POLITICS

Tinubu’s anti-graft chief indicts Ibrahim Gambari, Zainab Ahmed for looting N17.3 trillion with Emefiele; outlines criminal charges

The special investigator said the exploitation of ways and means was a criminal offence that should be severely punished under existing regulations of the central bank.

Zainab and Gambari
Zainab and Gambari

Jim Obazee, President Bola Tinubu’s special investigator trawling the books of the Central Bank of Nigeria, has accused Ibrahim Gambari and Zainab Ahmed of involvement in mismanaging over N17 trillion in public funds in connivance with Godwin Emefiele.

The two officials, who served respectively as chief of staff and finance minister under former President Muhammadu Buhari, were blamed for a series of questionable use of ways and means instrument of the CBN that left the country unable to account for N17.3 trillion.

“Stealing of public funds through advances to government, otherwise known as ways and means, constitutes a criminal offence,” Mr Obazee said in a memo to the president believed to have been delivered on December 20. “The sum of N17.369 trillion remains unaccounted for, as neither due appropriation nor approvals exist to support the diversion of public funds through this medium.”

“This constitutes an offence under the penal code as applicable in the Federal Capital Territory to which actors and conspirators, in this instance, are liable,” Mr Obazee added.

Mr Gambari declined comments when reached on Saturday. The former chief of staff appeared to be facing his first public controversy since Peoples Gazette reported how his son Bolaji Gambari was emerging as a top influence peddler following his father’s appointment. The October 2020 story infuriated the chief of staff, who was a top diplomat at the United Nations for decades, prompting him to order a protracted tethering of our website in Nigeria a few months later in January 2021. The Gazette has continued to fight the matter in court.

Between Mr Gambari and Mrs Ahmed, who was finance minister until the expiration of last administration in May, trillions of naira went unaccounted for after unauthorised appropriation, Mr Obazee said, adding that nearly N23 trillion in illegal spending was suspiciously authorised to be covered through conversion of Nigerian assets by the National Assembly. Mrs Ahmed also declined comments on Saturday.

The special investigator said the exploitation of ways and means was a criminal offence that should be severely punished under existing regulations of the central bank.

“The Supreme Court should be approached to nullify the approval that the 9th National Assembly gave to securitise the ways and means of N22.7 trillion,” Mr Obazee said, noting that it contravened Section 38 of the CBN Act, 2007.

President Bola Tinubu has yet to comment on the findings of the special investigator, whose report this week was the first from his office since he was appointed in July to look into years of corruption at the central bank and other federal institutions.

But the probe has drawn criticism from some experts, including a former CBN deputy governor, Kingsley Moghalu, who said the disclosure of the special investigator’s activities could undermine the confidence of potential foreign investors in the Nigerian economy. Supporters of the administration, however, said investors should place confidence in a jurisdiction where people could be held to account for corruption.

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