printed by the defendant.

For instance, Umar, who told the court that he authored some memos in relation to the Naira redesign project, disclosed that whereas the portraits in the samples endorsed by ex-President Buhari, were on the right side, he admitted that in the new currencies that were printed by the defendant, the portraits appeared on the left side.

Likewise, the witness stressed that the numbering styles for the currency adopted by Emefiele were different from the what was previously accepted by the apex bank.

More so, he told the court that while the approved samples had QR Code, the currencies that were eventually printed by the defendant, lacked the feature.

While being cross-examined by Emefiele’s lawyer, Mr. Mahmoud Magaji, SAN, the witness maintained that the approval for the Naira redisgn project came from the presidency.

He told the court that former President Buhari had on December 29, 2023, publicly launched the redesigned naira notes to enable them to be used as valid legal tenders in the country.

Umar equally admitted that the re-mdesigned currency also had his own signature since he was the Director of Currency Operations.

He told the court that the currencies would have lacked legitimacy as valid legal tender, without his signature on them.

Meanwhile, trial Justice Anenih admitted all the documents that were tendered by the witness and marked them as exhibits in the case.

It will be recalled that the EFCC had on May 15, docked the embattled former CBN boss, Emefiele, before the court on a four-count charge.

The anti-graft agency alleged that Emefiele had without authorization from former President Buhari, printed N684million notes with the total sum of N18.96billion.

It also accused the former CBN governor of unlawfully approving the withdrawal of about N124.8bn from the consolidated revenue fund.

According to the EFCC, the defendant, acting in violation of law and “with intent to cause injury to the public,” okayed the printing of naira notes without the approval of both former President Buhari and the board of the CBN.

However, the defendant pleaded not guilty to the allegations, even as he secured bail from the court to the tune of N300m with two sureties in the like sum.

Some of the charge against the former CBN governor, read: “That you Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, between the 19th day of October 2022 and 5th March 2023 in Abuja, knowingly disobeyed the direction of Section 19 of the CBN Act, 2007, by approving the printing of N375,520,000.00 pieces of colour swapped N1, 000, at the total cost of N11,052, 068,062 without the recommendation of the Board of Central Bank and the strict approval of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria which conduct of yours caused injury to the public and you thereby committed an offence.

“That you, Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, between the 19th of October 2022 and 5th March 2023 in Abuja, knowingly disobeyed the direction of Section 19 of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007, by approving the printing of 172,000,000 pieces of colour swapped N500 (Five Hundred Naira) Notes, at the total cost of N4, 471,066,040 without the recommendation of the Board of Central Bank and the strict approval of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria which conduct of yours caused injury to the public and you thereby committed an offence.

“That you, Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, on or about the 7th day of October 2020, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, knowingly disobeyed the direction of Section 80 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended), by approving the withdrawal of the total sum of N124, 860, 227, 865.16 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation in a manner not prescribed by the National Assembly, which conduct of yours caused injury to the public and you thereby committed an offence.”

It will be recalled that President Bola Tinubu had on June 9, 2023, suspended Emefiele from office as the head of the apex bank.

He was later arrested at his Lagos residence by DSS operatives.

The former CBN boss was subsequently transferred to the custody of the EFCC, which on November 28, 2023, arraigned him on a six-count charge that bordered on his alleged involvement in procurement fraud.

Though Emefiele, who initially spent 151 days in custody of security agencies, was later granted bail to the tune of N300million and ordered to produce two sureties that the trial court stressed must be Abuja residents that have landed property within the Maitama District, the defendant could not perfect the conditions till December 23, 2023, when he was released from Kuje prison where he spent about 34 days.

The defendant had since then, faced various charges, both in Abuja and Lagos.