When the news broke on Thursday, May 9, 2019, that President Muhammadu Buhari had re-nominated Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), for a fresh term of five years, both local and international financial space heaved a sigh of relief. The news unexpectedly came when speculations were rife in some section of the media that the President had looked elsewhere for the job. For the health of the economy, it was good news, but to the financial speculators and text book economists who had been angling for a change, was a bad news.
I published an article in March 2019 asking ‘Would President Buhari Break The Jinx On Emefiele’? The media at the time was awashed with the news that the President had ordered Emefiele to turn his disengagement letter. The news unsettled the financial world and while the international community held its breathe, relief came when the federal government debunked the fake news. The sponsors of the fake news displayed crass ignorance in bureaucratic procedure. Ordinarily, for a tenured appointment as the CBN governor, it is a constitutional demand that when your tenure is drawing to a close you turn in your letter, and if the authority is pleased with your performance, you may be lucky to get a return appointment. This probably was the case with Emefiele.
In that article I adduced reasons why Emefiele should be reconsidered for another term and when considering the hallmark of responsibility of a central bank governor, Emefiele has performed well. Though he started on a rocky note when he assumed office as the economy was practically on its knees coupled with the uncertainties of the then upcoming 2015 general elections. The global collapse of commodity prices in 2014/2016 and crash in crude oil prices as low as $27/pb did not help matters.
Locally and internationally, currency speculators were on rampage attacking the economy, he was unperturbed but focused on his mission. His steeled nature may have endeared him to the President. Though Emefiele may not be an economist as his detractors eyeing his post would say, his seeming ‘crude’ and determined stance when he yanked off 41 items from the official forex window which was severely criticized eventually helped to bridge the gap in importation and increased local production of the items. The suspended items have been increased to 43 with a promise to suspend more if the need arises in the future. He achieved this by retooling some of the Bank’s intervention windows like the Agriculture Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS), the N220billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF), Small and Medium Enterprises Credit Guarantee Scheme (SMESCGS). He opened the Investors and Exporters’ Window and Real Sector Support Facility (PSSF) to make forex available for their critical needs. The master stroke intervention policy, the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), which is in sync with the current regime’s economic diversification programme has not only boosted rice production in Nigeria, but has created jobs and have about 925, 000 rice farmers benefitting from the initiative as at December 2018 and ultimately crashed importation of foreign rice into the country.
His policies as he promised on assumption of office was to run a people-focused central bank aimed at breathing life into the economy and make it strong to arrest the hydra-headed high unemployment rate and widespread poverty.
He intervened with N213billion in power sector, the Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilization Facility for the purpose of settling outstanding debts in the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), for power to be available to drive the industrial sector.
That Emefiele gave his all to the job, his commitment and undiluted loyalty, to the present regime despite the fact that he was not appointed by President Buhari was sterling and policies he initiated have endeared him to the President. His wide campaign on financial inclusion was to increase access to financial services to the rural but economically active poor denied access or the un-served segment to reduce poverty scourge. The perennial bane of MSMEs in the country is access to credit and reluctance of deposit money banks to extend credits to them. Previous programmes aimed at providing finances to these poor economic agents had been fraught with glitches, but with his determination and unwavering efforts he was able to rally the Bankers’ Committee, the umbrella body of commercial banks’ chief executives, NIRSAL and Nigeria Postal Services (NIPOST) to float a National Microfinance Bank to provide cheap and sustainable credit to MSMEs at a single digit of 5 percent interest rate.
Achievements of the CBN governor are visible, thus, the decision of the President to give him another term was not misplaced. And for the President not to have yielded to pressures to appoint another person was an appreciation of Emefiele’s performance. More so that, no CBN governor since the dawn of current democratic regime in the country has had the privilege of a second term. The President broke the jinx with Emefiele with re-appointment.
This is an applause for his reformatory monetary policy and zeal that has reinforced investors’ confidence in the economy. It will no doubt further encourage more foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. With his team at the CBN, he was able to bring stability to the foreign exchange market in the last three years, even when some highly placed people in government and the Bretton Woods Institutions called for the devaluation of the Naira at the height of the economic recession, Emefiele stood his ground, and nobody gave him a chance if he was sure of what he was doing. He gave a time lime when he expects the economy to exit recession and only sought the support of every Nigerian. He was right and precise.
Unbothered that his tenure was running out he rallied round managers of deposit money banks on a mission to return the economy to its glorious days by supporting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) whose bane had been access to sustainable credit to set aside 5 percent of their annual profit to fund MSMEs under Agric-business Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMIES), and ultimately support the federal government’s efforts at promoting agriculture and other non-oil products.
Though divergent views have greeted his re-nomination, some applauding the President for the privilege and others gave hard knocks, but if truth must be told Emefiele has proved his mettle given the prevailing circumstances. The President should also be commended for re-nominating Emefiele, being his first appointment after his re-election.
Therefore, Emefiele’s reappointment is a call to duty and to do more. The President should not see his action as politically expedient but one for macro-economic growth and stability. President Buhari should therefore complement this gesture when constituting his next cabinet with people who will work in synergy with the monetary authority to drive his vision, grow the economy and better the lives of Nigerians which is purely a fiscal challenge.
Ademola writes from Ibadan.