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Naira Redesign: Court admits Buhari’s approval as exhibit in Emefiele’s trial

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CHIGOZIE IKPO, Abuja

 

A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, sitting in Maitama, Abuja, on Tuesday, admitted the approval of former President Muhammadu Buhari for the re-design of Nigeria’s currency, the naira, as exhibited in the ongoing trial of former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele.

 

The Approval containing the written Presidential Approval, dated October 6, 2022, was said to be transmitted through the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, to the CBN to proceed with redesigning and printing of the currency.

 

Also tendered and admitted as exhibits are samples of the re-design currency as approved by former President Buhari.

 

The documents were tendered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through its witness and former Director of Currency Operations at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Ahmed Bello Umar.

 

The witness was led in evidence by EFCC’S lead counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN.

 

Umar who claimed to have authored some memos in relation to the project however revealed that Emefiele partly departed from the approval of former President Buhari.

 

Among others, the witness said that while the portraits in the samples endorsed by Buhari were on the right side, those printed have the portraits on the left side.

 

The former Director of Currency Operations at the CBN also claimed that the numbering styles for the currency adopted by Emefiele were different from the modes adopted by CBN under Emefiele.

 

Similarly, the witness said that while the approved samples have QRO, those printed did not have the features.

 

Under cross examination by Mahmoud Magaji SAN, counsel to Emefiele, the witness admitted that former President Buhari actually gave approval to the naira redesign project.

 

He also admitted that former President Buhari on December 29, 2023 publicly launched the re-designed naira currency for the use of Nigerians as legal tender.

 

The witness also admitted that the re-designed currency has his own signature as

Director of Currency Operations adding that no currency becomes legal tender without his own signature.

 

Meanwhile, Another Witness, Ahmed Halilu, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting (NSPM) PLC, told the court that the new 1000, 500 and 200 naira currency was printed locally by them after they got a go-ahead from the CBN governor.

 

Halilu said on receiving the pictorial sketch of the proposed Naira, endorsed by the President, they did not have the capacity  and machinery to print the particular design and suggested they refer it to De la rue, a UK partner with  the company who sent in two possible options for the new Naira, which they could print.

 

He said the CBN Governor then approved one of them, on October 19, 2022, which was eventually printed as New notes.

 

He said there were notable changes in the approved version from the President and the one eventually printed, such as QR codes, Watermarks and the numbering system.

 

During Cross-Examination, Halilu admitted to being in close contact with Emefiele and the former CBN, Director of Currency Operations at Mr Ahmed Bello Umar throughout the process, to ensure there were no mistakes.

 

He also admitted that he never brought to the notice of the CBN, the said changes in both currencies before it was printed and also spoke about them, during interrogation by an EFCC Special Investigator, adding that he was present during the unveiling, by the Former President Buhari.

 

Justice Maryann Anenih adjourned for Sept 19, October 2nd, 9th, and 17th for continuation of trial.

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on May 15, arraigned Emefiele on a four count charge before Justice Maryanne Anenih of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), sitting in Maitama, Abuja.

 

Emefiele however denied the charge and was admitted to bail in the sum of N300 million naira.

 

In the four count charge, the anti-graft agency claimed that Emefiele embarked on the naira redesign without the approval of the Board of the CBN as well as then President, Muhammadu Buhari.

 

Specifically, the EFCC accused Emefiele of approving the printing of various quantities of the new Naira notes “without the recommendation of the Board of Central Bank and the strict approval of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria which conduct of yours caused injury to the public and you thereby committed an offence”.

 

While in count one he was accused of approving the printing of 375,520,000 notes at the cost of N11 billion, in count two he was accused of approving the printing of 172 million coloured swapped N500 notes at the cost of N4.4 billion.

 

Also in count three, the former CBN boss was alleged to have approved for printing 137,070, pieces of coloured N200 notes at the cost of N3.4 billion.

 

He was however in count four alleged to have withdrawn the sum of N124, 860, 227, from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation in a manner not prescribed by the National Assembly.

 

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