Following allegations in some quarters that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, was turned into a cash machine during the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan, top officials of the bank have denied such claims, lamenting that the apex bank is being unduly vilified by those who do not understand how the bank relates with its clients, which are mostly government agencies.
Explaining how the CBN works, they stated that when a payment mandate (being instrument to withdraw money) is issued by a client, which can be a government agency or department that operates an account with the apex bank, it will look at such mandate to ensure that the signature tallies with that of the signatory before any dime from such agency’s money can be moved.
“Once this is ascertained, the bank will also check to see that there is enough money in the account before paying; not minding whether the person wants it in cash or electronic transfer. However the person wants it, the apex bank has no option than to pay,” said an official, who added that “the bank is not an auditor, neither is it an anti-corruption police to pry into what the money is meant for or whether the money will be judiciously utilized.”
Another top official of the bank said: “If for instance, you take a cheque to the bank and you present the cheque to the teller, the teller takes the cheque, looks at it, looks into the account, looks at the signature to verify that it is the same one on file, having also examined your ID, they pay you. Before they pay you, they are not going to ask what the money is being meant for; neither will they ask you to bring documentation to prove that you have done the contract for which the money is meant.
“Just like individuals have current accounts with commercial banks that is how these agencies have accounts with the CBN. Just like these current account holders write cheques that is how these agencies write mandates requesting CBN to pay out certain sums. When such mandates get to the CBN, it looks at it, examines it to see that the authorizing officer is the one that approved the mandate and once these things have been certified, we (CBN) will have to pay from that agency’s account.”
It would be recalled that in the wake of revelations emanating from the ongoing probe of the alleged looting of public funds meant for the procurement of arms to boost the military’s offensive against Boko Haram insurgents, for which a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and few others have been indicted, the CBN has been understood by a section of Nigerians to have acted in concert with Dasuki in distributing the nation’s commonwealth to some well-heeled Nigerians.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had stated that: “If there was still any honour left among thieves, there is no way the leaders of a party (PDP) under whose watch the nation’s economy suffered a monumental mismanagement and the Central Bank was turned to the ATM or piggy bank of a few people will have the temerity to insult a government that is working hard to turn things around or the citizens who are bearing the brunt of such mismanagement.”
CBN officials, however, insist that there is a need for people to understand the relationship it has with clients such as: NIMASA, NNPC, DSS, ONSA, the Senate, including the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, among others.
“These are all agencies that operate an account with the CBN and the accounts are managed by the Banking and Payment Department of the CBN. The agencies’ accounts are funded, if there’s no money in their account, we will have to bounce such mandates,” another source added.
“I must emphasize that the CBN is not honouring such mandates from its own resources; it is only doing so from those agencies funds it is holding for them in their own account. There is a lot of ignorance out there. The money the CBN paid out (in Dasuki’s case) is not CBN’s money.”
Buttressing her point with the disbursement of the recovered Abacha loot, the central banker explained that “the money was in the account that belongs to the FG. The only signatory to that account is that Accountant-General of the Federation. The then Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala wrote a memo asking the President to approve that the money be moved from the Federal Government account to the account of the Office of the National Security Adviser.”
“After former President Jonathan approved it, the person that gave the mandate for that money to be moved was the AGF. He sent a mandate to the CBN. It was based on that mandate that the CBN moved the $300m and the 5.5m Pounds from the account of the Federal Government, where this Abacha money was, to the NSA. That was how the NSA was able to have access to the money. The CBN simply paid based on an authorized mandate,” she added.