By Emmanuel Aziken
It was a fitting tribute to his five year stewardship of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN that Governor Godwin Emefiele became the first helmsman of the apex bank in recent memory to get a second term appointment in May 2019.
The recommendation for a second term came from the high and low. It understandably flowed from Mr. Emefiele’s promise after his first appointment to make the apex bank a people focused bank.
The pledge towards broadening the focus of the bank flowed from the fact that hitherto, the bank’s spotlight had remained for many only in theories that often did not resonate with the ordinary issues of naira and kobo that pertained to the ordinary man.
So it was not surprising that among the most vocal in the commendation of Emefiele’s second term nomination were farmers under the auspices of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN).
Speaking through Chief Daniel Okafor, the Vice National President of the association, the group particularly noted the Anchor Borrowers’ programme conceived by Governor Emefiele which it claimed had dramatically tilted the scales in favour of Nigerian farmers.
Before then, many foreign farmers in Thailand and other Asian countries had gotten the ascendancy at the expense of the farmers in Nigeria.
The Anchors Borrowers Programme as conceived by Emefiele with the full buy-in of President Muhammadu Buhari has seen thousands of Nigerian farmers turn from helplessness to helpful facilitators of the economy.
Under the programme launched by President Buhari in November 2015, practical farmers are invested with farming inputs such as seedlings, fertilizers, chemicals and other extension services. They farm and are guaranteed the market under an Off-Taker arrangement that makes it a win-win situation for the farmers.
Through the initiative, farmers who hitherto complained of lack of capital are supplied with capital and those who complained of lack of market or had their produce deteriorate on account of lack of market were essentially compensated.
It is said among some that the initiative may have been the game changer that made Buhari to not only sustain Emefiele as CBN governor after inheriting him from the preceding administration, but to further give him an unprecedented second term.
While commending the second term appointment of Emefiele, Okafor had said:
“We welcome this development. We commend the President for re-appointing Emefiele.
“It means that the President is agriculture friendly. We thank him for that.
“We want the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) to continue so we welcome his continuity.
“The National Assembly should do the needful because farmers’ need the man at the helm of affairs in CBN.
“CBN has been agriculture friendly since Emefiele’s tenure, but we want him to ensure that every commodity is accommodated in the ABP.
“We will like him to continue, he is a good candidate, kudos to Emefiele, but he should do more not only on ABP but he should also initiate other agriculture friendly programmes.
However, Emefiele was not up to a year in his second term when his capacity was fully brought to the test.
The COVID-19 pandemic with its inherent capacity to make economies tumble may have been the governor’s most trying period.
The lockdown of the economy for two months was an unprecedented development in the history of the country and was one that was bound to test the capacity of the managers of the economy.
It is remarkable that the CBN working with other stakeholders has been able to marshal a blueprint for the nation to navigate towards an economically stable post-COVID economy.
For the CBN, the pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to harness the capacity of the Nigerian productive sector.
It is no surprise that Governor Emefiele has become something like an enabler for the productive economy.
His stance and actions have not been without controversy. Many have felt that he should primarily concern himself with marshalling policies from his office in Abuja.
However, those to the contrary cite provisions of the CBN Establishment Act which invest the bank with development finance and such.
It is in that development that Governor Emefiele has been seen trudging from one farm land in Kebbi to one industrial scheme or the other in Lagos all in a bid to enhance the productive capacity of the Nigerian economy.
It is now generally acknowledged that Mr. Emefiele’s prioritization of boosting the productive sector paid off with the advent of the pandemic and before then, the closure of the borders on account of the security concerns.
Some have well asked what would have been the fate of the Nigerian economy had the capacity of Nigerian farmers and industries been raised in the days before the COVID-19 pandemic.
CBN officials have said that under the present regime that Nigeria’s food import bill has been cut down from $3.2 billion to a present $500 million.
The advantage of this is that what would ordinarily have been transferred out with attendant burden on foreign exchange costs have now been transferred to the local economy.
Among the beneficiaries are the estimated four million jobs that have been created in the agric value chain under the Governor Emefiele administration of the apex bank.
The CBN governor has also been able to mobilize Nigerians from across all sectors to support government in providing relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is worthy of note that it is a measure of trust and confidence stakeholders have in him that as much as N27.1 billion has been realized from Nigerians.
What initially was thought as a pitch from the billionaires saw other Nigerians contributing from N2 billion to N1!
These practical efforts are besides the other actions in the area of monetary policy and development finance that have seen the CBN exert banks to be much more engaged in the real sector.
The progressive increase in the LDR has been done in a way to nudge the banks without putting a stress on them. Through suasion and other sticks available to the apex bank it is telling that at the end of the first year of his second term, it can well be said that Mr. Emefiele has not deviated from course.