Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele, yesterday, appeared before the Senate Committee for screening to enable him serve for another five years, saying tough times await Nigerians due to impending population explosion.
According to him, Nigeria's population will hit 425 million in 2050, the third largest in the world, unless urgent steps were taken to control it.
Emefiele, who appeared before the Committee on Banking, Insurance and Financial Institutions, led by Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, PDP, Kwara South, said impending population explosion of Nigeria and attendant economic implications would create tough times for Nigerians.
Fielding questions from senators, the CBN governor, who painted a gloomy picture of Nigeria in comparison with other countries, said with the rapid population on yearly basis and penchant for sabotaging government policies on economic growth and development, there would be serious crisis, if serious actions were not taken to control population growth.
He said with the current rapid population growth rate, there was urgent need for development - driven monetary and economic policies devoid of sabotage in anyway.
Emefiele, who was overwhelmed by the endorsement from senators, however, explained why Nigeria has multiple exchange rates.
The CBN governor said he inherited a very precarious situation that led to the skyrocketing of the exchange rate to over N500 to a dollar in one year, but noted that after serious monetary policies, it came down to N360 and had remained so.
He promised to use his second term to promote the agriculture sector through the Anchor Borrowers programme, relying on Small and Medium Enterprises, SME.
He, however, lamented what he described as non-implementation of policies by Nigerians who were always looking for ways of circumventing it for their selfish interests.
Vowing to continue to punish anyone caught in the act, Emefiele said: "The road ahead for Nigeria is still rough and very tough. But I want to appeal to all Nigerians that a time comes in the history of a country where you have to learn to respect the policies and laws of the country.
"Part of the problem that we have seen in Nigeria is lack of respect for the policies of this country. Nigeria is very good at putting in place policies that are sound and workable.
"But implementation has always been almost zero. And it arises because we see sabotage. We see people, when policies are made, pick up pieces of paper about the policy, what they think about is how do we circumvent this policy?
"The Central Bank of Nigeria, if given this mandate, will push very hard to ensure that those who seek to undermine the policies of Nigeria without respecting the laws of this country will be brought to book under any circumstances. And that is why I said please pray for us because the road ahead is still rough."
Speaking further, Emefiele said the apex bank will strongly support the Federal Government in its diversification drive towards making the economy stronger and widen the scope for productive engagements of millions of Nigerians.
He specifically pointed out that the price of barrel of palm oil in the international market was higher than that of crude oil now, which would have been fetching the country huge foreign exchange earnings, had it not been abandoned since the 1970s when oil boom occurred.
"Aside from the Anchor Borrowers programme, we are also looking at special programmes targeted at wholesale growth of agricultural sector in Nigeria. Aside from rice and other small crop markets, we have started looking at palm oil because we believe that this country has a lot of potentials in palm oil.
"If you think about what this country was in the 50's and 60's, Nigeria controlled 40 per cent market share in palm oil industry, exporting its palm oil to different parts of the world. But because we found crude oil, we receded and abandoned it.
"For some of you who are very good in doing calculations, go and check today; the price of a barrel of palm oil is more than the price of a barrel of crude oil. So, what happened to our country?
"There are countries, when they have the opportunities in agriculture and also have opportunities in the crude sector, they didn't let their guards down. But unfortunately, we did and that is what we are paying for today. So, there are some external shocks in the crude oil market, we sneeze it but we only smile when the market is good.
"We will grow that market back again. And after that, we will go into cocoa in the South West area to be sure that what we are doing permeates all the nooks and crannies of this country, because we think we owe Nigerians this.
"We just came back from the IMF/World Bank programme in April. And in the World Bank's/IMF's World Economic Outlook, Nigeria is positioned as a country whose population will grow and rise to over 425 million people by the year 2050.
"That will present Nigeria as a country with the third largest population in the world after China and India and, indeed, surpass the United States of America in population.
My worry for Nigeria
"I worry and I do think that we all should worry that a lot of work needs to be done to make sure that we are able to put in place policies that will make life good for this 425 million people when we become the third largest population in the world.
"So, we from the Central Bank of Nigeria, from the monetary policy side, have come to the realisation that using the instrumentality of the Anchor Borrowers Programme where access to credit is being provided to our masses all over the country, it will be a way to generate employment and boost economic activity among our rural population.
"I visited one of the Asian countries recently and was happy with what I saw but I came out of the country sad. I was sad because I could see the level of development that this country has achieved over the last 50 years. And I cast my mind back and look at my country Nigeria that what have we achieved?
"This is what gives me the push that at my age of 57, I saw this country when it was good. Looking at the country today, I don't want to say it is bad but I want to say that we have a lot of work to do, because the country has no doubt receded somewhat.
"So from our side in the monetary policy, we will do everything possible to ensure that with the mandate bestowed on us, we will push this country forward," Emefiele said.
The CBN governor, who made clarifications on the exchange rate policy of the government which he said was not multiple as being alleged, said: "A couple of people have raised issues that we have multiple exchange rate. And we have said we do not have multiple exchange rate.
"When you talk of multiple exchange rate, you talk about divergence in exchange rate. Substantially today, our rates have converged around N360 to $1.
"Because the investors and exporters will know which is the dominant market for procurement of foreign exchange today, it hovers around that rate. But what you will find is multiple windows and we don't have any apologies for it.
"When you talk about multiple windows, the Central Bank has a responsibility to provide foreign exchange to everybody. What we saw that resulted in us creating multiple windows is to make sure that those who seek to travel and who will normally go to our banks to ask for foreign exchange but are turned back, will seek to go to black market to buy foreign exchange, we said no.
"We will allocate specific sums of money to you to allocate to people who want to travel. We will allocate specific sums of money to you to allocate to those who are into small and medium enterprise business. And we will allocate funds to you to give to those who are in your corporate sectors."
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had last week, written the Senate, intimating senators of his reappointment of the governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele, for another five-year tenure.
President Buhari in a letter to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, dated May 8, 2019, had said that the reappointment followed the expiration of Emefiele's first tenure.
"It is my hope that the Distinguished Senate will consider and confirm the nominee in the usual expeditious manner. Please accept, Mr. Senate President, the assurances of my highest consideration."
Senate Committee endorses Emefiele
During the screening, the committee expressed satisfaction over Emefiele's first tenure at the CBN.
According to Ibrahim, "I do not have any question for the Governor. I am overwhelmed. I wish you well and pray for you. May God continue to guide you.
"Now, we know the reason there are some videos on social media because in Nigeria, once you are a good person, some people will always try to bring you down. We will expeditiously take a report to the chamber for consideration. You can take a bow."
Kurfi Umaru, representing Katsina Central also commended the CBN governor for "a job well done."
"Let me start by congratulating the governor for his second term and also congratulate you for your articulate presentation. I commend you for a job well done," he said.
Philip Aduda from FCT said: "Mine is to wish you well and to pray to God almighty to grant you wisdom so that you can put the economy of this county on a pedestal of hope and prosperity. Congratulations." The committee, thereafter, endorsed his appointment.