The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Wednesday got encomiums from the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions that screened him for confirmation for a second and final term of office.
President Muhammadu Buhari had last week reappointed Emefiele for an unprecedented second term and requested the Senate for speedy confirmation of the appointment.
After his presentation to the committee yesterday, members praised him for his performance in the last five years and indicated that he would be recommended for confirmation.
“We have done the screening as expected of us and the committee will now do its report and send to the Senate for consideration at plenary,” the committee chairman, Senator Adebayo Ibrahim, said, adding that Emefiele would be forwarded to plenary for confirmation.
Ibrahim, who spoke after the screening, said the committee was impressed by Emefiele’s performance as governor of the apex bank.
The CBN governor had given an insight into what his second term in office would look like, saying the apex bank will be hard on the nation’s economic saboteurs.
“We 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,” he said.
The CBN governor who appreciated the avalanche of prayers offered for his success by the committee members led by the Chairman, Senator Adebayo Ibrahim, acknowledged that the road ahead of him is very rough.
“I thank you for praying for me because we need it and I say this because the road ahead is still rough and very tough,” he said.
He, therefore, called on the citizenry to cultivate the habit of respecting government policies and laws.
He said: “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 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 people sabotaging government activities. We see people when policies are made, where they pick up the pieces of paper about the policy, what they think about is how do we circumvent this policy?”
Emefiele told the committee that it is not true that Nigeria operates a multiple exchange rate.
He explained: “We do not have multiple exchange rates. When you talk of multiple exchange rates, you talk about divergence in exchange rate. Substantially today, our rates have converged around N360 to $1 because the investors and exporters will know which is the dominant market for procurement of foreign exchange today; it hovers around that rate. But what you will find is multiple windows and we don’t have any apologies for it.”
He further justified multiple windows of exchange rate saying: “When you talk about multiple windows, the central bank has a responsibility to provide foreign exchange to everybody. What we saw that resulted in us creating multiple windows – we want to make sure that those who seek to travel, who will normally go to our banks to ask for foreign exchange and the banks will turn them away, and these people will seek to go to black market to buy foreign exchange, we said No! We will allocate specific sums of money to banks to allocate to people who want to travel. We will allocate specific sums of money to you to allocate to those who are into the small and medium enterprise business. And we will allocate funds to you for you to give to those who are in your corporate sectors.
“So, you will find multiple windows because the rates at which foreign exchange is traded through all these windows are substantially the same. So, there are no multiple exchange rates but I will admit there is multiple windows and it is for a good reason.”
He said Nigeria’s population is expected to peak at 425 million people by year 2050 going by the IMF/ World Bank Economic Outlook.
According to him, the CBN from the monetary policy side has come to realise that using the instrumentality of the Anchor Borrowers Programme where access to credit is being provided to the masses all over the country, will be a way to generate employment and boost economic activity among the rural population.
He told the senators: “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 the year 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 of America 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 this 425 million people when we are the third largest population in the world.
“So, we from the Central Bank of Nigeria, 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 our masses all over the country, that it will be a way to generate employment and boost economic activity amongst our rural population.
“The results are there to see that as a result of our Anchor Borrowers Programme, where we have disbursed over N190 billion to over 1.1 million smallholder farmers, cultivating over 1.3 million hectares of land, that we need to do more of this.
“As we do this, we make finance available at low-interest rate; 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 thing that we make. And I am very optimistic that this can be achieved.”
He continued: “I went to one Asian country, I entered the country happy but I came out of the country sadly. Sad because I could see the level of development that this country has achieved over the last 50 years.
“And I cast my mind back and look at my country Nigeria that what have we achieved? This is what gives me the push that at my age of 57, I saw this country when it was good.
“I am looking at the country today and I am saying I don’t want to say it is bad but I want to say that we have a lot of work to do; because the country has no doubt receded somewhat.
“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.
“Aside from the Anchor Borrowers programme, we are also looking at special programmes targeted at wholesale growth of agricultural sector in Nigeria. 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 potentials in palm oil. If you think about what this country was in the 50’s and 60’s, 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.
“For some of you who are very good in doing calculations, go and check today: the price of a barrel of palm oil is more than the price of a barrel of crude oil. So, what happened to our country?
“There are countries when they have the opportunities in agriculture and also have opportunities in the crude sector, they didn’t let their guards down.”
The CBN governor, however, gave an assurance that the palm oil market would be grown back again, after which cocoa in the South-west area would be the next area of focus.
Speaking on how the CBN bailed out the country during recession, Emefiele said: “When I resumed work in June 2014, I unveiled a five-year vision for the bank and for the country. Achieving microeconomic stability was my main focus. In trying to talk about what we achieved in the last five years, we should take our mind back to the state of the economy.
“In August 2008, about $62 billion was in our foreign reserve. Within the period, we saw an increase in the price of crude oil. Despite this, our reserve plummeted to about $40 billion. By the time I assumed office, the reserve was $32 billion.
“As a result of the pressure on the reserve, import was high. Export was reducing. As a result, exchange rate had to move. Coupled with the increase of fuel price, inflation became high between January 2016 and January 2017; the period was bad.
“The restriction of exchange rate was to reduce pressure on imports. We have maintained the exchange rate at N360 to a dollar in the last three years. In the last three years, about N300 billion has been invested in small businesses.”
Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, who presented Emefiele for screening, commended the speedy response of the Senate to the request of the president to confirm Emefiele.
Enang said, “This confirmation will be seen as one of the fastest requests to be considered by the Senate. The executive is grateful. I hereby present to you for confirmation, Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the CBN.”
A member of the committee, Senator Fatima Raji-Rasaki, in her contribution, urged the CBN boss to ensure that any time there are funds like the bailout funds, the government is properly advised on how to disburse the funds for the benefit of Nigerians.
Senator Hope Uzodinma reminded his colleagues that the screening was for reappointment and not fresh appointment.
He noted that in the wisdom of the president, the CBN governor passed his examination hence his reappointment for a second term.
Senator Shehu Sani noted that when things are good everybody will come around but when things are bad everybody will run away.
The Kaduna Central senator advised the CBN boss to consolidate on the growth of cotton and textile industry, especially in Kaduna and Katsina States.
Reacting to certain attempts to smear the image of the CBN governor, the chairman of the committee, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, noted that the good work the CBN governor was doing might have attracted distraction to him.
“When you see a good thing some people want to distract it,” he said.
At least, 17 senators attended the screening.