CBN governor appears before Senate committee, asks to speak off-camera

Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, appeared before the Senate Committee on Finance on Tuesday in response to an invitation by the panel made on Sunday.

Mr Emefiele was summoned by the panel to give detailed explanations on the rationale behind the exchange rates the CBN used for three key projects under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF).

The projects are being funded by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).

The PIDF was earmarked from dollar-denominated Sovereign Wealth Fund to partly fund the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kano Expressway, East-West Road and Mambilla Hydro Project.

The first three projects had already been funded to the tune of N163.8 billion.

The CBN governor had sent his deputy, Adebisi Shonubi, to represent him on Monday, but the committee rejected the arrangement.

However, when Mr Emefiele appeared before the panel, he asked to speak off-camera.

After making necessary introductions, the committee chairman asked Mr Emefiele to explain how stamp duty has been performing.

“The issue we were looking forward to hearing from you is on the issue of stamp duties. We want to know how the stamp duty under your watch has been performing and what should be our expectation in this year’s budget as it affects the federal government.

“Also, to brief us what is the profile of Nigeria as a country in terms of monetary policy as it affects our day-to-day activities as a people and as a government,” he said.

He also said Mr Emefiele would not speak about the projects being funded with the NSIA because the Managing Director, Uche Orji, was absent.

After apologising for his absence at the previous meeting, Mr Emefiele asked to speak behind closed doors.

“Given the fact that the stamp duties matter is currently at the high court, I will like to crave your kind indulgence that you permit us to speak off camera.”

Journalists were thereafter excused from the room.

Earlier, the committee chairman demanded to see the contract documents for the projects and why the exchange rate for the dollar to naira was at N325 to a dollar instead of the official rate of N305 in a government to government transaction for these key infrastructure projects.

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While the lawmaker commended the NSIA for what it has done so far in terms of funding healthcare, education, infrastructure and investment in fertiliser production, he, however, called for caution in disbursement.

This is even as he sought more investment in diverse areas to grow the $1.5 billion Sovereign Wealth for its contributors like the Federal Government, state governments, local governments and the FCT to reap the benefits of its establishment.

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