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CBN Vs NESG: Waving the white flag for the benefit of Nigerians

As Nigerians face up to what is likely a fresh round of recession, all stakeholders in the economy must come together to ensure that our economic recovery plans are well thought through, backed by empirical data.

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On Monday, September 7th, 2020, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) published a press release titled “Matters of Urgent Attention”, in which it x-rayed the state of the national economy and expressed a number of reasoned concerns over the poor state of performance of some critical economic indicators affecting the country. Treatises like the release have become, for several years now, a common feature of the country’s dialogue on the economy.

They serve an extremely useful purpose because these publications permit individuals and organisations that embark on this course, not only the opportunity to ventilate important, topical, subjects in the widest possible manner but also to enable those views to come to the attention of several organs of governance responsible for policy formulation and implementation.

It is also the case that the reaction to these exercises would often be gauged by the credentials of the author whose antecedents will, typically, determine the depth and appreciation of the reading audience. That thermometer reading, therefore, is dictated by credentials of the author. The more accomplished; the greater the interest in the contents. This, it appears, is what happened following the public circulation of the NESG press release.

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) is a private sector-led think tank that was incorporated in 1996 as a not-for-profit organization to promote economic reformation and policy advocacy that positions the Nigerian economy for sustainable growth and global competitiveness. For 24 years, it has provided a platform for bringing together private sector leaders and senior public sector officials to collaborate and dialogue on the imperatives of deepening the Nigerian Economy.

Comprising some of the most influential economic and financial actors outside the government, its views, in the past and now, have conveyed some of the most incisive commentary on the economy of Nigeria. As such, it has become very highly respected. Understandably, therefore, its comments were always likely to attract both attention and comment with all kinds of flavours.

The Press Release, importantly, commended the efforts of the Federal Government at creating short term jobs across all facets of the economy as well as recognized the willingness of the Federal Government to work with the private sector in the design and implementation of national economic development plans.

In addition to calling for re-evaluation and re-tooling of the country’s security architecture to address the dire challenge of in-country insecurity; raising the emphasis on reopening national borders because of the negative impact its protracted closure has had on free flow of legitimate trade among sub regional economies, NESG’s analyses touched on various policies, decisions and actions of a number of other key national institutions, including, majorly, the Central Bank.

It expressed deep concern with what it described as CBN’s opacity in managing foreign exchange transactions; loan disbursements regarding its special purpose monetary interventions, and price fixing without providing adequate clarity on policy objectives; trends and practices which are not in tandem “with evolving developmental roles of central banks around the world especially as it concerns resource allocations”.

Fairly swiftly thereafter, NESG also published a letter it had written to the President, in which it specifically raised issues with some of the provisions of the bill for an Act to repeal the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) 2004, and to re-enact it and other matters connected therewith, 2020. Although the BOFIA Act has been 29 years in the making, it had been recently passed by both houses of the National Assembly and was awaiting presidential assent when NESG appealed to the President for intervention.

NESG ‘s contention was, among other things, that certain proviso’s in the amended Bill, if not “deleted or amended, may be inimical to the fulfilment of the mandate of formulating and implementing policies and programmes which attract foreign and domestic investments”. Among other issues, it highlighted specifically, sections 2(5) (a) and (b), 12(6) and 57(1) and (2), which, respectively, extends CBN’s regulatory oversight outside the scope of “banking business”; grants it immunity from restorative orders and promotes overreaching by the Central Bank. NESG concluded that these policies and interventions, if assented to by the President as is, over-regulates the economy and gives sweeping powers to the CBN Governor, which are prone to abuse.

The CBN, in its well-publicized response debunked the claims made by NESG, and in defense of its economic policies over the last 5 years explained that “access to credit is listed among the three major challenges faced by farmers and businesses in Nigeria”, hence, it was vital for it to “address an area that it had sufficient ability to impact upon, while the Federal Government seeks to address issues such as access to electricity and logistics”. On the allegation that its lending process is devoid of a proper framework, it stated that recipients of intervention funds from CBN go through “extensive” due diligence process supervised by participating financial institutions (PFI), followed by additional assessment process by the CBN before disbursements are provided.

However, in its response, the Central Bank resorted to the use of vitriolic, derisive and even contemptuous language that, almost regretfully, personalized a hugely important dialogue. It was language that, potentially, may have caused the CBN to dip below its exalted status as a foremost regulatory institution in Nigeria. Aside painting NESG as an irritant, CBN’s argument may have recorded limited success in fully addressing the concerns raised. Whilst the CBN has every right to defend the integrity of its policies against what it perceives as an “ignorant or malicious” attack and false claims by the NESG, the comportment and communication of the response presents a cause for apprehension, especially, given the gravity of the issues at stake.

