Some few weeks ago, the social media was awash with the news of the impending disengagement of Mr. Godwin Emefiele by the President, Muhammadu Buhari.
The news went so viral that the traditional media also caught the bug and gave it another coloration, with various headlines speculating on those that would succeed him. The fake news, as disturbing as it was, temporarily unsettled the polity and financial world, a reminiscence of what happened five years ago when the former President, Goodluck Jonathan, suspended the former Governor of the Bank and now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
While the international community held its breath, it however took about 48hrs for a senior aide in the Presidency, Femi Adesina, to dispel the fake news. Relief however came when Godwin Emefiele himself spoke during a meeting with Textile and Garment Manufacturers in his office where he announced the suspension of access to forex from the inter-bank forex window for the importation of textile, when he said he has not been sacked as his tenure expires in June 2019.
The peddlers of the fake news committed a grave blunder, forgetting or pretended not to be aware of the constitutional clause in the Amended CBN Act of 2007, which states that the President cannot unilaterally sack the CBN Governor without the 2/3rd mandate of the National Assembly, even if the Governor commits a grave infraction in the course of his official function.
The tenure of every CBN Governor is five (5) years and renewable if the President is impressed or willing to do so. However, since the current democratic dispensation in 1999, no CBN Governor has had a second term, unlike during the military regime. So, if Emefiele's tenure is not renewed, he will not be the first to leave office after a term.
But few things different about this man who on assumption of office clearly states his mission - 'to run a central bank that would serve the growth and development needs of the country', and so far he has not deviated. He was appointed when the economy was in turmoil with the global collapse of commodity prices in 2014 through 2016 and crash of crude oil prices to as low as $27 per barrel. He was unfazed with the development; rather he focused on his mission and has since become a strategic pilot of economic growth introducing various intervention funding policies for agriculture, manufacturing, MSMEs, power and energy sector among others.
Emefiele on realization of the precariousness of the economy, repositioned the CBN and redrafted its developmental financing policies aimed at strengthening the economy, the Agriculture Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS), the N220billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF), Small and Medium Enterprises Credit Guarantee Scheme (SMESCGS), Investors and Exporters' Window, Real Sector Support Facility (PSSF) and the innovative Anchor Borrowers' Programme (ABP) to revive the economy and make it strong to confront the hydra-headed high unemployment rate and widespread poverty.
He intervened with N213billion in power sector, the Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilization Facility for the purpose of settling outstanding debts in the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), for power to be available to drive the industrial sector.
Economic diversification in particular got a boost under Emefiele. He suspended access to forex from the inter-bank forex window for the importation of 42 items to encourage local production, and just few days past added textile to make it 43 items. He has promised that more of such decision would be taken in the nearest future on other items that can save the nation wastages of scarce foreign reserves, and more importantly, create jobs and wealth.
Emefiele-led CBN's support for President Buhari's government on economic diversification with the Anchor Borrowers' Programme (ABP) has been a game changing policy that has received local and global applause. The Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) said recently that rice farming revolution in Nigeria was made possible by the massive support given to local rice production by the CBN. According to him, Nigeria now produces 8,000 metric tons of rice in both dry and wet farming seasons. Recent report also quoted the Director General, Africa Rice Center, Benin Republic; Dr. Harold Roy-Macauley saying that Nigeria has taken the lead as the largest rice producer in Africa having overtaken Egypt. This revolution is about to be replicated in tomato with the recent tour of the CBN Governor to Dangote's Gino Tomatoes in Kano State. With Anchor Borrowers' Programme, Nigeria has emerged from being a net-importer of rice to becoming a major producer, feeding markets in the sub-region.
Juxtaposing Emefiele's performance with his predecessors since returning to democracy, no one pursued economic diversification as him. This earned him commendation and support from President Buhari who inherited him from previous administration. Even if he will not get the opportunity of a second term, he should not be hounded out of office only to be replaced by someone who may not have the same vision and zeal to carry on with the policies he has initiated - some have matured and others are maturing.
Irritating however is the peddled names of Godwin Emefiele's successor, must every appointment in the country be based on ethnicity or nepotism at the expense of merit? Policies initiated by him have benefited the country, but the selfish few are bent on seeing his back.
The President, Muhammadu Buhari had on few occasions commended the CBN for the support given to his government. The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh said 'but for the robust support of the CBN, the successes recorded in agriculture would not have been'. We should not see every appointment that some termed 'juicy offices' from political prism or the preserve of a section of the country. Would the heaven fall if President Muhammadu Buhari decides to give Godwin Emefiele a renewed mandate to assist his government in the on-going economic rebirth?
As Emefiele's first term winds down we would be seeing more of this campaign by vested interest bent on swaying the mind of the President for their preferred candidate. The sponsors of the fake news will do more; they did when he suspended 41 items and refused to float the Naira. They see Godwin Emefiele's continued stay in office for the next five years as a red card to irrelevance and banishment from our commonwealth's till which hitherto they had in their pouch.
-Oyetunji Ademola writes from Ibadan.