Naira redesign: EFCC places three governors under watch over stashed cash

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BY MAYOWA SAMUEL

Uba Group

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said it is monitoring three serving state governors over alleged moves to launder stashed billions of naira through table payment of salaries to workers.

EFCC chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa disclosed this on Thursday, alleging that the governors are devising means to launder money they stashed in their houses.

The action of the governors may not be unconnected to the announcement by the Central Bank of Nigeria on October 26 that the country’s currency would be redesigned to counter-terrorism financing and hoarding of banknotes by members of the public.

The re-designed notes of N200, N500 and N1,000, according to the apex bank, would be released on December 15, and Nigerians have up to January 31, 2023, to deposit the old notes in banks.

However, the mad rush by top politicians, traders, investors and other members of the public to cut corners and convert stashed funds into dollars, property and others, has created tension in the economy.

Bawa, who refused to disclose the identity of the three governors, however, said two of them are from the North, while the third one is from the southern part of the country.

He said intelligence at the disposal of the commission, showed that the three governors have concluded plans to inject the money into the system through table payment of their state workers’ salaries.

“Let me tell you something, the Intel that I have yesterday and I would want you to take this thing very seriously. Already, some state governors that have some of this cash stashed in various houses and the rest are now trying to pay salaries in cash in their state,” Bawa said, noting that the anti-graft agency are closely monitoring them.

“I don’t know how they want to achieve that but we have to stop them from doing that. Well, we are working, they have not paid the salaries in cash yet but it is a very serious thing,” he stated.

Warning that the move is against Section 2 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, he added that “the law is very clear regarding cash transactions. Anybody that is to consummate any cash transaction as an individual, if it is not through a financial institution must not be above N5 million and if it is above that it is criminal for you to engage in such transaction. And for corporate entities it is N10 million.”

“Yes, I agree the salaries are not up to that but why are you all of a sudden, and all along you have been paying people salaries through their bank accounts and now you want to pay them in cash, what are you trying to do? They will come under a lot of guises, they are trying to do verification of officers, that is what we have gotten,” he said.

Also confirming the mad rush by some people to dispose of their stashed funds by buying property, the EFCC boss said “We are aware of that. Even if you dispose of your property and you receive cash, for that cash to be of value to you after January 31, 2023, you have to take it to the bank; so what happened, are you coming to the bank with those millions? That is why we are working with the bankers and if you have this information let us know about it.”