With most economic indicators pointing southward; rampant and widespread insecurity in the midst of insurgency; domestic and international terrorism; banditry and proliferation of arms which has led to softened sovereignty in some parts of the country; endemic corruption; runaway inflation: poverty and illiteracy; food crisis and insecurity; burgeoning unemployment; community clashes with attendant rise in brigandage and carnage; needless to say, the fault lines of our nationhood has never been more barely exposed as they currently are. Our depiction as the “poverty capital of the world” is because millions of our citizens continue to wallow in despondent poverty and disease over the effect of some of the negative consequences of the economic policies about which NESG – and, it has to be said, many others before them – have spoken to.

What appears to have now transpired is that important and crucial dialogue about the quite serious problems we, as a nation, are now confronted with, ran the unfortunate risk of being “diverted” and supplanted by a “collision of intellectual egos”. To be clear, we, the National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity do not believe that to score points, it is permissible to rely on assertions that are either flawed or out rightly untrue. Nor do we consider that it is acceptable – or permissible – that the reading audience should be misled by self-serving or manipulated interpretations of issues being discussed.

To the extent that these postures exist in any of the respective parties’ public explanations, we demur and deprecate such conduct and commentary. That said, we maintain the view that NESG and its members, in their capacity as an economic and policy advocacy body, reserve individual and collective rights to comment on matters of the economy; directly criticize and express contrasting opinion about the policies and interventions of the Federal Government and, or its agencies, including the CBN.

The resignation of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of 3 prominent Nigerian banks from the Board of NESG coincided uncomfortably with the emergence of these differences between NESG and CBN. Whilst it appears that there may be well-informed reasons for the CEOs actions, it is only logical that there may be those who will see this as having occurred, not without certain influence or pressure connected with sentiments arising out of this situation. As Nigeria’s apex banking and financial regulatory institution, CBN must be mindful of its utterances and comportment, as its body language may inadvertently create an environment that censures instead of extracting value from opposing views, ideas and counsel.

We are not insinuating any direct link between CBN, NESG and the resignations, but the enormous regulatory and other powers it wields over banks and the speed at which the resignations were effected creates an inescapable wireless connection between the two. These kinds of rancorous conduct, which are inimical to deliberate knowledge integration and management to deepen policy responses, must be avoided in the future. It is critical that the strangulating poverty which threatens average Nigerian families today does not drown in the sea of rhetorical vitriol.

Like all very anxious and concerned Nigerians, we are entitled to – and expect – constructive engagements that will lead to the enactment of economic policies that create production-based jobs so the national economy can grow sustainably. As Nigerians face up to what is likely a fresh round of recession, all stakeholders in the economy must come together to ensure that our economic recovery plans are well thought through, backed by empirical data. The CBN should muster the humility to admit the fact that some of its policies have failed to deliver the expected outcomes and rather than create more jobs, have made the economy more atrophied; impoverishing more Nigerians than it has lifted out of poverty.

We hereby call on the Federal Government; CBN, NESG, and other well-meaning institutions and stakeholders in the country to focus their energies on activities and commentary that galvanize the immense intellectual capacities that are available to the country to enact policies and intervention that provides very desperately needed socio-economic relief and support to long suffering Nigerians.

Nigerians need jobs, not invectives!

Abiola Owoaje

Nas Capn

National Association of Seadogs

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US Ambassador opens centre in Lagos, to boost entrepreneurial skills among Nigerian youth

US Ambassador to Nigeria has launched a centre where youths can gain entrepreneurship skills through programs and workshops.

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The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, opened the first-of-its-kind Window on America in Nigeria on Monday.

The Centre is expected to serve as a community center where young people develop their ideas, as well as their leadership and entrepreneurship skills through programs and workshops designed especially for them.

This was disclosed in a statement shared by Temitayo Famutimi, Information Specialist, Public Affairs Section (PAS), U.S. Consulate General and seen by Themoneymetrics.

According to the statement, the Centre, which was Hosted at the Lekki Slum2School Innovation Hub in Lagos, is as a result of a partnership between the US Consulate General, Lagos and Slum2School Africa, founded by Otto Orondaam, a 2016 alumnus of U.S. government’s Mandela Washington Fellowship.

The Ambassador noted that the new Window on America is open to everyone in the community, offering its services, programs and resources to the public at no cost.

She said, “We are happy to open the very first Window on America space in Nigeria here in Lekki.

“In the next few months, we will follow with six additional new Windows on America in the south and 12 across the country. We want our Windows on America to promote mutual understanding between the United States and the people of Nigeria.”

In addition to providing public programming space, the Lekki Window on America will support five core programs: English language learning, educational advising, alumni activities, cultural programs, and information about the U.S.

