President Bola Tinubu has appointed Jim Osayande Obazee, a former Chief Executive of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria to investigate the affairs of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other key government business entities. As part of his mandate, the Special Investigator is expected to provide a report on public wealth that is currently in the hands of individuals and establishments, as well as work with security and anti-corruption agencies to deliver on the assignment.
It will be recalled that the immediate past CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele was suspended by the President in June 2023. The CBN Deputy Governor (Operations), Folashodun Shonubi has been managing the affairs of the Bank in acting capacity since then. Emefiele was subsequently arrested and detained by the Department of State Services (DSS). To the utter dismay of Nigerians, he was charged to court for offences bordering on illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, after the DSS had made a show of attempting to arrest him in December 2022 on allegations of terrorism financing and other economic crimes.
The CBN naira redesign policy introduced by Emefiele in December 2022 as a measure to tackle vote buying, curb inflation and drive a cashless society, was poorly implemented, occasioning a scarcity of the naira and attendant hardship on individuals and businesses. Under Emefiele’s leadership, the naira was devalued several times, and the multiple foreign exchange rates regime was sustained. This meant that while foreign currency was available to a select few and for specific purposes at the CBN ‘official rate’, the parallel market which had a higher supply of foreign exchange traded at a rate that was almost double the official rate. Soon after his inauguration, President Tinubu discarded the multiple exchange regime, which he recently described as “a highway of currency speculation.”
At a meeting with the World Bank President, Ajay Banga on Friday, August 4, President Tinubu also announced that there will be a structural review of the civil service payroll, as part of efforts to block financial loopholes in public administration. Allegations of sharp practices and general lack of transparency within the civil service payroll are no longer news, particularly the issue of ‘ghost workers.’ In August 2022, the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari stated that it was reviewing the 2011 Oronsaye Report, with the aim to effect fundamental changes to the structure of the civil service. However, after the presentation of a White Paper for the restructuring of government establishments to the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, not much else was heard on the issue.
Nigerians will be keenly watching for the outcome of these measures announced by the Tinubu administration with regard to the CBN and the civil service, with the hope that they are not merely grand gestures by the new government.