Saturday 23 December 2023

FLASHBACK: 3 Times Buhari Said He Approved Naira Redesign


Jim Obazee, a special investigator appointed by President Bola Tinubu to look into the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s books for the period Godwin Emefiele was governor, has released the report of his investigation.

Part of the activities the investigator looked into was the implementation of the widely condemned Naira redesign policy introduced a few months to the 2023 general election.

Obazee found that Buhari did not approve the policy that saw the CBN redesign three of Nigeria’s highest currency denominations: N200, N500 and N1000, according to the law. He indicated that the policy was approved by Sabiu Tunde, Buhari’s nephew, who allegedly wielded enormous power during the lifetime of the last administration.

“The former president tagged along but did not approve the redesign as required by law. Buhari merely approved that the currency be printed in Nigeria. The redesign was only mentioned to the board of the CBN on December 15, 2022, after Emefiele had awarded the contract to Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc on October 31, 2022,’’ the report read in part. 

However, FIJ has found that Buhari repeatedly maintained that he approved the policy. In his more recent interview with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), the nation’s broadcaster, he further justified the essence of the policy.

On October 30, 2022, Garba Shehu, former Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, reported Buhari to have confirmed during an interview conducted in Hausa Language that the CBN had his backing in the execution of the policy programme.

The statement read in part, “President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday said that the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to launch new designs and replace high-value Naira notes had his support and is convinced that the nation will gain a lot by doing so.

“Speaking in a Hausa radio interview with the famous journalist Halilu Ahmed Getso, and Kamaluddeen Sani Shawai to be aired Wednesday Morning on Tambari TV on Nilesat, President Buhari said reasons given to him by the CBN convinced him that the economy stood to benefit from a reduction in inflation, currency counterfeiting and excess cash in circulation.”

Buhari’s vocal support for the policy drowned out former Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed’s opposition to the controversial policy. On October 28, Zainab had told the National Assembly that her ministry was not consulted in the formulation of the policy. She warned that the programme would have grave consequences for the economy.

“We were not consulted. It was an announcement that we heard,” she said. “Part of the reasons that was advocated is that it is one of the ways to mop up the liquidity to manage inflation.

“But there are also consequences; we are looking at what the consequences will be. There will be some benefits, but there will be some challenges. And I don’t know whether the monetary authorities have actually looked very closely at what the consequences and how they will mitigate it.”

The former president unveiled the redesigned banknotes on November 23, 2022. During the unveiling, he said the apex bank sought his permission and he granted it after considering “all the facts and reasons presented before me by the Central Bank”.

‘‘In line with this power, the Central Bank Governor approached me earlier in this year to seek my permission to embark on a currency redesign project. I considered all the facts and reasons presented before me by the Central Bank,” Buhari said, according to a statement published on the State House website.

Beyond the press releases, Buhari personally confirmed his approval of the Naira redesign policy in his November interview with NTA.

“Whether Nigerians believe it or not, we are an underdeveloped country. And in that sort of situation, there is materialism and sometimes ruthlessly, they didn’t care how they made the money,” he said.

“I still feel that the only way I could deprive these people was just to make sure that my integrity became unquestionable. I think, as a developing country, we still have a long way to go.

“The motivation (for the policy) was to try and make Nigerians believe that there is no shortcut to successful leadership.”

As the investigator did not state whether he interviewed Buhari during the course of his investigation, it remains to be seen what the ex-president’s handler’s reaction would be to this revelation.

Emefiele is being prosecuted by the Department of State Services (DSS) over allegations bordering on charges comprising money laundering, breach of the Public Procurement Act and abuse of office.

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