Nigeria: Amid Massive Funding of Govt’s Deficits, CBN Refuses to Publish Annual Reports

The Central Bank of Nigeria has not made public its annual reports since 2018, a move analysts say is aimed at concealing mismanagement at the top bank.

In gross contravention of its own laws, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has repeatedly failed to release its annual reports showing details of its operations and financial obligations.

Since 2005 when it started publishing details of its annual report on its website, the CBN never failed to publish the report until 2018 when it stopped the publication of the crucial documents.

According to the CBN Act 2007, the apex bank is expected to publish its report within two months after the end of each financial year.

“The Bank shall, within two months after the close of each financial year, transmit to the National Assembly and the President a copy of its annual accounts certified by the Auditor,” the CBN Act reads in part.

“A report required to be submitted to the National Assembly and the President shall be published by the Bank in such manner as the Governor may direct.

“The Board shall ensure that accounts submitted pursuant to this section shall as soon as possible be published in the Gazette.

“The Bank shall as soon as may be practicable after the last day of each month makeup end publish a return of its assets and liabilities as at the close of business on that day, or if that day is a holiday, as at the close of business on the last preceding business day,” the Act reads.

Analysts say that the failure of the CBN to publish the report could send wrong signals to investors and others interested in understanding the state of the economy.

In recent years, the CBN has faced criticisms regarding the management of the country’s economy.

Amid skyrocketed food prices and other inflationary pressures, the apex bank has kept the country’s interest rate at 11.5 percent since September 2020 when the CBN reduced the monetary policy rate from 12.5 percent.

The bank has also been struggled to ensure liquidity amid depleting reserves. It has also been criticised for its management of the naira and its controversial financing of the federal government’s deficits.

Paul Alaje, an economist and policy analyst, said that no one knows what the intention of the CBN is but publishing the annual reports would have helped the country to know its fiscal condition.

According to him, although some suggestions are left out during the monetary policy meetings, the report will be helpful for those who want to do further research.

“It is also setting our country back because if we don’t know what is obtainable in the past we may not know the kind of policy to apply in the future,” he said.

“Make the report public except and unless the CBN is saying there has been no activity within the institution for the period of time”.

The bank did not respond to an FOI filed by PREMIUM TIMES requesting details of the annual reports. Its spokesperson, Osita Nwasinobi, did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Red Flags?

Other analysts say the Godwin Emefiele-led CBN has failed to open its books largely because of its poor management of the nation’s treasury and the massive funding of government deficit.

In 2017, a member of the Monetary Policy Committee, Doyin Salami took a swipe at the apex bank for pushing the country towards a serious economic crisis.

He criticised the CBN’s “massive injections of cash” to the government, accusing the bank of serving as a “piggy bank” for the government, against its own rules.

“Monetary data shows a sharp rise in the extent of CBN financing of the government deficit,” he had said.

According to the economist, beginning from 2016, the CBN had made cash available to the federal government running into trillions, mostly beyond legal thresholds.

He said the CBN’s claims on the federal government under the period amounted to N814 billion, which was “twentyfold higher” than what the law permits.

The CBN dismissed the claim at the time but has since continued to deploy the Ways and Means facility to finance the country’s deficit.

At a public presentation of the 2020 approved budget in January, Nigeria’s Minister for Finance, Zainab Ahmed, revealed that revenue shortfall and increased expenditure resulted in a fiscal deficit of about N6.1 trillion as against the N4.6 trillion budgeted by the government.

The minister revealed that the deficit was financed with a N2 trillion borrowing from the domestic market, a N1.2 trillion from foreign markets, and a N2.8 trillion obtained from the CBN. The CBN’s intervention came in the form of Ways and Means, as provided for in the CBN Act.

Experts, global financial institutions, and rating agencies have continually warned of the danger the CBN’s intervention portends for the macroeconomic stability of the country.

In its 2018 report, the bank’s last published report, the apex bank said the country’s economy showed considerable resilience during the year, especially when compared to its peers.

“Overall GDP growth quickened to 1.9 percent in 2018 from 0.8 percent in 2017. Though this growth rate is below the pre-recession average of over 5.0 percent, the positive outturn which reflected the continued rebound of the Nigerian economy is gratifying,” the report said.

‘Partisan Regulator’

Meanwhile, amid widespread criticism of its handling of the naira and other monetary policies, the governor of the bank, Godwin Emefiele, has come under serious fire for getting involved in partisan politics.

In the last few weeks, several campaign groups have come out to campaign for the election of Mr Emefiele as Nigeria’s next president.

The campaign infuriated many Nigerians, who called for his resignation or outright dismissal. But in his reaction , Mr Emefiele said that he was focused on strengthening the nation’s economy.

Things took a dramatic turn when on May 5 Mr Emefiele filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja through his lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, contesting his eligibility to run for Nigeria’s president while in office as the CBN governor. He argued that no law exempted him from contesting the primary election of any political party as a sitting CBN governor.

Although the case is still in court, many Nigerians have pilloried the CBN Governor for desecrating his sensitive position as chief custodian of the apex bank.

“Godwin Emefiele has ridiculed the office of the Central Bank Governor,” Kalu Aja, an economist, noted.

“He lacks any moral authority to oversee the monetary policy or external reserves of Nigeria.

“He is essentially deploying the Ways and Means privileges to fund his political ambition. He should resign.”

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