By Babajide Komolafe, Peter Egwuatu, Udeme Akpan, Yinka Kolawole, Nkiru Nnorom, Godfrey Bivbere, Princewill Ekwajuru, Rosemary Iwunze
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, Governors of Lagos State, Ekiti, Bauchi States alongside eminent economists yesterday at the Banks’ Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) Summit outlined policy measures needed to sustain the nation’s economic growth.
Whilst warning against the temptation to be carried away by the exit from recession, they called on banks’ CEOs to join government efforts to make maximum use of the opportunity offered by the COVID-19 recession to reset the nation’s economy for sustainable growth.
The event which was organised by Vanguard Newspaper, in collaboration with CBN and the Bankers Committee, was attended by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and Governor Babagana Zulum, who was represented by Senator Aba Aji, Secretary, North East Governors’ Forum while Governor Kayode Fayemi participated virtually.
In attendance were also the Deputy Governors of the CBN namely: Mrs. Aishah N, Ahmad, Deputy Governor, Financial Systems Stability Directorate; Mr. Edward L. Adamu, Deputy Governor, Corporate Services Directorate; Mr. Folash Adebisi Shonubi, Deputy Governor, Operations Directorate; and Dr. Kingsley Obiora, Deputy Governor, Economic Policy Directorate
Banks’ CEOs in attendance were: UBA’s Kennedy Uzoka, Segun Agbaje of GTBank; Ebenezar Onyeagwu, Zenith Bank; Herbert Wigwe of Access Bank; Patrick Akinwuntan of Ecobank; Ifie Sekibo of Heritage Bank; Adesola Adeduntan of First Bank; Tomi Somefun of Unity Bank and Nneka Oyeayi-Ikpe of Fidelity Bank. Others were Lamin Manjang of Standard Chartered Bank, Kayode Pitan, Bank of Industry; Hamda Ambah, FSDH Merchant Bank; Yemisi Edun, FCMB; Wole Adeniyi, Stanbic IBTC; Nat Ude, Nova Merchant Bank; Benson Ogundeji, Greenwitch Merchant Bank; Kayode Akinkugbe, FBNQuest Merchant Bank; Hassan Usman, Jaiz Bank.
Others are Olaniran Olayinka, Keystone Bank; Innocent Ike, Polaris Bank; Walter Akpani, Providus Bank; Emeka Emuwa, Union Bank; Ademola Adebise, Wema Bank and George Oki, National Microfinance
The summit was also attended by top economic experts including Mr. Ben Akabueze, Director of Budgets in the Presidency, Dr. Doyin Salami, Chairman, Nigeria’s Economic Advisory Council, Mr Bismarck Rewane, MD/CEO, Financial Derivatives Limited, Dr Biodun Adedipe.
FG mulls zero taxation on machinery imports -Osinbajo
Speaking, Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, hinted that the Federal Government was considering a zero tax policy on machinery to enhance manufacturing productivity in the country.
Osinbajo stated: “Moving beyond the pandemic induced crisis, the first step in achieving sustained growth is to focus on productivity and value addition in every sector of our economy.
“For instance, in agriculture, our focus must be on processing of raw produce. Adding values means more jobs and the value chains make more money.
“Manufacturing is also key. We can be the factory for the continent. We’ve been discussing the prospects of zero taxes for machinery generally because machines mean production.
“In fact, the thinking of government generally is to make Nigeria a value-adding economy, especially in our areas of comparative advantage.
“And talking about comparative advantage, Nigeria must leverage its trading talents. We have some of the greatest traders and entrepreneurs in the world, such that we can become a global trading hub.”
The Vice President also called for improved support especially from the private sector in the operationalization of the proposed N15 trillion Infrastructure Company (InfraCo).
He said: “The President has now approved the establishment of InfraCo which will be a public-private partnership chaired by the CBN Governor to overcome our infrastructural deficits.
“I expect that this is a project that will excite the interest of financiers and bankers and I encourage you all to lend support to make it a success.”
