By Tony Okechukwu
The Senate Committee on Finance on Monday walked out the representatives of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, over the issue of exchange rate differentials in the funding of some critical government projects.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Solomon Adeola, told the Deputy Governor of CBN, Mr. Adebisi Shonubi, who represented Emefiele, to leave with his team because the invitation was for Emefiele and not him.
Adeola said that Emefiele did not inform the committee that he would not be present at the hearing.
He said that Emefiele must appear before the Committee on Wednesday by 2 pm. The committee had on Sunday summoned Emefiele to appear before it on Monday.
The Committee said that the Governor was to explain the reason behind exchange rate differentials used for three key projects under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund, PIDF.
The projects are being funded with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA.
Adeola said that the committee would only hear from Mr. Emefiele in view of the sensitive nature of the issue.
“We are aware that the Deputy Governor is here and you know the way it operates. Even if the Deputy Governor is in charge of the transaction, the Governor should be seated and if he so wishes for you to represent him, he will seek the indulgence of the committee. The committee would then direct that you should speak on behalf of the bank”.
“I will want to believe the Governor of Central Bank is around the corner and he would soon join us”.
Adeola then asked the Deputy Governor if he had anything to say. Shonubi said: “Unfortunately, the Governor of CBN is not around which is why he asked me to represent him at this sitting”.
“I know he flew out of Abuja, he is actually in Edo State since last Friday. It is actually a phone call that I got to come and represent him”.
Adeola in his response said: “How can that be done on the phone? Do you know the content or what is contained in that letter and why we are here today?”.
“Distinguished colleagues as a tradition of this Senate whenever we invited the head of any agency to come we would like the head of the agency to come, we don’t want invitation by proxy”.
“Many of these invitations are handled by the Deputy Governor but since he is the head of the agency, there is a need for Mr. Godwin Emefele to appear”.
“I said this because during the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, we invited CBN, nobody was there for an issue bordering on stamp duty collections”.
“I will say that it is unfortunate that we have found ourselves in that situation we cannot go ahead without the presence of the CBN Governor and the secretariat has briefed me that we are only available on Wednesday and Wednesday is the day we are inviting the CBN Governor to appear before the Senate Committee on Finance alongside the Managing Director of the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Investment by 2 pm”.
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 the Mambilla Hydro Project. The first three projects have already been funded to the tune of N163.8 billion.
The committee, had at the weekend, summoned the CBN Governor during an interactive session between it and the Managing Director of NSIA, Mr. Uche Orji.
Orji had told the committee that the contracts for the projects were denominated in naira and that the CBN’s exchange rates for the disbursed fund were N325 to a dollar instead of the official rate of N305.