The Godwin Emefiele I Know

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Always decked in his simply-tailored suit with its signature "green" tie, the picture of the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Chief Godwin Emefiele, has in the last six years, become a symbol of national prosperity across the six geopolitical zones of the country.

Emefiele's simplicity and modesty is not the only thing that distinguished him from his flamboyant and not –so flamboyant predecessors. Not at all. Unlike his predecessors who were always seen attending board rooms conferences and meetings, Emefiele has carved out a niche for himself by not limiting himself to the board rooms, but by reaching out to the people at the grassroots, particularly the peasant farmers.

As the chief economist of the most populous black nation and richest African country, Emefiele refused to be carried away by that tantalizing position. Instead, he elected to be a household name, not only in his traditional constituency of finance, banking and development, but among ordinary Nigerians through his pro-masses policies.

Despite being not a politician, the CBN governor's "suit and green tie" signature dress has been eliciting pleasure and happiness in the minds of millions of Nigerians across the length and breadth of the country.

The CBN helmsman has achieved this unparalleled and unprecedented feat through a single policy: The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP). Through his programme, Emefiele became a household name to millions of Nigerians who were hitherto forgotten and abandoned. He is now a friend of the silent majority of Nigerians who he rescued from the lethal fangs of abject poverty and squalor. Through ABP, he made them reaffirm their belief in Nigeria. He returned their self-esteem and self-worth by making them critical stakeholders in the socio-economic ecosystem in the country.

From Zauro in Kebbi state, where the CBN governor flagged-off the 2020 wet season harvest aggregation and 2020 dry season input distribution under the CBN-Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Emefiele travelled to dozens states including Taraba, Bayelsa, Kano, Zamfara, Plateau, Cross River, Sokoto, Nasarawa, Lagos, Katsina, Niger, Ogun, Kogi, to unveil dozens rice pyramids. Through CBN's ABP, Nigeria recently proclaimed its food self-sufficiency laurels by unveiling the world's largest rice pyramids, comprising one million 100kg bags of rice in Abuja.

From a modest pilot of 75,000 farmers in 26 states, the RIFAN-CBN ABP has now been fully established in all states of the federation and the FCT. Through Emefiele's uncommon resilience, the number of rice farmers has snowballed from 1.5 million six years ago, to over 20 million now – all thanks to Emefiele's ABP.

According to official data, the CBN had disbursed 927.94 billion ($2.23 billion) in less than seven years to over 4.5 million smallholder farmers cultivating 21 commodities across the country under the ABP. This is against the $2.9 billion the CBN spent every year as import bill of rice alone before ABP.

These agricultural commodities include maize, sorghum, millet, cassava, cocoa, rice, cotton, ground nuts, palm oil, sugarcane, tree crops, legumes, tomato, to mention a few.

Before President Muhammadu Buhari's election in 2015, it was an open secret that Nigeria's local rice (the country's staple food) production was 1.5 mts /hectare. Courtesy of CBN now, the local rice production has soared to 5 mts/hectare.

The advantage of these burgeoning figures of rice production can be seen from the number of large-scale integrated rice mills which had increased from less than 10 in 2015 to nearly 100, 400 medium sized mills and over 200,000 small scale mills across the country, providing millions of direct and indirect jobs.

On Tuesday, February 2, 2022, Chief Emefiele inaugurated a N15 billion ultra-modern 420 metric tons per day capacity integrated rice milling factory in Kano state. This is an unprecedented feat.

The mass empowerment of farmers at the grassroots has reversed the ugly trend of rural- urban migration. ABP has succeeded in kick- starting urban- rural migration at no cost to the government.

The multiplying effect of the programme is unimaginable. As a result of the agricultural revolution championed by ABP, the farm inputs sub-sector in Nigeria has witnessed an unprecedented growth. For instance, in fertilizer manufacturing alone, Nigeria has since achieved self-sufficiency.

From a mere three comatose blending plants in 2016, Nigeria now boasts of over 50 state- of- the- art fertilizer blending plants across the country. Fertilizer importation is now ancient history.

