The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) are silent over transfers totalling $616 million (N426 billion at today’s exchange rate) that exchanged hands between them in back-door dealings in two years.
BusinessDay had exclusively reported on June 28 that the CBN transferred the amount between August 2016 and November 2018 to the Office of the NSA, Babagana Monguno, in a rare practice that exposes the opaque dealings of the apex bank under now suspended Governor Godwin Emefiele.
The CBN and NSA haven’t responded to multiple queries seeking clarity over the use of the funds, which were recorded by the CBN for the first time ever in 2016, according to data on the apex bank’s website.
Sources told BusinessDay that the transfers would have required approval from former President Muhammadu Buhari, under whose watch the practice started.
Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, when asked if the transfers got the nod of his principal, washed his hands off the matter.
“This is not an issue I can speak about,” Shehu said in a telephone conversation with BusinessDay. “Let the office of the NSA speak for themselves.”
Monguno, a retired major general, did not return multiple calls seeking comment.
Monguno had said in 2021 that a huge amount of money approved for the purchase of weapons under Buhari was unaccounted for.
“It is not that we are not working to end the security challenge in the country. The president has done his own part and allocated a huge amount of money to purchase weapons but they are yet to be here. We don’t know where they are,” Monguno said in an interview with BBC Hausa which was reported by a local newspaper, Daily Trust.
“I am not saying that the past service chiefs have diverted the money, but presently we don’t know where the money is,” Monguno said.
When the former NSA was asked whether an investigation had commenced on the matter, he said: “I am sure the President will investigate this. As I am talking to you now, even the Nigerian Governors’ Forum has started questioning where the money is. So I assure you that the President is not playing with anything that has to do with the people.”
Read also: CBN, NSA exposed in $616m dark dealings
Monguno would however later deny the report, saying his comments were taken out of context.
The CBN has not published data on its operations since 2018, and it is, therefore, unclear if the curious payments continued. The single largest transfer of $139 million was made in November 2016.
At Nigeria’s current exchange rate, $616 million is equivalent to N426 billion, a third of the amount budgeted for defence in 2022.
“Such outflows from the CBN to the office of the NSA raise a red flag and begs the question of what it was used for,” a former central bank official who did not want to be quoted said.
“Anything that must flow to security should be transparent and be in local currency. Even if we assume it was for the importation of ammunition, it should be in the public domain but this isn’t; so something is wrong,” the source added.
Another source said: “More than half a billion dollars cannot move from the CBN to the office of the NSA without the approval of the president who ironically detained (Sambo) Dasuki for misappropriation of funds.”
Dasuki, who served as NSA under former President Goodluck Jonathan, was jailed for more than four years after he was indicted by a panel for stealing $2 billion meant for the purchase of arms and ammunition for the Nigerian military.
“The very corruption Buhari sought to end thrived right under his nose,” another source told BusinessDay.
“They whined about how much money went under the radar under Jonathan but it seems they have questions of their own to answer,” the source, who did not want to be quoted due to the sensitivity of the matter, said.
Former Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo repeatedly alleged in the early days of the Buhari administration that large sums of money in local and foreign currencies were stolen by some people in the former President Jonathan-led Peoples Democratic Party administration a few weeks before the 2015 general elections.