Ted Mathews Ajibola: Chukwuma Soludo – The Professor of economic hypocrisy

Professor Chukwuma Soludo, the colorful, large-living, media loving former Central Bank Governor seems to think that he has any moral capital to comment on issues that border on probity and accountability. The truth is he doesn’t. Not yesterday, not today and not tomorrow.
The $2.1 billion Dasuki Arms Controversy may have brought to the public glare how duly approved funds meant for the purchase of weapons to prosecute the war against Boko Haram were allegedly misapplied by the former National Security Adviser and attracted commentaries from several persons. But Soludo is too stained, too burdened by sleaze to speak on the matter in a sanctimonious and self-righteous manner. He is simply not qualified to comment on the matter. If he is under any illusion that with the passage of time, Nigerians may have forgotten the rot and 419 that characterized his time as CBN Governor, the pain, anguish and suffering and even deaths that he caused so many Nigerians as a result of negligence, he is grossly mistaken and must be under some kind of manic psychotic spell. He should go and sit down please.
Nigerians still remember that before Soludo joined the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 as Chief Economic Adviser and his subsequent appointment in 2004 as Central Bank Governor, he was a regular University Professor at the University of Nigeria Nsukka and a visiting Professor at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania USA, earning less than a million bucks monthly. He lived a modest, typically academic lifestyle – his children went to middle level schools and there was no trace of ostentation and luxury around him. Tales are told of how as a Consultant he was a regular visitor to some government Ministries seeking for consultancies and he how he was in the habit of giving desk officers hell while diligently following up on outstanding 100k vouchers for payment.
However, between 2003 and 2009, within a period of six years, Soludo underwent a surprising and dramatic metamorphosis that is simply unbelievable and which he has not been able to explain. He suddenly went from being a modest University Professor to a man of “great wealth” with assets and a taste for luxurious living that far outstripped his N12 Million per annum legal earnings as CBN Governor. When late President Yar’Adua saw through his obvious duplicity and cosmetic camouflage and refused to renew his second term bid as CBN Governor, he followed the typical route of corrupt public servants, armed with financial muscle and contested for the Governorship of his state, Anambra, where he got badly burnt after spending huge.
Soludo today lives in a multi-million pound luxurious mansion on 50 Brondesbury Park, London, NW6-780 London, a residence whose true ownership remains shrouded in so much secrecy. One does not need to be a sage to connect the dots. On 2nd May 2006, Soludo awarded a Multibillion Naira Contract to G&D Limited to print Naira. Days later, on 4th October 2006, 50 Brondesbury Park London is purchased by Universal Energy Company Limited for 2.15 million pounds. On the 16th October 2006, Soludo relocated his family from Nigeria into 50 Brondesbury Park, London. The connection is that G&D Limited and Universal Energy Company Limited are both owned by the same person: a quiet billionaire from Delta State who happens to be one of the biggest contractors to the Nigerian Mint which was under the CBN when Soludo was governor. The current value today is 4.1 million pounds. The questions to ask are: Is Soludo paying rent in that house? And if he is, where is the evidence that he is doing so? Or, has Soludo bought the house from Universal Energy Company Limited?
Soludo has all these years refused to come clean with details on the widely held view that 50 Brondesbury Park, London may have been kickback for the bank note contract.
Also, within this same period, it is also on record that Soludo’s two children were taken out from modest schools and enrolled into top level, highly expensive colleges like the Ampleforth College, an exclusive school known as “the Catholic Eton” with a combined annual fees that far exceeded his annual earnings of 12million as CBN Governor.
All this coupled with a new lifestyle of ostentation, expensive suits, flying first class leads one to the obvious conclusion that Dr. Soludo must have developed less than honest means of acquiring wealth while he served as the Central Bank Governor through kickbacks or contract inflation.
One of such cases is the bribe-for-contract scandal that rocked the award of contract for the printing of polymer banknotes to Securency International Pty Limited, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia. It is alleged that Soludo and some top CBN officials received over 750million as bribes to facilitate award of the contract to the Australian firm. The scandal broke a day before the bank notes were launched on October 1, 2009 after two Australian newspapers; The Sydney Herald and The Age reported that the polymer note deal was fraudulent. While the Australian authorities have investigated and prosecuted several officials of Securency for their roles in the scandal, the case appears to have been swept under the carpet by Nigerian authorities. One would expect that with the renewed fight against corruption by the Buhari administration, a further inquiry would be made into the case so as to bring to book all those, including Soludo, who were involved in this scandal.