Furthermore, Osinbajo called on the CBN to explore the opportunities inherent in block chain technology, noting that traditional banking must gear up for the challenges cryptocurrency will pose in the coming years.
Osinbajo stated: “On the very topical issue of blockchain technology, digital assets, and cryptocurrencies, let me say two things.
“First is that there is no question that blockchain technology generally and cryptocurrencies, in particular, will in the coming years challenge traditional banking, including reserve banking, in ways that we cannot yet imagine so we need to be prepared for that seismic shift.
“And it may come sooner than later. Already remittance systems are being challenged. Blockchain technology will provide far cheaper options for the kind of fees being paid today for cross-border transfers.
“Some reserve banks are already issuing their own digital currencies. Clearly, the future of money and finance, especially for traditional banking, must be as exciting as it is frightening.
“But as we have seen in many other sectors disruption makes room for efficiency and progress.
“Secondly, I fully appreciate the strong position of the CBN, SEC, and some of the anti-corruption agencies on the possible abuses of cryptocurrencies and their other well-articulated concerns. but I believe that their position should be the subject of further reflection.
“There is a role for regulation here. And it is in the place of both our monetary authorities and SEC to provide a robust regulatory regime that addresses these serious concerns without killing the goose that might lay the golden eggs.
“So, it should be thoughtful and knowledge-based regulation, not prohibition.”
CBN will fight smugglers to protect the economy—Emefiele
…Says weekly diaspora remittance up 500%
Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefie yesterday said that the apex bank is committed to fighting smugglers in its bid to protect the growth of the economy and ensure job creation.
Emefiele also announced that weekly Diaspora remittance has increased by 500 per cent to $30 million from $5 million, following the new policy of the apex bank on remittance inflow.
The Governor stated this, noting that the nation’s recovery from recession is very fragile and Nigeria must not be left out of the economic recovery projected to happen across the global economy in 2021.
To further enhance and sustain the nation’s economic recovery Emefiele said there is need for broad actions in four policy areas, including protection of the local economy from activities of smugglers.
He said: “ While the indicators provide positive signs that the economy is on a recovery path, GDP growth at 0.11 percent indicates that the economy still remains on a fragile recovery path.
“It is therefore imperative that we do all we can in 2021 to ensure that we build on the positive momentum and strengthen our efforts at stimulating growth. Let me repeat, with the 18 discovery and deployment of vaccines, 2021 will be a year of massive global recovery and Nigeria MUST not be left out. In order to drive and sustain this recovery therefore, we need to engage in the following broad actions including:
“Sustain the accommodative fiscal and monetary policy measures aimed at improving access to finance to households and businesses.
“Prevent a resurgence in COVID-19 related cases; Ensure that a significant number of our population is properly vaccinated; Improving Foreign Exchange inflows into the country.”
Speaking in the need to check activities of smuggling, Emefiele said: “We say this and let me use this opportunity to say this, the CBN has never said that the closure of the borders should be in perpetuity, yes the CBN advocated the closure of the borders because of some of the unfortunate incidence of smuggling of goods into our economy that were undermining the growth of our own local industries.
“We have started to see it. Yes we advocated and we support the opening of the borders. Yes we support it but we will continue to insist that the activities of smugglers must do something about it.
“The CBN will remain at the forefront to smugglers in this country. We will not allow smugglers of goods that are banned, goods that are not allowed, goods that are restricted, goods that can be produced in the country, we will not allow those goods into the country.
“We will collaborate with any security agency willing to work with us because we must protect our own local industry.
“It is only by protecting our own local industries that we can create badly needed jobs for our economy. It is only by protecting our own local industries and then making it easy for people to accept low priced products that we can see growth for our economy.
“Whether you are a Nigerian or foreigner but we all have a shared stake in the Nigerian economy. We all must work together, to see to it that Nigeria’s economy joins others particularly beginning from 2021 when we are beginning to see an opportunity to reset again, that we cannot be left out in the race. And anybody who thinks he can do anything to undermine economic growth and stability, we all must join hands to fight against this.”
