Leke Baiyewu and Feyisayo Popoola
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, has said the road ahead of the country’s economy is still rough, urging Nigerians to pray for the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Emefiele said this in Abuja on Wednesday when he was screened by the Senate following his nomination for a second term by the President.
Members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions grilled Emefiele on various issues affecting the economy.
Responding to some comments by members of the panel, the CBN boss said there were Nigerians bent on sabotaging the economy by creating loopholes in government policies.
He said, “I thank you for praying for me because we need it. I say this because the road ahead is still rough and very tough. But I want to appeal to all Nigerians that a time comes in the history of a country where you have to learn to respect the policies and laws of a country.
“Part of the problem that we have seen in Nigeria is a lack of respect for the policies of this country. Nigeria is very good at putting in place policies that are sound and workable. But implementation has always been almost zero. And it is arising because we see sabotage activities; we see people, when policies are made, what they think about is ‘how do we circumvent this policy?’
“The Central Bank of Nigeria, if given this mandate, will push very hard to ensure that those who seek to undermine the policies of Nigeria without respecting the laws of this country will be brought to book under any circumstances. And that is why I said, please pray for us because the road ahead is still rough.”
Emefiele also raised concerns over the country’s rising population without a commensurate economic prosperity.
He said, “We just came back from the IMF/World Bank programme in April. And in the World Bank’s/IMF’s World Economic Outlook, Nigeria is positioned as a country whose population will grow and rise to over 425 million people by 2050. That will present Nigeria as a country with the third largest population in the world after China and India, and indeed surpassing the United States in population.
“I worry and I do think that we all should worry that a lot of work needs to be done to make sure that we are able to put in place policies that will make life good for 425 million people when we are the third largest population in the world. So, we from the CBN –from the monetary policy side – have come to the realisation that using the instrumentality of the Anchor Borrowers Programme where access to credit is being provided to the masses all over the country, that it will be a way to generate employment and boost economic activity amongst our rural population.”
According to the apex bank’s chief, as a result of the Anchor Borrowers Programme through which over N190bn has been disbursed to over 1.1 million farmers cultivating over 1.3 million hectares of land, there is a need to do more.
He said, “As we do this, we make finance available at low interest rate and we make access to credit easy for our people. And in doing this, we will be able to create jobs for them and improve the livelihood of our people. That is a sole mandate that we have and I am very optimistic that this can be achieved. So, from our side in the monetary policy, we will do everything possible to ensure that with the mandate that is bestowed on us, we will pull this country forward.”
Emefiele added that apart from the Anchor Borrowers Programme, the CBN was also looking at programmes targeted at wholesale growth of the agricultural sector.
He said, “Aside from rice and other small good crop markets, we have started looking at palm oil, because we believe that this country has a lot of potential in palm oil. If you think about what this country was in the 50s and 60s, Nigeria being a country at that time that controlled 40 per cent market share in palm oil industry, exporting its palm oil to different parts of the world. But because we found crude oil, we receded and abandoned it.”
Reacting, the President, Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria, Mansur Ahmed, urged the FG to take tough decisions to ensure economic stability in the country.
Ahmed said, “A lot of things need to be done in this country. For instance, the petroleum subsidy is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed and will require some hard decisions. On the issue of power, some very difficult decisions have to be taken as well.
“Possibly also, the government is going to be firmer in terms of the security situation. So, in my understanding of the CBN governor’s statement, some hard decisions will have to be taken, which may in the short run create some pain.”
He said there was a need for people to understand and be prepared for what is coming.
He added, “We cannot continue the way we are. The current level of unemployment is unacceptable; the security situation is totally unacceptable, and clearly these things cannot be resolved without some tough decisions being taken.”
The Lagos State Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the current economic situation should not get worse than this.
The LCCI’s Director-General, Muda Yusuf, urged the FG to do whatever needed to be done to ensure that things did not get worse in the country.
He said if there was any need for the CBN governor to review the monetary policy, he should do so.
Yusuf said many businesses had not been doing well because the purchasing power was weak, adding that the high rate of unemployment, insecurity had also affected the economy.
He said, “If there is a need for the CBN governor to review the monetary policy, he should do it, in this his second term in office.
“I say this because the purchasing power of Nigerians is weak, the welfare is nothing to write home about, there is unemployment, the security situation is scary and many businesses are not doing.”
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