The Lagos office of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) located on Tinubu Street, was gutted by fire on Tuesday evening.
Though the building no longer serves as the CBN’s corporate headquarters as it now operates from Abuja, the suggestion by some eyewitnesses that the fire started at about 5.10pm as workers were about moving documents and other sensitive items to the new building is sure to raise eyebrows.
The extent of damage is yet unsure but eyewitnesses said it started from the third floor of the five-storey building due to electrical fault.
Outgoing governor of the CBN, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has come under fire since he was suspended by President Goodluck Jonathan on February 20 for “various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct”.
The Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN), raised several audit queries that Sanusi refused to answer until he was suspended and not it looks like his whole tenure is coming under further scrutiny.
His supporters have criticised his suspension and blamed it on his exposure of the disappearance of $20 billion crude oil proceeds but the Presidency denies this and appears to be willing to beam more searchlight on his actions in his five year tenure.
Among major questionable transactions under investigation is the sale of Intercontinental Bank to Access Bank at a time when the Managing Director of Access, Aigboje Aig-Imoukuhede and his Deputy, Herbert Wigwe were owing Intercontinental billions in loans.
Shareholders of Intercontinental led by Abdullahi Sani, Adaeze Onwuegbusi and Chijioke Ezeikpe, have already sued Sanusi for N10 billion, accusing him of conniving with Aig-Imokhuede, Herbert Wigwe, and Senator Bukola Saraki, to sell the bank illegally.
Also being questioned is Sanusi’s claim that he approved N32.23 billion to the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Corporation (NSPMC) whereas the FRCN document found that for the year under review, the gross revenue recorded by the Mint from all businesses done for the CBN and others amounted to N29 billion.
Eyewitnesses said passers-by who noticed smoke billowing from the affected floor raised alarm, leading to staff of the bank who were closing and others on the ever-busy street to scamper for safety.
The Lagos State Director of Fire Service, Mr. Rasaq Fadipe, confirmed the incident but could not say how many floors were involved but as at 7.00pm, firemen were still trying to put off the fire.
In its reaction, apex bank said: “The CBN wishes to inform its stakeholders and the general public that a fire incident occurred at its Lagos Branch Office at about 5.30 this evening (Tuesday, March 25, 2014).”
A statement by the bank’s Director, Corporate Communications Department, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, said: “The fire, which occurred on the first floor of the building, has been put out by a combined team of fire fighters from the CBN and other institutions.
“We wish to assure our numerous stakeholders that the records of the bank are intact, as the bank has an effective backup of all its records as part of our disaster recovery infrastructure,” the statement added.