Soludo is no doubt a brilliant economist. But fact is, academic brilliance does not necessarily translate to being incorruptible and honest. There are several cases of acutely corrupt persons and criminals who are also very bright and intelligent. As a matter of fact, the appearance of intelligence is the façade that most 419 persons wear to deceive their targets. It is therefore possible to be bright and morally bankrupt as Soludo’s actions keep revealing.
While Soludo goes around acting all-knowing and boasting about how he came and as CBN Governor implemented a bank consolidation plan that reduced the number of banks and increased their financial strengths, Nigerians have not forgotten how behind the cosmetics, Soludo promoted fraud in the banking system, turned a blind eye while bank CEOs were using depositors funds to amass personal wealth and to manipulate the value of their shares in the stock market. If he were as good as he claims to be, why did the late President Yar’Adua refuse to give him a second term, which he so desperately wanted and campaigned for? He failed because his cover was blown, and all could see that he was simply a fraud whose real interests lay more in media hypes, cover ups and protecting the interest of his friends, the big and powerful owners of the banks he had consolidated.
His successor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, now Emir of Kano, in February 2010 captured the gross incompetence that belied the consolidation exercise during the Soludo years so aptly during a convocation lecture at Bayero University, Kano titled “The Nigerian Banking Industry: what went wrong and the way forward”.
According to Emir Sanusi “Consolidation created bigger banks but failed to overcome the fundamental weaknesses in corporate governance in many of these banks. It was well known in the industry that since consolidation, some banks were engaging in unethical and potentially fraudulent business practices. CEOs set up Special Purpose Vehicles to lend money to themselves for stock price manipulation or the purchase of estates all over the world. One bank borrowed money and purchased private jets which we later discovered were registered in the name of the CEO’s son. In another bank the management set up 100 fake companies for the purpose of perpetrating fraud.
A lot of the capital supposedly raised by these so called “mega banks” was fake capital financed from depositors’ funds. 30% of the share capital of Intercontinental bank was purchased with customer deposits. Afribank used depositors’ funds to purchase 80% of its IPO. It paid N25 per share when the shares were trading at N11 on the NSE and these shares later collapsed to under N3. The CEO of Oceanic bank controlled over 35% of the bank through SPVs borrowing customer deposits”
Also, Malam Nasir el-rufai, now Governor of Kaduna State, who worked closely with Soludo as a member of the Economic Team, in his book titled ‘The Accidental Public’ confirmed the position of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. In the book, el rufai stated that contrary to the clean bill of health that Soludo gave the banks and defended with so much religious passion, the truth was that most of the banks were in a terrible state and highly susceptible to the global financial crisis. This fact Soludo concealed and refused to admit to the highest authorities of the land so action could be taken in time to save the imminent crisis. Even when the then Senator Makarfi and several industry experts raised alarm, Soludo would go on to defend his position with such hollow eloquence that unfortunately had many Nigerians fooled.
It is really sad that Soludo, given his terrible track record, can still muster the guts to talk. If Soludo had a conscience and understood what the name “shame” is, he would have long put a padlock on his restive lips and shut himself completely under the radar instead of constantly courting the attention of the public to his monumental failures as the CBN governor.
But maybe, in spite of his claim that he is fully engaged, Soludo has not learnt to get over his failed 2nd term bid. His friends should help tell him – for it seems he is overwhelmed – that his constant abrasive and irresponsible interventions are only earning for him an unenviable reputation as the Professor of Economic Hypocrisy. He may continue to delude himself but the picture he cuts is that of a political jobber who is ready to do anything, say anything for anybody on any issue in the pursuit of sullied personal ambition. Nigerians and the President need to be careful with him. He has proven to his many benefactors that he is simply an ambitious man who sees people as resources, national service as a means for self-enrichment and national media discourse as a public stage for self-promotion. He has absolutely no loyalties to anyone, not less the country and does not understand the meaning of friendship or decency.

Written by Ted Mathews Ajibola, a Pubic Affairs Analyst

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