What you should know

  • Visitors to the window will typically include students, teachers, entrepreneurs, academics, journalists, civic organizations, government officials, and community leaders, in addition to many others.
  • Windows on America are American spaces that provide welcoming environments where visitors can learn about the United States, including its government, history, culture, and educational system through programs, lectures, books and electronic resources provided by the U.S. Government.
  • In addition to the Lekki Window on America, 12 more will be opened in major cities across the country, including Abeokuta, Awka, Benin City, Enugu, Osogbo, Uyo, Zaria, Minna, Dutse, Makurdi, Gombe and Lafia, in order to engage more Nigerian audiences in their local communities.
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VP Osinbajo calls for provision of capital to grow businesses for long term

The Vice President has stated that the banking sector plays a crucial role in promoting increased & inclusive growth in Nigeria.

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There is need to further deepen the provision of capital that will allow businesses to grow over the long term. This was disclosed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo during the Bankers Committee on Friday.

He commended the DMBs for their patriotic contributions to sustain growth but called for the need to further deepen the provision of capital that would allow businesses to grow over the long term.

“The banking sector plays a crucial role in promoting increased & inclusive growth in Nigeria. I commend #CBN for the forward-looking support for growth-related initiatives, especially under the economic sustainability plan,” he said.

What you should know

  • On Friday, VP Osinbajo had called for crypto regulation, knowing fully well the role crypto plays in the global financial ecosystem, as he opined that such disruption often made room for progress, according to Nairametrics.
  • Osinbajo also advised the SEC, and Central Bank of Nigeria to create a regulatory road map, while fully appreciating the stance of the CBN, Nigerian SEC, and law enforcement agencies on the possible abuses of crypto assets.
  • The vice president further stressed the important role cryptocurrencies would play in the coming years as they would most likely challenge traditional banking, including reserve banking, in ways the world hadn’t yet imagined. He thus stressed the need for Nigeria to be prepared for such a seismic shift.

 

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Sanwo-Olu says construction work on Fourth Mainland Bridge to start end of 2021

Governor Sanwo-Olu has disclosed that the foundation for the proposed 4th Mainland Bridge would be laid before the end of 2021.

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The Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has revealed that the foundation for the proposed Fourth Mainland Bridge would be laid before the end of the year 2021.

The execution of the bridge is geared towards improving the transport infrastructure and movement across the state.

According to a report from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), this disclosure was made by Sanwo-Olu during the 16th Executive/Legislative Parley, with the theme: ”A Consensus Agenda for Rebuilding Lagos”, organised by the Office of Civic Engagement.

He pointed out that the promise to construct the Fourth Mainland Bridge is not a political one.

What the Lagos State Governor is saying

Sanwo-Olu during the interactive session said, ”We did not politically promise Fourth Mainland Bridge but we are going to do Fourth Mainland Bridge.

”With your prayers and by the grace of Almighty God, we shall turn the sod and lay the foundation for the building and construction of that Fourth Mainland Bridge before the end of this year.

”We are on course and I am sure that the 37km ring road is on track, which will change the face of transportation and movement in Lagos,” the governor said.

The governor also disclosed that his administration was on course to complete the Blue Line and Red Line rail projects which were started several years back, saying the project will be completed and trains will move on the two rail lines before the end of his administration.

He said, ”It is a commitment that we have given to Lagosians and it is a commitment that we will see will come to fruition because we have finished the financial closure and we are excited about that project.’

Speaking at the event, the Special Adviser, Office Of Civic Engagement, Princess Aderemi Adebowale, said that the executive and legislature would discuss extensively the theme of the retreat, “A Consensus Agenda for Rebuilding Lagos”.

While saying that the discussion in the next 48 hours would help to fast track the rebuilding of the state, Adebowale said that they would delve deeply into issues such as Youth Leadership Role, Grassroots Development: a catalyst for growth, and Role of Social Media in Nation Building, among others.

What you should know

  • It can be recalled that the Lagos State Government has shortlisted 6 companies for the design, development, construction, operation, and maintenance of the Fourth Mainland Bridge.
  • This followed the government’s issuance of a Request for Qualification (RFQ) in February this year. The 6 companies were said to have completed the technical and financial capacity requirements.
  • Lagos State said it will announce the selection of the next stage in due course, even as the RFQ will be given to the pre-qualified bidders.
  • The Fourth Mainland Bridge is a 37.4km freeway subdivided into three sections namely Island Section, Lagoon Section and Mainland Section. It will commence from Abraham Adesanya Roundabout in Lekki through Ajah and Langbasa areas, crossing the Ado Badore Road before arriving at the Lagoon shoreline.
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