By Solomon Semaka
In the Christian Holy Book, Jesus is quoted to have said to the people of his hometown of Nazareth after they failed to recognise his messianic message of the sonship of God that a prophet is not without honour, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his household.’ (cf Mark 6: 4, English Standard Version). The people of this little town could not believe that the little boy that grew up with them, whose parents they also knew very well could become so powerful, wise and knowledgeable about the law and scriptures like Jesus did. The elders felt they should be the ones teaching him and not the other way around. Even in our homes and offices, we trivialize people’s talents and skills because they come from certain places or are of a certain age or religion. It is also common for people to refuse to accept even the most seasoned technocrat’s leadership because of political party affiliation, tribe and even religious or gender consideration. This analogy can be likened to the case of a great financial wizard and technocrat of the Nigerian banking system in the person of Chief Godwin Emefiele, the indefatigable Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The global Banking and Financial Community over the years has been keenly observing and documenting his numerous pioneering achievements and technological innovations in the Nigerian banking system and the Central Bank of Nigeria. Little wonder, on Thursday, 13th October 2022 at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Washington DC, the Foreign Investment Network (FIN), organizers of the *Euroknowledge* Award For Digital Transformation conferred on the astute financial Wizard, the
‘Euroknowledge Africa Most Innovative Digital Transformation Governor of the Year Award for 2022. This more than ever before calls for genuine celebration and indeed Nigerians who are conversant with the modest yet transformational works Chief Emefiele was doing for the Nigerian economy are in great jubilation and rolling out the red carpet for him.
Chief Godwin Emefiele is no doubt a giant in the area of banking innovations. He is a pioneer not just in Nigerian banking but in Africa and indeed the world at large. The CBN under Emefiele has emerged as a pace-setter in the payments system with pioneering efforts in Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). This is the first of its kind and a marvel even to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank who have shown interest and are eager to key into the innovative policy, a brain child of the Central Bank of Nigeria under Godwin Emiefele. This digital currency popularly called e-Naira has clocked one year since its launch with many financial benefits to justify it’s sustainability.
Before the emergence of Emefiele, many Nigerians were ‘unbanked’ and had no access to financial and banking services, especially in rural areas. The CBN under Chief Emefiele changed that narrative and also deepened options for digital payments by licensing many Micro-Financial companies to deliver services to the grassroots. The CBN also licensed Mobile Money Agents that made it possible for Nigerians everywhere to seamlessly operate wallets on their phones, and receive and send money without any hassles. The multiplier effect of this on the economy is unquantifiable.
The CBN had, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic saved Nigeria from going into a terrible recession even when almost the whole world was on its knees and barely struggling to keep their economies afloat. The innovative financial management techniques and approaches used by the CBN through the AGMESIS loan scheme for SMEs and Households which stimulated local production helped save the economy. Not just that, the CBN through the able and visionary leadership of Chief Emefiele extended more stimulus packages to youths through the NYSC scheme, manufacturers and other stakeholders, the Nigerian economy did not succumb to the global recession that visited other countries. Nigerians of goodwill across all divides are grateful for this financial mastery of a Nigerian son and patriot who is now receiving international awards with reckless abandon.
Through the financial foresight and determination of the CBN Governor and keeping to the cashless policy of the CBN, Point of Sale Terminals (POS) is spread across the length and breadth of the country. Before now, only in banks could one find POS. With a secured payment system and a robust system for lodging complaints in various financial institutions and other licensed payment agents, POS operators are smiling daily to the bank with their patrons saving many man-hours that were previously wasted queuing in banking halls and bank ATM machines. Apart from the hundreds of thousands of people employed as POS vendors, the deployment of POS and their seeming availability in all shops, schools, churches, fueling stations, motor parks and even in the remotest villages has eased payments and facilitated trade all over the country.
Nigeria has become a hub for direct foreign investments in Nigeria because of the ease of doing business facilitated by the legendary financial wizard. The number of investors indicating interest in the Nigerian business environment especially the financial sector and those already doing business in Nigeria is a confirmation of the fact that Nigeria under Emefiele is a fertile ground for secured and profitable investments. With a secured payment system and a friendly forex regime, investors have nothing to fear as can be seen from the number of new investors choosing the Nigerian destination from all over the world. Nigeria’s economy is indeed growing and history will forever be kind to Chief Emefiele for his innovative financial management skills and prowess.
The CBN in conjunction with the Nigerian InterBank Settlement System (NIBSS) and the Bankers Committee set to float a National Card Scheme to improve the payment system in Nigeria. The project which has already received approval and the nod of all stakeholders is the brainchild of the CBN under Chief Godwin Emefiele. The National Domestic Card scheme is created to help drive acceptance and efficiency and reduce the operating cost of cards in the country. It is configured to address the unique ecosystem that we have to help improve payment across the nation with lower charges. This local content is at its peak with features that support micro-payment and credit, e-government, identity management, transportation, the health sector and agriculture in terms of payment. This and many other innovative solutions are the things the ‘little boy of Nazareth’ is doing that many people do not want to recognize.
As the global world recognizes and honours Chief Godwin Emefiele, it is high time we rally around him and give him our utmost support. It is noteworthy to commend Mr. President for the confidence he has reposed in the financial technocrat in driving the economy. With the ideas and international experience of Chief Emefiele, Nigeria’s banking and financial sector will soon become a rallying point globally.
Rev Solomon Semaka is the Convener Save Nigeria Movement