By Nnanke Harry Willie
It is well known in every team sport such as football, that no matter how skillful and gifted you are, you are always going to be only as good as the rest of your team members …and your coach.
That is why football superstar Erling Haaland may never win the World Cup with his native country of Norway but is a celebrated winner as a vicious scoring machine in his club, Manchester City.
Conversely, it can be said that Godwin Emefiele was an effective central mid-fielder as a central banker but his colleagues in the Nigerian economic team and other key stakeholders as well as the coach, Buhari failed to score the many required goals to make Nigeria the great nation that it is destined be.
However, because he was unwittingly seen as the goal scorer for the team in several quarters, a lot of casual observers chose to blame Emefiele for everything wrong about the Nigerian economy.
This includes innocent Nigerians who have suffered the debilitating effects of 8 years of Buharimomics as they have pounced on Emefiele as the poster boy for all things wrong with Nigeria.
This is however, misplaced blame and anger. It is also unfair as Emefiele, indeed, deserves accolades for the few goals he scored with his interventions in development finance.
The Immediate past administration of Muhammadu Buhari is generally assessed as an embarrassing failure in many respects, but the finance and banking sector grew exponentially under Godwin Emefiele.
It is on record that bank failures were promptly averted and depositors’ funds largely protected.
For the records, Emefiele as Governor of CBN initiated policies that led to the recovery of the country from cyclical recession starting from 2016.
In his book titled “The Only Game in Town: Central Banks, Instability, and Avoiding the Next Collapse”, Mohamed El-Erian who served as chair of President Barrack Obama’s Global Development Council, highlighted the challenges that confront central banks globally.
El-Erian noted in his book that central banks have been considered “the only game in town” because they have suddenly been bearing the majority of economic burden and could be said to have taken on the role of salvaging the global economy at the behest of their national governments since the 2008 global financial crisis.
He further pointed out that “central banks today have been venturing deeper into terrain of unconventional monetary policies as a matter of necessity rather than choice, which have seen them heavily intervening in the functioning of markets”
El-Erian said that “during the financial crisis in the United States of America (USA), a myriad of emergency funding windows were opened to enable cash to be injected into the financial system, and from virtually any and all directions.”
We saw this repeat itself in US and across the developed world during the COVID-19 inspired recession in 2020.
Our own central bank under Emefiele did the exact same thing and rather than be appreciated for the timely and worthy interventions, Emefiele has been blamed for doing his best to mitigate the sufferings of his fellow citizens in a period of emergency.
For the records, it is President Buhari’s fault that he did not approach the National Assembly to approve the instruments for Ways and Means, Emefiele did the right thing to inject funds into a nation that urgently needed a respite just like the U.S and the UK.
Refusing to do so in 2020 and during other interventions would be akin to medical doctor in an emergency room insisting that a dying patient must be taken to the hospital reception to fill out and stamp all the hospital forms before he can administer life-saving first-aid and interventions on him.
Emefiele did not print money and deliver to Buhari to spend personally like confetti, the money was meant to be used to salvage the nation. If Buhari failed to do so, Buhari should get the blame, not Emefiele.
The CBN with Emefiele as governor, made spectacular interventions in the area of Development Financing, especially towards supporting the diversification of Nigeria’s mono-economy in the past eight years.
CBN’s development finance activities with focus on supporting farmers, entrepreneurs as well as small and medium scale businesses, through various intervention programs has been showcased for all to see.
The Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP), Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and the National Collateral Registry are two of the most popular and, strangely, the most criticized despite their positive impact on the economy.
Also, the CBN introduced the Real Sector Support Fund, which is a facility created to provide cheap funding at single digit to new projects in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
The aim was to boost output and create jobs.
It is on record that the ABP has ensured that Nigeria emerged from being a net importer of rice to becoming a major producer of rice.
The CBN was encouraged by this success to extend its support to cultivation of rice and maize that the CBN extended the programme to other crops such as palm oil, tomatoes, among others.
Meanwhile despite many false claims that the ABP money was simply frittered away, total repayment under the Anchor Borrower Programme is presently at 52.39 percent of total exposure.
Thisday reports that the programme, which was introduced by the Emefiele-led CBN, has contributed significantly to increased national output of focal commodities, with maize and rice peaking at 12.2 million metric tonnes and 9.0 million metric tonnes respectively in 2021 and 2022.
The ABP has also helped to improve the national average yield per hectare of these commodities, with productivity per hectare almost doubling within the eight years of the programme’s implementation.
If Emefiele traducers claim that this is not enough, can they just shudder to think of what the situation would have been like if he simply focused on monetary policy and made no interventions?
Notwithstanding, this writer believes that the central bank will continue to show its commitment to stimulating access to finance for the real sector in line with its developmental mandate.
Under Emefiele, the Central Bank also released the sum of N23.70 billion under the N1 trillion Real Sector Facility to eight new real sector projects in agriculture, manufacturing, and services. Cumulative disbursements under the Real Sector Facility currently stands at N2.43 trillion, disbursed to 462 projects across the country, comprising 257 manufacturing; 95 agriculture; 97 services and 13 mining sector projects.
For those who think that the CBN had no business making these interventions, Emefiele says: “The independence of the CBN is enshrined in the amended CBN Act of 2007, and nothing is altering or in any way, affecting the independence of the CBN. When you say your mandate as CBN is price and monetary stability, it must be price and monetary stability that is conducive to growth, conducive to creating jobs and conducive to ensuring that industries remain alive, whereas the primacy of your mandate, which is price and monetary stability remains intact.”
The CBN interventions under Emefiele were not just good, they were necessary, and they flowed from total commitment and passion of a professional and an institution that share a common vision of providing solutions to knotty economic challenges within their purview.
Nigerians need to support policies and actions by institutions and leaders that promote growth and development and resist attempts by politically exposed persons and shadowy economic saboteurs to create narratives that demonise individuals whose only crime is doing the right things which such critics may not personally be able to take advantage of.