02 March 2014, Lagos – Mr. Atedo Peterside, Chairman of IBTC/Chartered Bank and Chairman of the Technical committee of the National Council on Privatisation, NCP, has demanded action over fraud allegations leveled by the Financial Reporting Council against the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and similar claims made by the latter against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
I don’t know if anything is true or false. What I do know is that in a presidential system, various aides and pressure groups try and pull the President towards the direction that they believe is best. Is that not why they even have lobbyists in Washington DC?
One does not have to jump on the rooftops and sound populist every time in order to be branded “patriotic”. Sometimes the true patriots are those who apply pressure where it matters most – and sometimes on some issues, that might be in private.
The facts of the matter are clear and are all now in the public domain and I list some of them sequentially:-1)
1) On 07 June, 2013, the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC) wrote to the President. This was a damning and vitriolic attack where words like “fraud” and “misrepresentation” were used freely. They also recommended that strong action be taken against the CBN Governor and all the Deputy Governors. FRC attacked an entire institution (CBN) + its Board with reference to CBN’s 2012 accounts. Please note that the 07 June 2013 letter was issued by FRC in response to CBN’s earlier response to its query;
2) About three months later, CBN wrote to Mr President drawing attention to revenue shortfalls and NNPC’s failure to credit the Federation Account with all the money that it was supposed to. If there is a shortfall, then there is a problem. Whether it is $49bn, $10bn or $20bn is not the issue. Even $1bn is a serious problem;
3) Item 2) above later became public knowledge before item 1), but both allegations subsist. They were always both going to end up in the public space in whatever order because there are no secrets in Nigeria;
4) Like CBN did when queried by FRC, NNPC came up with supposed explanations of where the money went. NOI and others called for a forensic audit to determine whether NNPC’s claims/explanations can withstand proper scrutiny;
5) Last week, Mr President suspended the CBN Governor citing Item 1) above;
6) Conspiracy theorists have been at work from the first day. FRC has given some of us, who are on the boards of companies that publish financial statements, sleepless nights because we are forced to comply with their cumbersome dictates. We have no choice because they are empowered by law as some kind of financial watch dog. FRC was also clearly giving CBN “hell”. Why were they “after CBN”? Conspiracy theorists have the “answers”. I don’t. Some conspiracy theorists argue that the CBN Governor was suspended because he blew the whistle on the NNPC, while others argue that CBN only blew the whistle on NNPC in order to distract attention from their own travails with FRC.
I do not care about conspiracy theorists. At the end of the day, two things must happen:-
A) NNPC’s assertions must be subjected to a proper forensic audit; and
B) CBN must provide satisfactory answers to FRC’s queries.
If CBN does (B) above successfully, then they (FRC) must be made to tender a public apology to the CBN and its Board and “heads must roll” in FRC and the Governor should be recalled from suspension. That the CBN Governor said publicly that he will not go back is irrelevant. If NNPC “fails” its forensic audit, then all relevant heads around there must also roll.
That is my position in private and in public.
I felt “liberated” to make this comment because the President has now named his nominee to replace Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi at the end of his tenure.
Accordingly, people can no longer say: ‘Atedo is saying all these because he wants to be CBN Governor’.
I speak because I want my country to improve.
*Peterside was the Managing Director of former IBTC