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Making the right choice for a CBN Governor

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele

By Bernard Okeke
The economic policy direction of the government of President Muhamamdu Buhari has been clearly outlined.  The struggle of the government to rescue the economy from recession and reboot it for the desired results have seen the constitution of the National Economic Council (NEC) led by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and the launch of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
These measures demonstrate the eagerness of government to vigorously pursue a robust economy for the benefit of the country. It’s clear, these expectations have not been fully met in the last three- four years of the Buhari administration.  There were understandable hiccups such as the drastic drop in the prices of  oil revenues, government’s major source of public finance and funding.
However, with the gradual improvements in revenues, the management of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which is responsible for fiscal policies and management in consonance with the economic focus of the government has performed below expectations. For instance, the priority of the Buhari Presidency in   fully diversifying the Nigerian economy through agriculture, to severe it from over-dependence on oil revenues has not been fully explored these years.
In the agricultural value chain, only rice production was minimally supported; while the vast majority of other foreign exchange earning cash crops in the country were untapped.   The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and his management team did not fully grasp that the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) under President Buhari angled for a situation where   every Naira which comes into the treasury is used for the good of the people, especially, the ordinary Nigerians.
Based on the foregoing, its safe to conclude that  it is evident that stifling policies have held back the manufacturing sector and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MAMEs)  have not fared better  in the last three years either.
But in launching the ERGP in April 2017, President Buhari rolled out a medium-term plan starting from 2017-2020 designed  to revive the Nigerian economy from  recession and stimulate  inclusive and sustainable growth. Its obvious bulk of the plans contained in this framework has spilled over to the years ahead.
The ERGP targeted the restoration of  growth through macro-economic stability and economicdiversification with more focus on agriculture, energy and MSMEs- led growth in industry, manufacturing and  other key services by leveraging science and technology. The ERGP also focused on investing in the Nigerian people by increasing social inclusion for the poor and vulnerable citizens, reducing unemployment and underemployment with greater focus on youth as well as investing in the  health and education.
And finally, the ERGP has a mandate tobuild a globally competitive economyby increasing investment in infrastructure and stimulating favorable business environment to attract investors.  But these aspirations have not been fully met or have remained a mirage in most of the areas because the CBN which has the  statutory responsibility is to exalt control and supervision of the banking sector, to monitor the balance of payments   in accordance with  the  demands of the FGN, evolve  and  direct a monetary policy along the demands of the federal budget has slacked.
President Buhari would  soon start his second term of four years. And  like he re-emphasized in his post-election victory acceptance speech; “The new Administration will intensify its efforts in Security, Restructuring the Economy and Fighting Corruption.”  Again, Mr. President has re-emphasized a direction of his government in the next four years.
Therefore, Nigeria needs a CBN Governor and management team that is alive and very active to speedily drive the economic vision of the government and the country. As the tenure of the current CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele draws to an end, his replacement should be a  tested, trusted and hard working technocrat who would neither bow to external influences against the country nor de-prioritise government policies, but pursue them with vigour.
It is germane for President Buhari to search in-house for someone within the establishment, who knows the job and with vast knowledge and experience of the various policies of the FGN and full understanding of the Nigerian economy and how it can be restructured as the government intends.
The experience in appointing CBN Governors since 1993 to date with the exception of Prof. Charles Soludo indicates that each Nigerian leader picks his candidate from the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of commercial banks in the country. Godwin Emefiele moved to CBN as Governor from the position of Zenith Bank’s CEO. There is need to attempt another formula by picking from the retinue of top performing senior civil servant/technocrat, as against government’s consistent posture of appointing a banker from commercial banks to lead the CBN.
Most of them sometimes prove to be counter- productive; devote too much years to study and understand government policies, plans and programs before finally settling down to do  the job. Also, engaging commercial banks CEOs in the past has shown that some of them are stifled by the affinity and favoritism issues to certain banks, especially their mother banks and thereby ruining confidence of foreign investors in investing in the country.
In essence, President Buhari should search for the next CBN Governor from the rich reservoir of core civil servants to find  a competent technocrat to take over  the job. The experts can be identified by  Mr. President’s own assessment  from the ranks of  those  he deems have performed creditably his economic and financial reforms.
Okeke, PhD, wrote this piece from University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
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