The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) made multiple transfers totalling $616 million to the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) between August 2016 and November 2018 in a rare practice that exposes the opaque dealings of the apex bank under the recently suspended Governor Godwin Emefiele.
Data obtained from the website of the CBN showed that the apex bank started making these transfers to the NSA in August 2016, about a year into the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.
There was no such transfer made in the years leading up to that, according to CBN data going back to 2004. But since the first transfer was done, the practice continued every month until November 2018.
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.
A text message seeking comment from the CBN was unanswered.
“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 said.
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.