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Soludo hits back, says Falana’s allegation he diverted $7 billion ‘blatant lies’

A former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Chukwuma Soludo, hit back Saturday after a senior Nigerian lawyer, Femi Falana, accused him of unlawfully “doling” $7 billion of Nigeria’s reserves to banks as loan.

Mr. Falana said the amount was never recovered.

The former CBN chief dismissed the allegation as “ignorant” and “blatant lies”, and demanded evidence or an apology.

“I largely ignore such ignorant commentaries,” he said in a statement. “However, Femi Falana is one of the Nigerians I deeply respect, and I am sure many Nigerians also hold him in very high esteem. I was therefore shocked beyond belief that someone like him could fabricate and peddle blatant lies.”

Mr. Falana had urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate alleged “criminal diversion or withholding” of government funds by the CBN, under Mr. Soludo and his successor, Lamido Sanusi.

The lawyer said Mr. Sanusi, who is the Emir of Kano now, gave another unrecovered N600 billion as bailout to the same banks.

He also accused Mr. Sanusi of illegally paying N2.5 trillion instead of N245 billion to fuel marketers as subsidy. Mr. Sanusi denied the allegation and said he was ready to face investigations.

Mr. Soludo, who left the CBN in 2009, said throughout my tenure, Nigeria never lost one penny of the reserves.

“From the above quotation, Falana alleged that I “removed” $7 billion from Nigeria’s external reserves and gave same as a “loan” to 14 Nigerian banks in 2006, and apparently such a “loan” has not been recovered. This is a blatant lie and I challenge Falana to publish the details of such a “loan” which remains unpaid or as a person with honour, publish a retraction and unreserved apology immediately,” Mr. Soludo said.

Mr. Soludo said one of the legacies of his tenure as CBN Governor was the highest rate of reserve accumulation in Nigeria’s history as well as its effective and efficient management.

“On assumption of office, I met exactly $10 billion in foreign reserves. With average monthly oil price of $59 during my tenure, we accumulated reserves to all time high of over $62 billion. Even after paying off Nigeria’s external debt with $12 billion and facing unprecedented global financial and economic crisis, I still left $45 billion upon leaving office in 2009,” he said.

“Throughout my tenure, Nigeria never lost one penny of the reserves. It is particularly important to note that even during the global financial crisis of 2008/2009 when major international banks collapsed and some countries lost some of their reserves, our prudent management ensured that Nigeria never lost a penny but earned returns on the reserves. Given the powerful interests that I fought during the consolidation of banks and even since I left office, one can only imagine the international headlines that would have been made if just one penny of the reserves was unaccounted for.

“That under the provisions of the CBN Act as well as the guidelines for the management of foreign reserves, it is impossible for anyone to ‘remove’ any sum of money from the reserves and give out as “loan” to commercial banks in Nigeria. To qualify as ‘foreign reserves’ such reserves are held in foreign currency abroad as deposits with banks or in sovereign instruments such as the US treasury bills,” he said.

Mr. Soludo said he would be at any time to respond to any questions regarding his stewardship at the CBN.

“I have come to terms with the fact that part of the burden one bears for having held public office in Nigeria is that one has to endure all kinds of uninformed and sometimes mischievous attempts to malign one’s character,” he said.

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