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Tinubu orders forensic audit of central bank and civil service payroll

Claimed number of civil service employees is unbelievable, President tells World Bank chief Ajay Banga

Spelling out sweeping reforms in the public sector, President Bola Tinubu told Ajay Banga, President of the World Bank, in Abuja on 4 August that he was refocusing state spending to boost growth, expand power generation and communications.

Banga, whose bank lent Nigeria US$900 million for palliative payments to people hit hardest by ending fuel subsidies, is backing Tinubu's fast-track economic reforms and wants to work with the government's plans on job creation, digitisation and national identity management.

Tinubu's statement about the forensic audit of the central bank and the civil service is another sign that he is brushing off accusations of corruption against him as he takes on some of the country's most powerful vested interests. That strategy, not tested to the limit yet, could still prove explosive.

The forensic audit at the central bank is in that catgegory. If it's serious and objective, it would be probing some of Tinubu's closest political allies in the ruling All Progressives' Congress. But critics suggest it will be heavily circumscribed.

Tinubu has hired Jim Obazee as special investigator to lead the probe at the bank. But Obazee, who will report directly to Tinubu, carries plenty of baggage.

At the centre of Obazee's investigation will be former bank governor Godwin Emefiele who was suspended by the president in June. 

In late July, Emefiele was arraigned in court and pleaded not guilty to the two counts of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. He also faces fraud charges (Dispatches 13/6/23, Bonds strengthen and sharp devaluation looms after Tinubu suspends central bank governor).

But Emefiele's investigator has his own skeletons according to his critics. An accountant and former Executive Secretary of the Financial Reporting Council between 2010 and 2017, Obazee was sacked by President Muhammadu Buhari. 

This followed accusations against Obazee of fraud and sexual assault of an FRC official, Abimbola Patricia Yakubu. Later Yakubu sued and was awarded substantial damages for wrongful dismissal by Obazee.

He was also accused of taking bribes to recommend the removal of Emefiele's predecessor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who was eventually dismissed by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 (AC Vol 55 No 13, Sanusi's political throne).

With a mandate that requires him to 'ensure the strengthening and probity of key Government Business Entities' and to 'provide a comprehensive report on public wealth currently in the hands of corrupt individuals and establishments', Obazee's chequered past won't inspire confidence.

The presidency has declined to comment on how Obazee was vetted for this sensitive post.

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