Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele Breaking New Grounds

By Rev Solomon Semaka

In 2015, when Muhammadu Buhari assumed office as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he came with a lot of enthusiasm and that messianic wand to change the story of Nigeria that was on the verge of collapsing especially economically.

As a new sheriff in town, President Buhari made a lot of administrative changes, dissolved many boards and many heads of agencies and public service institutions that were not worth their unions were sacked or relieved of their appointments. This was done to take the country back on track towards economic recovery and prosperity.

However, one of the few places that the head was not changed was the apex monetary authority; the Central Bank of Nigeria otherwise known as CBN where a thoroughly bred economist, a financial expert and reputable banker, Godwin Emefiele was holding fort as the Governor having been appointed by the previous administration of Jonathan Goodluck on June 4, 2014.

For the Governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele to have gained the confidence of President Buhari, it is therefore, unambiguously an indication that he was doing something spectacularly different that worthily fitted into the change mantra of the current led administration. For instance, during his first term, he supervised an interventionist currency policy at the behest of the presidency, propping up the Nigerian naira by pumping billions of dollars into the foreign exchange market. He also introduced a multiple exchange rate regime to try to make pressure on the naira and avoid series of devaluations.

It is also pertinent to highlight unequivocally that the Central Bank under the watchful financial conscious eyes of the Governor; Godwin Emefiele has also taken the cashless policy in Nigeria to an unprecedented level.

For the avoidance of doubt, the Central Bank developed the cashless policy in 2012, which required a daily total limit of N500, 000 and N3,000,000 on free cash withdrawals across all accounts owned by individual and corporate customers respectively. The pilot was run in Lagos state from January 2012 while the policy took effect in Rivers, Anambra, Abia, Kano, Ogun and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on July 1, 2013. The policy was implemented nationwide on July 1, 2014 a few days Godwin Emefiele assumed responsibility as the Governor of Bank.
Before the introduction and implementation of the cashless policy in Nigeria, Bussiness Day had noted that “the ease of cash flow occasioned by the cash-based economy made Nigeria vulnerable to fraud, terrorism, and crime. Armed robbers attacked bullion vans and customers who carried large sum of cash. Apart from that, the central bank spends billions of naira to remove and replace dirty notes in circulation”.

In other to effectively entrench the new cashless regime in the 6 states and the FCT, the Central Bank under Emefiele licensed 26 Mobile Money Operators, 10 Super Agents, 21 Payment Terminal Service Providers, 21 Payment Solution Service Providers, 4 Third Party Processors, 9 Switches and 5 non-Bank Acquirers. It is expected that these licensed entities will smoothen the implementation of the Cashless Policy across the Payments System.

Taking a careful look at the achievements of the cashless policy, Bussiness Day reports that “as evidenced by the NIBSS second-quarter fraud report of 2019, attempted fraud volume decreased by 47.28 percent from Q1 figures, while Web, ATM and Mobile remain the usual suspects to be used by fraudsters”.

“Okojere noted the growth in the volume of transactions that occurred in 2012 against 2018, following the Cashless Policy re-introduction and increase in usage of electronic transactions”.
Consequently, transactions on instant payments grew from 4 million in 2012 to 729m in 2018, transactions on PoS from 2.5 million in 2012 to 285 million in 2018, and transactions on Mobile Inter-Scheme grew from 2,200 in 2012 to 15 million in 2018”.

One of the areas that the administration of President Buhari will be fondly remembered even by generations yet unborn is the agricultural revolution. The peak of its commitment was the directive by the president to the Central Bank on August 13, 2019 not to make foreign currency available to fund food imports.

Otherwise, according to Emefiele in an interview with TBY in 2018 stated categorically that “four commodities—rice, fish, sugar, and wheat—make up nearly NGN1.3 trillion (USD3.6 billion) annually in import bills. These and other commodities on the 41 items list are a drain on our FX reserves. Our proclivity for imports has enriched other countries and impoverished ours. We cannot depend on other countries for food; that exposes us to unquantifiable social and economic vulnerabilities. If we increase domestic food production, we will create jobs, reduce poverty, and shield our economy from foreign impulses”.

“Thus, the CBN is channeling a great deal of development finance and interventions towards agriculture to ensure sufficiency in the production of food and raw materials through our various development finance mechanisms and schemes. Our intention is to ensure that Nigeria does not depend on other countries for most of the things we consume. We must ensure that our non-oil current account balances stand hugely positive”.

“On this note, the Anchor Borrowers’ Program (ABP) has recorded spectacular success, especially with regard to rice production. As we speak, rice production has increased several-fold. Kebbi State alone is expected to produce over 2 million metric tons of rice annually, while employees at Labana Rice Mills seek to keep pace with demand, processing 320 tons of rice a day, a 250% increase from the previous year. Therefore, we have seen sharp drop in rice imports that translates to a significant reduction in rice import bills, saving us over USD600 million in 2016 alone”.

An interesting thing about Godwin Emefiele is that since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, he is the first governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to serve a second term in office. The senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria while screening him for a second term in office in May 2019 through its chairman on Banking, Finance, and other Financial Institutions, Rafiu Ibarahim said the committee was impressed with Mr Emefiele’s more than 32 years’ experience with outstanding performance.

The committee recommended confirmation of Mr Emefiele based on performance in his first tenure. “That the nominee understands the diverse economy of the country and has displayed profound knowledge of the continuous existence of our economy stability. That the nominee has performed credibly in his first tenure which resulted to the exit of the nation out of economic recession”, Mr Ibrahim said. His confirmation was put to voice vote and received a unanimous ‘ayes’ from the senators, reports Premium Times on May 16, 2019.

Consequent upon his confirmation and reappointment for a second term in office, Emefiele the CBN governor unveiled his policy thrust for the next five years. Although the policy document outlines a number of objectives, the most important ones include
a) the aim to achieve double-digit GDP growth in the next five years,
b) bringing down inflation to single-digits
c) improving the payment systems infrastructure and driving financial inclusion to 95% by 2024,
d) maintaining the existing exchange-rate policy regime of a managed float and
e) recapitalisation of the banking industry.

In order to cushion the effect on the Covid-19 pandemic on the Nigerian economy and to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor masses, the Buhari led administration through the Central Bank introduced a N50 billion Targeted Credit Facility as a stimulus package to support households and micro, small and medium enterprises that are affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

This was part of measures and policies aimed at making sure that Nigeria’s economy does not slip back into recession due to the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has so far announced the disbursement of over N49 billion out of N50 billion targeted facility for households and small businesses to over 80,000 families and households.

In addition, healthcare facility operators also benefitted from a N100 billion intervention fund and another N1 trillion fund for the manufacturing sector and is aimed at ensuring that productivity is enhanced, thereby working a way out of the impact of this pandemic.
It is very important to point out that there are many other areas that the Central Bank of Nigeria under the leadership of Godwin Emefiele as the governor has done creditably well to save the Nigerian economy from slipping into recession, the above mentioned are just but the tip of an iceberg.

Therefore, it is imperative to call the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration not to relent in its efforts in supporting Emefiele in the discharge of his onerous duties so as to make the Nigerian economy viable, dependable, sustainable, reliable and strong.

Semaka is a public affairs commentator and Convener of Save Nigeria Movement.

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