The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has invited more senior officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria as part of investigations into an alleged foreign exchange scam and other sharp practices within the apex bank. Reliable sources within the anti-graft agency said the investigators probing the scam believed strongly that the activities of some officials of the bank impacted negatively on the fortunes of the naira and contributed to its drastic slump in recent months.
The PUNCH had exclusively reported on Thursday that the EFCC detained and grilled two directors on Wednesday. It was, however, learnt on Thursday that the officials were released late on the same day after writing statements on oath. A reliable source within the agency had earlier assured our reporter that the CBN senior officials were being grilled as of the time this paper was going to bed on Wednesday.
Additional findings by The PUNCH on Thursday revealed that the senior officials grilled by the EFCC were the Director of Procurement and a Special Adviser to the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele.
A top official at the anti-graft agency said the bank accounts of suspected persons were being scrutinised by security agents with a view to determining the sources of money and their trails. The source added that the agents would check if the money which passed through the accounts corresponded with the salaries and allowances of these officials.
The source said, “We actually invited about four senior CBN officials on Wednesday but only two showed up. One of them told us that he was ill and asked us to reschedule the invitation.
“We have now sent out letters to other senior officials and they will appear before us soon. You should understand that things that involve the apex bank are always sensitive.”
The source said due to the sensitive nature of the investigations, the presidency must be carried along. He added that the EFCC would send a report of the probe to President Muhammadu Buhari after investigations might have been concluded.
The commission had about four weeks ago commenced investigations into the activities of the apex bank over sharp practices that caused the naira to depreciate sharply.
However, immediately after the EFCC investigations commenced, the CBN reeled out new policies which caused the naira to appreciate. Detectives at the commission suspect that many top level officers at the CBN are part of the alleged fraud.
Speaking on Wednesday, a source at the EFCC, who wished to remain anonymous had said, “We have arrested two directors of the CBN in connection with forex manipulation. Ironically, immediately we started investigating these chaps a month ago, the CBN reeled out a new forex policy which seeks to flood the market with excess dollars to strengthen the naira.
“Already, we have searched their houses and recovered some sensitive documents. We have reason to believe that they may not have acted alone. We expect to make more discoveries as investigations continue.”
When contacted on Wednesday, the Acting Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, had said that no director of the apex bank had been arrested by the EFCC.
He said, “This is not true. No director of the bank (CBN) has been arrested by the EFCC. The current activities of the CBN in the forex market are a result of months of study, monitoring and planning to tackle the activities of black marketers.”
On Thursday, however, when one of our correspondents confronted Okoroafor with additional information on the probe and the designations of those grilled and briefly detained, he was less than forthcoming. Asked to respond, Okoroafor said, “You have published a false story that our directors were being detained, what do you want me to say? I have no comments. You can continue with your falsehood. I have no comment.”