Dear Dr. Godwin Emefiele,
I write this open letter to you in the hopes that you will read it and consider what is becoming an urgent request from the ranks of the well-read and the growing cohorts of simple country folk. You did, I recall, make it a cardinal objective of your administration when you assumed office in 2014 to ensure that the Central Bank of Nigeria was more people-focused than it had ever been. You insisted that the programmes and policies of the bank would be calibrated towards the creation of jobs for the expanding population of Nigerians, especially the youths.
One could have written off your remarks as the usual quip of the newly minted senior public servant eager to win applause. I confess that I was somewhat sceptical. Until I began to study the launch of your programmes. You adopted a charismatic, even cavalier, approach that signalled to the people that you would do everything in your power to strengthen their hopes in their Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari and in their nation.
If I am to be fair, it often came across as you attempting to cover up for those managing the fiscal affairs of the Nigerian economy by embarking on all manner of Tom, Dick and Harry projects. This is what led me to arrive at the conclusion that I arrived at below. So, let me walk you through what I had considered to be some of your weak points and how I learnt that you were indeed adhering to international best practices.
The Mainstreet Business Loans for Medium-Sized Businesses ($ 600 billion)
Sir, while I accord your interventions with duly deserved acclaim, I am hard pressed to note that you have probably pushed the limits of your mandate much farther than any Central Bank Governor in living memory. Sometimes, I have wondered why the revered institution has had to be involved in the disbursing loans directly to small and medium scale businesses across Nigeria. It was a late evening phone call with a friend in the United States of America which offered me a more unbiased lens through which to view your actions. PD, as I call her, informed me that even the Federal Reserve Bank (the parallel to Nigeria's Central Bank) has been directly trying to rescue small and medium sized businesses in that country with loans. Take as an example, the Mainstreet loans programme for which the Federal Reserve earmarked $600 billion towards medium-scale businesses to the tune of between $1 to $25 million per business.
The Interventions to Rescue Big Companies
PD informed me further that the Federal Reserve Bank made extraordinary moves to rescue many of the large companies that were previously perceived as being too big to fail. Companies such as Bears Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mae, and the American International Group (AIG). Today, the American economy has become the better for those interventions.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YEDP) breathed a fresh wave of optimism among youth who were palpably excited about the possibilities for growth. A young niece of mine was a beneficiary and I remember how excited she was to start her fashion business on a fresh footing. The programme, which offers up to 3 million Naira with an interest rate of 9%.
The CBN's Pharmaceutical Intervention Fund for Covid-19.
Your decision to channel 100 billion Naira towards pharmaceutical companies in the fight against Covid-19 won my heart. Here was a man who understood the need to firm up the nation's ability to fight disease in order to remain economically viable and earn revenue.
The Targeted Credit Facility for Households
I recall with a continuing sense of satisfaction the look on the faces of two of my kinsmen in the village who secured the Targeted Credit Facility loans in the wake of Covid-19. Both were able to stock up on direly needed food items and medicines. To refresh the memory, this was a time when most employees and businesses earned nothing as a result of the suspension of a considerable number of physical human activities. I consider it a master stroke to have both interventions addressing similar needs.
The Agri-business Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme
This particular programme won the hearts of a vast number of Nigerians. I am not sure about the number of people who actually benefited from this but it has been popular and I believe someone knows someone who received this. Kudos to you for a truly insightful package of programmes. This is vision demonstrated especially in view of the traitorous oil prices and the effect that has had on our economy.
CBN 100 for 100 Policy on Production and Productivity
In order to stimulate the flow of credit to the real sector of the economy and reverse our country's over-dependence on importation, you launched the 100 for 100 Policy on Production and Productivity. While I do not personally know any of the companies which benefited, I am proud to see that over 28 companies have been boosted with over 23 billion Naira. People are happier and so am I. There is hope.
My earnest plea
Dr. Emefiele, Sir, to take you back to the first paragraph of this letter, I would like to ask you to consider making the painful but important sacrifice of foregoing the remaining two years of your tenure as Central Bank Governor in order to replicate and expand your programmes in higher public office. People are hopeful and have your name on their lips. You can seal your successes with the power of presidential fiat.
Obafemi Sam-Peters wrote in from Lagos.
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