Nigeria: We Are Positioning Nigeria to Be Self-Sufficient - Emefiele

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, in this interview with Arise News on the sidelines of the Nigeria International Partnership Forum in Paris, France, speaks on the collaboration between the monetary and fiscal authorities as well as other pertinent issues. Nume Ekeghe presents the excerpts.

Can you give us on an insight into the relationship between Nigeria's monetary and fiscal authorities?

If you ask the finance minister, we are always in contact and she would tell you that there are no issues on the relationship between the monetary and fiscal authorities. So, when people say there is no synergy, again, I wonder where that is coming from.

When COVID hit, Mr. President asked the finance minister and I to work together to bring out an immediate response and I went back to the Bankers Committee to which we came up with immediate response. The minister of finance and I had opportunities several times to go back to brief the president. So, it is left for you to respond whether there is collaboration between monetary and fiscal authorities.

Secondly, after that, the president said that we should establish the Economic Sustainability Programme (ESP) chaired by the vice president and the central bank played an active part in the development of that programme, to the extent that the fiscal authorities were only meant to contribute N500 billion and monetary authorities were left to provide almost about N1.5 trillion.

Please let me correct this, not as grants but as loans to support people who were impacted by COVID-19 so they could build their businesses back.

I can tell you this, in 2020 till date, our data shows that we have disbursed close to N3 trillion in loans to households, to micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), to small holder farmers, to pharmaceuticals and health institutions. Also, to some of our larger agricultural companies that want to go to get back again into business and to manufacturing companies who are now accessing long-term 10 year loans with two-year moratorium at single digit rate.

So, I have the data that shows that we're playing our part from the monetary side to support the programmes of government on the ESP. But if what people expect is that the central bank or monetary authorities should hand money over and give it to the fiscal, unfortunately, that is not the way it works. It is meant to be a loan and not meant to be delivered to any particular group in the fiscal to begin to share.

And let's not forget, it was also the ingenuity on the part of central bank that we are saying that these are funds that are sequestered as these are not central bank or federal government money.

These are sequestered from the cash reserve deposit of banks, which are to also to go back through the bank to those that we are lending monies to at 5 per cent for 10 years with two-year moratorium. I think we're playing our part.

When you say you think you're playing your part that means that perhaps you think the fiscal authorities are not playing theirs?

I have not said so. I said the economic sustainability programme came up and said the fiscal would provide N500 billion but monetary, would fund N1.5 trillion. And I have said, that data shows that we have done over N2 trillion. That is what I mean by we have played our part.

Our job is to complement and I believe we are doing a good job. And that is why at every opportunity when we hold our monetary policy committee meetings, we have always taken the pain to read out what we have done to complement the efforts of the fiscal and the data is there.

And as long as I am the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, we will continue to make these data available to Nigerians. But I'm saying and I repeat myself, honestly, in my entire career as a banker, I have never seen where banks, whether they are compelled or through moral suasion would lend 10-year money with two years moratorium with single digit interest rate. I have never seen it, and I'm just praying that even after I've left CBN, that this will continue.

Let us talk about the 100 for 100 policy. What does it seek to do and how is that supposed to work?

Again, the 100 for 100 is another programme that came up out of the need to say that we must support and do everything to create employment for our people. That is why if you read that the framework, we said we must see measurable level of employment that would be provided by that project.

They have to be new projects and the central bank will do everything possible to provide foreign exchange to import plants and machinery so that by the time the plant or machinery are set up, import content of raw material would be near zero and then we can begin to look at our available local raw material, rather than importing them.

It is meant again to complement what Mr. President said, that we have to create 10 million jobs in 10 years and that is something we need to work towards. This initiative will help to reduce the level of unemployment, it will make credit available at a cheap rate and it will make credit available for a long tenure.

In terms of the prerequisites, at least 80 per cent of the employees within these new companies' entities would have to be Nigerian.

Again, what is the central bank going to do to make sure that these companies actually meet those requirements and not renege on the agreement once they have gotten the support they require?

We know that people would like to play some games but I can assure you that the central bank has the resources to monitor. Even our current intervention programmes, whether in agriculture or in manufacturing, those who have accessed those facilities will tell you that at least twice a year, our people go to check and investigate to know whether those projects have been set up and are meeting their objective.

So, I don't want to say that there we will not have a few misses, but I can assure you they will be monitored and that is the reason we have been very clear that we said we will advertise, scrutinise it, monitor it so the Nigerians truly know.

So, if for instance you took money, and it is not within the objective, Nigerians who are going to read your name on the pages of the newspaper will say no, this man didn't do the right thing.

These are some of the self-censorship programmes that had to be put in place because we need to be very truthful and honest, adopt the best level of governance in programmes like this that is meant to create jobs, reduce unemployment, and indeed help reduce the level of insecurity in our country.

We don't have a choice; we owe our people that. God has put us in a position and it is providence that cast on us to fend for the people. So, we have to put in place policies that would improve the lives of our people. And I dare say we don't have a choice, we must do what is expected of us.

On accessing foreign exchange, If we look at those who need to pay school fees abroad issue, it is very clear that they had to be tertiary institutions only. So, what happens to parents in Nigeria who send their children abroad for secondary school?

Again, I go back to what I said about what Nigeria's education was when I was born. I was born in Nigeria. I went to primary school in Nigeria. I did my secondary school and my university in Nigeria. Indeed, people were coming from other parts of the world to attend universities in Nigeria.

What has happened for us to now begin to think about our children going to secondary school abroad.

This is not about a popularity contest, it is about the fact that if you can afford it, good for you. I think what we should be doing is to improve educational standards and educational institutions, so that people can go to secondary school in Nigeria. And when we begin to achieve that, then I will begin to think that Nigeria is coming back to the Nigeria of my birth.

I am sorry, I may not have answered your question the way you want it but this is the truth.

We started this conversation with you highlighting your successes and the moments that you are proud of. There are failures you would have experienced and I want to ask you what yours are and how you have been able to overcome them if at all?

Well, as human beings you make mistakes, but I think what is important is that you learn from those mistakes and move on. I believe that there are a couple of mistakes that have been made.

The fact that we learn from those mistakes and are ready to move on for me is something that is good. And based on that, I'd like to say that for the remaining part of the two years, we would try and make sure that those mistakes don't happen again. But I think what is important is that the remaining two and a half years that we have on this job that we make the best of it.

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