By Peter Okutu
Assistant Director and Head of the Internal Communications Division, Corporate Communications Department, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr Sam Okogbue, yesterday stated that the numerous interventions by the apex bank were responsible for the strengthening of the country’s currency and economic development.
Speaking during CBN’s fair entitled Promoting Financial Stability and Economic Development at the International Conference Centre, Abakaliki, Okogbue stressed that CBN’s interventions cannot be fully actualised except people go to the bank and open bank accounts for their benefits.
According to him, “but through the policies of the CBN, naira began to regain strength until we got to this present N360 per $1.
“However, all these things we are talking about, whether intervention measures, whether in agriculture or in small scale industries, cannot work except people go to the bank and have accounts.
“You cannot talk to a banker when your name is not among the account holders.
“Ebonyi State is one of the best rice producers in the South-East. I have been to Ikwo rice fields and I marvelled. Also, you have the best rice mills.
“We are here to announce that CBN is ready to rub minds with the Nigerian people and to bring to you some of the initiatives, policies and programmes CBN has come out with.”
“This is a little about five years our present governor assumed office which he has completed the tenure. When he came, he made a statement and said that he would want a people-focused Central Bank; what that means is that he wants Central Bank that works for the ordinary people in Nigeria.
“It is no longer the central bank where you see the face of the mobile policemen at the gate but the central bank for the farmer, akara fryer, the small scale businessmen and women.
“You will recall that in 2015, our economy was in bad shape. We were not growing economically; that means what amount of goods and services we were producing in our economy was going down. What the economist call the recession.
“And if it is like that, unemployment will be growing. Inflation will also be rising. We discovered that all over the world, the prices of commodity prices were falling including the price of oil, which is our main export.
“We looked around. CBN began to find out. We discovered that even the foods we eat in this country were all imported. Not just being imported, huge sums of money to the magnitude of almost $1 billion were always spent yearly for the importation of rice. Even toothpick, matches were imported and unemployment was growing.
“First,, the CBN came out with the policy that says these things which we can conveniently produce in Nigeria, whether food or other small industries, we can no longer give foreign exchange for people to import it. If you have the foreign exchange, go and import.
“That time, it was 41 items. We stopped giving foreign exchange and at the same time we started encouraging people, this rice, especially, that is costing us a lot of money…, we began to talk to people and came out with a policy we call Anchor Borrowers Policy so that people can produce rice locally here.
“This is because if we produce enough rice, that means, more people will be recruited to produce it. And people were shouting that they can’t see foreign exchange to pay their children’s school fees abroad; they cannot go to hospitals in India and wherever they want to go. But CBN devised our own internal policy whereby we were able to meet the foreign exchange requirement of the people.
“And you discover also, that because the prices of this oil we export fail, our foreign reserves were falling. And if foreign reserves were falling, it means the exchange rate will begin to fall. It got to the point that $1 was exchanged for N520. It was a very bad situation.”