The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Sunday scrambled a rebuttal to deny media reports that it lost over N500 billion after a private investment by some of its top officials went awry.
Sahara Reporters had reported earlier a telephone conversation involving the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele; his deputy, Edward Adamu; the Director of Finance, Dayo Arowosegbe; and the Special Adviser to the CBN Governor, Emmanuel Ukeje.
The online medium said the discussion of the top CBN officials was about a plot to cover up the huge loss after a private investment in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, went bad.
But, the bank in a statement by its spokesperson, Isaac Okorafor, denied any money was either stolen or missing from is vaults.
It admitted the audio was authentic but said they were "selective conversations."
Mr Okorafor said contrary to insinuations that the audio recording of selective conversations by Mr Emefiele and the officials were about a fraudulent transaction, it was "simply to proffer solutions to a misunderstanding that affected the Bank's balance sheet."
According to Sahara Reporters, in the audio, Mr Emefiele was heard saying "To avoid any serious problem is just, the government to have to agree to give us at least 100 billion cash but the government will not agree. They will kick against it."
The officials also discussed the possible reaction of the opposition as well as the impact of their actions on the economy.
"I'll have to think of a way out because we cannot afford it at all.
"The implications are just too many to even think about and damaging. We cannot allow this like this, we cannot," Mr Emefiele was quoted as saying in the audio.
CBN Explains Audio
According to Mr Okorafor, the National Economic Management Team and the National Economic Council (NEC), chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had approached the CBN in 2015 to assist state governments with Conditional Budget Support.
The support was to assist states to pay the salaries, pensions and gratuities of their workers in the aftermath of the significant drop in global oil prices and associated Federation Accounts allocations.
He said to facilitate the recovery of the economy from the continuous impact of the recession, the CBN provided about N650 billion in loans at 9 per cent with a two-year grace period to 35 states of the Federation.
"These monies were distributed to the states monthly with documented approval of the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Presidency.
"In closing the Bank's 2018 accounts, external auditors in their Draft Account, erroneously classified about N150 billion of these loans as bad, which negatively affected the Bank's Balance Sheet and shareholders fund," Mr Okorafor said.
He said the 'selective conversation' referred to in the online report was simply a discussion to ascertain why the auditors took that position and next steps to resolve it.
Central bank of Nigeria building
The CBN spokesperson said following the discussion, it became clear to the officials that a state government's loan cannot be classified as "bad" or "irrecoverable" when the state still exists and receiving monthly allocations from FAAC.
Consequently, he said, the CBN reached out to the Federal Ministry of Finance, which jointly confirmed to the auditors who accepted the discrepancy in writing that these monies would be repaid.
He said on this basis, the auditors reversed the negative entry and certified that the CBN's 2018 accounts were a true reflection of the state of affairs.
"Reconciliation of Balance Sheet items are regular conversations amongst senior management of many agencies and should not be misconstrued as anything but that," Mr Okorafor said.
He urged all well-meaning Nigerians to disregard the "audio and continue to trust that the Bank is doing everything it can to represent their interests in the best possible way.
"Under the leadership of Governor Emefiele, the CBN has always stood for, and vigorously pursued transparency in its stewardship of public resources and policies. NO MONIES ARE MISSING OR STOLEN.
"The integrity of the CBN Governor remains unassailable. He has no account in Dubai or anywhere in the world and would never convert the funds of CBN for personal use. Not in the past, not now and not ever.
"The use of selective wiretapped conversations of the Bank's Management, to malign his character and integrity will never stand. The Bank will pursue every legal means to bring the perpetrators to justice," he said.