The herbicides sub-sector is also witnessing tremendous growth, with mega indigenous herbicide manufacturing companies springing up across the country.

Emefiele's midas touch is not restricted to the over 20 million farmers salvaged from poverty. The financial ecosystem is witnessing a boast never imagined before. The e-Naira, the national digital currency midwifed by Emefiele's CBN, is another addition into the kitty of the apex bank in providing succour to Nigerians irrespective of their social status.

The e-Naira is a block chain technology that will add a whopping sum of $2.9 trillion (N1.189 trillion) every year to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). What this simply means is that: Nigeria's GDP will be raised by $29 billion in the next 10 years.

Another initiative by the CBN governor is the development of Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneurship Scheme (TIES), in partnership with Nigerian polytechnics and universities to harness the potential of graduate entrepreneurs (gradpreneurs) in the country.

The goal of the TIES is to enhance access to finance to undergraduates and graduates of polytechnics and universities in Nigeria with innovative entrepreneurial and technological ideas.

Under this policy, the CBN will offer N500 million grant to graduates, undergraduates with the best entrepreneurship pitch across the tertiary institutions.

It is apparent that Emefiele's magic affects almost every Nigerian. Data shows that the cumulative disbursements under the Real Sector Facility currently stood at 1.40 trillion, disbursed to 331 projects across the country.

The health sector is not left behind, under the Healthcare Sector Intervention Facility (HSIF), CBN had disbursed a total of N108.85 billion for 118 projects, comprising 31 pharmaceuticals, 82 hospitals and four other services.

Just like the CBN's ABP saved Nigeria from hunger during the COVID pandemic that triggered global lockdown, the CBN didn't stop at that. It initiated Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) to support households and businesses affected by COVID-19. Though this platform, the CBN has so far disbursed N369.78 billion to 777,666 beneficiaries, comprising 648,052 households and 129,614 small businesses.

As part of CBN's effort to support the electricity sector under the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Payment Assurance Facility (NBET-PAF), the apex bank had released N274.33 billion to power sector players. This is apart from the N20.58 billion released to Distribution Companies (DisCos) under the Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility – Phase 2 (NEMSF-2).

The apex bank, through the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP), disbursed the sum of 47.83 billion for procurement and installation of 858,026 electricity meters across the country under the Scheme's Phase-0.

The gas sub-sector was not neglected as the CBN, through its Intervention Facility for National Gas Expansion Programme (IFNGEP), released 42.20 billion for six projects.

On the forex regime, Emefiele defied the odds in July 2021, by banning the Bureau De Change (BDC) operators from accessing forex, and also said some them have become conduit for illegal financial flows working with corrupt people to conduct.

To curb insecurity using the financial system, Emefiele deployed the bigger stick, where in March 2021, it froze 193 corporate and individual bank accounts over allegations of suspicious forex transactions. This was done after 138 accounts were frozen earlier in February.

In April 2021, Emefiele's CBN damned the political consequence by conducting a surgical investigation that engineered the arrest and arraignment of over 400 persons across the country in an ongoing nationwide crackdown on financiers of terror-related groups in Nigeria.

It is therefore, not a coincidence that the majority of Nigerians continue to affirm the patriotism and sheer commitment of Chief Emefiele. His stint at the CBN has put smiles on the faces of millions of Nigerians more than before.

It is based on these aforementioned accomplishments that when Chief Emefiele was sighted recently dressed in a traditional northern attire of kaftan brocade with a Zanna Bukar cap to match, there was agitation from all over the country, suggesting a new assignment for the CBN governor.

Emefiele's uniting of Nigerians irrespective of their faith, language and region through impactful and economically-viable interventions at the CBN can be replicated when in all sectors of the country. This is what millions of Nigerians are longing for whenever they see Chief Emefiele as the country journeys to 2023.

Dr Ibrahim Umar PhD a Public Policy Analyst writes from Gombe

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