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Emefiele: 7 years of developmental central banking

Yesterday marked seven years since Mr. Godwin Emefiele assumed office as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), making him the 10th indigenous governor in the history of the apex bank. Although he still has three years to the end of his second term, a major part of the legacy when Emefiele departs the CBN is likely to be taking developmental central banking to heights never before attained by his predecessors, writes TONY CHUKWUNYEM.

First term

Although the need for Nigeria to end its oil dependence and the attendant negative effects on the economy had long been recognised by past administrations, the country was still grappling with the problem when Mr. Godwin Emefiele assumed office as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on June 3, 2014. Unveiling his 10-point agenda during his maiden press conference, he said the apex bank, under his watch, would use its resources to build a resilient financial system that will serve the growth and development needs of the country, adding that the bank would introduce a broad spectrum of financial instruments to boost specific enterprise areas in agriculture, manufacturing, health and oil and gas. True to his pledge, the CBN, between late 2014 and 2019, vigorously pursued intervention schemes such as the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS), Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), the N220billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund (MSMEDF), Small and Medium Enterprises Credit Guarantee Scheme (SMECGS), and the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), among others. Indeed, industry watchers believe that it was the positive impact of the CBN’s programmes on the economy, under Mr. Emefiele’s leadership, that made President Muhammadu Buhari to reappoint him for a second and final five term in May 2019. He thus became the first CBN governor to serve for a second term since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.

Prepared for external shocks

Following his reappointment, Emefiele disclosed that one of the key areas that the apex bank would pay particular attention to during his second term was to ensure that it builds on the achievements of its intervention programmes in the agricultural sector during his first term. As the CBN governor put it, “building on the success of our Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) and other intervention programmes geared towards supporting the growth of our agriculture and manufacturing sectors, we intend to: Boost productivity growth through the provision of improved seedlings, as well as access to finance for rural farmers in the agricultural sector, across 10 different commodities namely: rice, maize, cassava, cocoa, tomato, cotton, oil-palm, poultry, fish, and livestock/dairy.” He further said: “Our choice of these 10 crops is driven by the amount spent on the importation of these items into the country, and the over 10 million jobs that could be created over the next five years if efforts are made to expand cultivation and processing of these items in Ni-geria. So far, we have held series of engagements with importers and producers of these products. Most of them have committed that they would install or expand their production capacities in Nigeria. We believe these measures will help to boost not only our domestic outputs but also improve our annual non-oil exports receipts from $2billion in 2018 to $12billion by 2023. “To complement the progress made so far as well as the lesson learnt from the conduct of previous programmes, we intend to strengthen the capacity building arm of the Anchor Borrowers Programme, which will help support better farming practices and higher outputs for farmers.” He also unveiled a five-point agenda containing measures, which he said, the CBN, under his leadership and working closely with the fiscal authorities, will implement between 2019 and 2024 to help insulate the nation’s economy from potential shocks in the global economy. He stated: “Our priorities at the CBN over the next five years are the following: First, preserve domestic macroeconomic and financial stability; second, foster the development of a robust payments system infrastructure that will increase access to finance for all Nigerians thereby raising the financial inclusion rate in the country; third, continue to work with the deposit money banks to improve access to credit for not only small holder farmers and MSMEs but also consumer credit and mortgage facilities for bank customers. Our intervention support shall also be extended to our youth population who possess entrepreneurship skills in the creative industry. “This group deserves our encouragement. We shall also during this intervening period encourage our Deposit Money Banks to direct more focus in supporting the education sector. “Fourth, grow our external reserves; and fifth, support efforts at diversifying the economy through our intervention programs in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. We are confident that when implemented, these measures will help to insulate our economy from potential shocks in the global economy.”

Covid-19 response measures

Although, at the time he made the aforementioned pledge, the CBN governor clearly had no inkling that the Nigeria will face an external shock as devastating as the Covid- 19 crisis, the measures the apex bank was already implementing helped to cushion the impact of the pandemic on the country’s economy. Significantly, when the Covid-19 crisis started a chain of events that led to oil prices crashing to about $30 per barrel on March 9, 2020, far below the 2020 Budget’s oil benchmark price of $57 per barrel, it was not difficult for the regulator to roll out fresh initiatives to curb the impact of the pandemic. Specifically, in line with its Covid-19 response plan, the CBN created credit facilities for the Healthcare Sector Intervention Fund (N100billion), the Targeted Credit Facility (N100billion) and a N1trillion facility for the manufacturing sector. Data obtained from the apex bank shows that from January 2021 to date, N157.52billion has been disbursed for 29 real sector projects under the Real Sector Support Facility –Differentiated Cash Reserve Ratio (RSSF-DCRR), while N857.64billion has been disbursed for 234 real sector projects under the RSSF-DCRR(inclusive of the CMIS) from inception(November 2018) to May 28, 2021. In addition, from January 2021, to date, N26.08billion has been disbursed for 10 projects under the Covid-19 manufacturing intervention scheme, while for the N255.99billion has been disbursed for 78 projects under the CMIS from January 2020 to May 28, 2021. Similarly, 91 Healthcare projects have been funded to a tune of N97.44billion under the Healthcare Sector Intervention Facility(HSIF) as at May 28, 2021. Further review of CBN data shows the following: N111.71billion has been disbursed under the Agric, Small and Medium Enterprise Scheme (AGSMEIS) to 29,023 beneficiaries as at May 28, 2021; N3.19billion has been disbused under the CIFI to 341 beneficiaries as at May 28, 2021; N253.45billion has been disbursed under the Targetted Credit Facility to 548, 345 beneficiaries as at May 28, 2021; N3.04billion has been disbursed under the NYIF to 7,057 beneficiaries as at May 28, 2021 and N85.19billion has been disbursed under the MSMEDF to 746 beneficiaries as at May 28, 2021. Other disbursements include N6billion under SANEF to 14 beneficiaries and N173million to 67 beneficiaries under the YEDF as May 28, 2021.

Conclusion

Although coronavirus (Covid- 19) vaccine rollout has kicked off in most countries, the global economy is still grappling with the lingering effects of the pandemic. Analysts note that if Emefiele had not had the foresight to lead the CBN to roll out policies to help end the country’s dependence on oil, by intensifying its interventions in the agricultural sector, the nation would have been contending with a far more serious economic crisis by now. There also would have been acute food shortages that could have fuelled tensions in the country.

 

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