$4.5bn in Foreign Reserves unaccounted for during COVID years — Audit Report

The sum of $4.5 billion cannot be accounted for in Nigeria’s Foreign Reserves between 2018 and 2019, an audit report of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAuGF) has revealed.

The infraction happened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, under Godwin Emefiele, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), who is currently facing corruption charges.

The annual audit report details the expenditures and finances of the government’s ministries, departments, and agencies within a financial year.

According to the report, Foreign Reserves, which stood at US$42,594,842,852.75 in December 2018, decreased to US$38,092,720,200.72 in 2019. By a simple calculation, US$4,502,122,652.03 could not be accounted for.

The infraction happened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, under Godwin Emefiele, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), who is currently facing corruption charges.

Shaakaa Chira, the Auditor-General of the Federation, called on the CBN to provide justification for the ‘missing funds’ noting that CBN’s ability to maintain a stable exchange rate is at risk.

“This violates Section 25 of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007 mandating the Bank to endeavour to maintain external reserves at levels considered to be appropriate for the economy and the monetary system of Nigeria.”

The report also revealed an ‘unsubstantiated’ decline of over $8 billion in foreign reserves between 2019 and 2020. According to the Auditor-General, as of the close of business on 30 June 2020, total reserves stood at $35.7 billion as against $44.7 billion recorded in the corresponding period of 30 June, 2019.

According to Premium Times,  the above anomalies could be attributed to weaknesses in the internal control system at the CBN, particularly its inability to effectively manage economic variables that could impact negatively on the reserve”, he said.

In addition to these infractions in the Foreign Reserves, the CBN failed to account for the total funds recovered from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) between 2016 and 2019, despite the Commission’s continuous activities in relation to forfeitures of looted funds to the federal government. 

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