Powerful Nigerian politicians who stashed billions of naira in their houses are making frantic efforts to oust Abdulrasheed Bawa, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in frantic efforts to swap the monies with new notes ahead of deadline, THE WITNESS has gathered.
The politicians, led by one of the presidential candidates, having failed in their plot to stop the naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by forcing out Godwin Emefiele, governor of the apex bank, have turned their attention to Bawa, hoping to get rid of him for them to be able to swap their stashed old notes with the new ones.
With Buhari standing behind Emefiele, the plot shifted to Bawa, who, sources disclosed to THE WITNESS, is determined to ensure that the said politicians do not take advantage of the cash swap window provided by the CBN to exchange their stashed old notes with new ones.
“The EFCC knows about the stashed billions and are monitoring them,” a source familiar with the matter said. “The commission has, however, opted against arresting anyone, but is determined to ensure that they do not swap the old notes.
“As it stands, Bawa, who has the support of Presidency to rid Nigeria of corruption, has refused to budge. They have been putting pressure on him, but to no avail. Now, they want to try and see if they can get him out. But it’s not possible because he has strong backers.”
THE WITNESS further gathered that these powerful politicians have kept large chunks of money with which they plan to buy votes on the day of the presidential and governorship elections.
It had emerged last week for instance, that a presidential candidate allegedly kept over N22 billion in old notes in one of the northern states for vote buying, but their desperate efforts to exchange with the new notes were resisted by the EFCC.
Similarly, Buba Galadima, a chieftain of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) disclosed on Sunday, that a sitting governor in the northwest geopolitical zone has kept N22bn in his house, which the security and anti-graft agencies are aware of.
“The government said it was doing this because a lot of people have amassed wealth and stashed away billions in old currency in their homes. Agreed because I know from intelligence that there is a governor in the northwestern part of the country that stashed about N22bn in his house. He knows himself and the security agencies know,” Galadima had said in an interview with Trust TV. An EFCC source who spoke to THE WITNESS correspondent also confirmed Galadima’s claims.
Meanwhile, with no breakthrough in the effort to swap their stashed notes ahead of the February 17 CBN deadline, it was gathered that the affected politicians have begun desperate push to force Bawa into some compromise.
Recall that following recent Kogi State High Court judgment committing the EFCC chairman to prison custody over contempt of court, some civil society organisations at the weekend, staged protests in Lagos demanding his resignation.
Leaders of the groups who began what they described as a “week-long protest against politicisation of the EFCC, on the guise of his (Bawa’s) disobedience of court orders and infringement on human rights of Nigerians), were actually playing the cards of these desperate politicians who seek to buy votes during the elections.
The CSOs who were joined by senior lawyers at the rally staged through the streets of Ikeja, ending at the Oregun Junction in Ikeja, Lagos.
In another breath, the governors are also rallying against President Muhammadu Buhari, trying to use the Supreme Court to upturn the naira redesign policy.
On Friday, February 3, ahead of the February 10 new deadline for phasing out old naira notes, Nasir El-Rufai, governor of Kaduna State and other APC governors, stormed Aso Rock to meet the president in a bid to convince him to extend the deadline.
However, Buhari, it was gathered, stood his ground, a development which angered the governors, prompting them to opt for the court. On the same day, February 3, those of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states dragged Buhari’s government to the Supreme Court and sought a restraining order to stop the full implementation of the naira redesign policy. More states have also joined in the battle against the federal government.
On Wednesday, a seven-man panel of the Supreme Court restrained the federal government from implementing the February 10 deadline.
The panel led by Justice John Okoro, in a unanimous ruling, which has since become contentious, given that currency management is in the exclusive list, granted an interim injunction restraining the FG, CBN and commercial banks from implementing the February 10, deadline for the old 200, 500 and 1000 Naira notes to stop being a legal tender.
The court further held that the FG, CBN, commercial banks must not continue with the deadline pending the determination of a notice in respect of the issue on February 15.
Reacting to the judgement on Thursday, Abubakar Malami, the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, who disagreed with the decision, nonetheless, noted that the federal government will obey the ruling. Malami, however, said the government was hopeful that the exparte ruling, which expires on Wednesday, February 15, 2023, would be upturned.
In the meantime, the CBN has yet to issue a circular to banks on whether or not to accept deposits in old notes, which has caused confusion, with several banks already rejecting the notes.
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