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Former CBN Director Testifies in Naira Redesign Case

Mr. Ahmed Bello Umar, a former Director of Currency Operations at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), testified yesterday that he never saw the minutes of the meeting where the decision to redesign the naira was made.

Umar, who signed the memorandum for the naira redesign in 2022, stated under questioning by his lawyer that he did not receive the minutes from the October 26, 2023, Committee of Governors (CoG) meeting. “I have not seen the minutes of the meeting; it was only circulated among members of the CoG,” Umar said.

Umar gave this testimony during the trial of the former CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele. Emefiele is accused of redesigning the naira in 2022 without proper approval. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Emefiele on May 15, 2024, on a four-count charge before Justice Maryanne Anenih of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja. Emefiele pleaded not guilty and was granted bail in the sum of N300 million.

At the trial’s commencement, the prosecution, led by Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, called Umar as the first prosecution witness. Umar explained that in August 2022, the management of the apex bank directed his department to prepare a memo on the redesign of the naira notes. The memo was submitted to the CoG for consideration.

According to Umar, the CoG, comprising the CBN governor and four deputy governors, met via Zoom on October 26, 2022, to deliberate on the memo. He joined the meeting only to make his presentation and left immediately after.

After the meeting, the Corporate Affairs Department conveyed anticipatory approval from the CoG pending ratification by the Board of Directors (BoD), the highest management body, Umar said. The BoD consists of 12 members, including the CBN governor, four deputy governors, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, the Accountant General of the Federation, and five external members appointed by the president.

Umar testified that the CoG did not approve all items in the memo, modifying item 2 to include the N200 denomination while rejecting the proposed timeline for 2023. The BoD considered the final memo on December 15, 2022.

He outlined the procedure for issuing new naira notes, stating that the BoD must recommend the design to the president for approval before production could commence. Umar’s testimony continues today.

The EFCC charges allege that Emefiele proceeded with the naira redesign without approval from the CBN Board and then-President Muhammadu Buhari. Specifically, the EFCC claims Emefiele approved the printing of various quantities of new naira notes, causing public harm.

In count one, Emefiele is accused of approving the printing of 375,520,000 notes at a cost of N11 billion. Count two accuses him of approving the printing of 172 million colored N500 notes for N4.4 billion. Count three alleges he approved the printing of 137,070 pieces of colored N200 notes at a cost of N3.4 billion. In count four, he is accused of withdrawing N124,860,227 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation without National Assembly authorization.

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