Speaking on the upsurge in remittance inflow, Emefiele said: “The CBN has already taken several measures to increase the flow of diaspora remittances into the country using formal channels. In December 2020, we instructed all international money transfer operators (IMTOs) to provide remitters with the option of sending foreign exchange to beneficiaries in Nigeria.
“This new measure has helped to reduce the diversion of forex by some International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs), who had thrived from forex arbitrage arrangements, rather than on improving transactions volumes to Nigeria. Indeed, we have already seen remittances improve from a weekly average of about $5 million before this policy, to over $30 million per week. We believe this measure will help to significantly boost inflows of forex and create much more liquidity in that space.”
FG needs banks, others to fund critical infrastructure, others – Finance Minister
The Federal Government appealed for the support of banks and other financial institutions to fund critical infrastructure in the country.
The Minister of Finance, National Planning and Budget, Zainab Ahmed made this appeal in a goodwill address at the Banks’ CEO Summit saying that support of the financial institutions has become necessary, given the challenge of revenue generation confronting the government.
The Minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary Special Duties of the Ministry of Finance, Aliyu Ahmed Shinkafi said: “Banks have a critical role to play in economic development. However, the impact of the banking system on the rest of the economy depends on how it mobilizes savings, allocates the savings, monitors the use of the funds by firms and individuals, pools and diversifies risk, including liquidity risk, and eases the exchange of goods and services.
“When the banking system performs well, it tends to promote growth and expand economic opportunities. Economic growth is about enhancing the productive capacity of an economy by using available resources to reduce risks, remove impediments which otherwise could increase costs of doing business and hinder investment.”
To this extent, she said: “The country needs more revenue to finance its obligations to the citizens in the areas of critical infrastructure, and other socioeconomic programmes. There is no doubt that the country can no longer rely on oil as the major source of revenue generation. Hence, there is an urgent need to focus more attention on non-oil revenue sources.
“As managers of the economy, we have a collective responsibility to come up with strategies on how to steadily grow the nation’s revenue base amidst the current global challenges orchestrated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Maintaining a safe and sound banking sector is essential, given the key role that banks play in facilitating economic growth and financing developmental projects, particularly infrastructure, agriculture and other sectors. Most emerging market economies have been known to use the domestic financial institutions to execute real sector big ticket projects and financial institutions in Nigeria should not be an exception if we hope to achieve our developmental objectives.”
Lagos to leverage InfraCo to fast-track rail, ports development — Sanwo-Olu
…Lekki Port to take off 2023
Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-olu said that the state will partner with the newly formed Infrastructure Company of Nigeria (InfraCo) to facilitate development of mega infrastructures like rail and new ports in its bid to become a model city in Africa.
Sanwo-Olu disclosed this at the Banks’ CEO Summit, adding that the new Lekki Port will take off in the third quarter of 2023.
Sanwo-Olu said: “Our vision for Lagos now is to be Africa’s model city, a safe, secure, functional and productive state and it’s a vision that we have taught out very carefully.”
“Our mission is to eliminate poverty, promote economic growth through infrastructure renewal and development.”
Speaking on the infrastructure development of the state, especially new ports, Sanwo-Olu said: “The good news is that Lagos is building another port in Lekki and another in Badagry. The Lekki port should be on stream by the third quarter of 2023. The contractor is on track, they have done about 40 to 45 per cent of the work.
“Lagos has the capacity to take the two ports given the size of wealth that is coming to the city. So we need to decongest Apapa port.”
According to Sanwo-Olu, metropolitan Lagos accounts for 63 per cent of manufacturing firms in the country, hence should be classified as a global city.
He said: “Lagos sees itself as a global city so it needs to be competitive because when you are comparing cities of the size of Lagos, you don’t really compare it with cities in Nigeria but advanced cities globally.
“We are setting up a very strong agenda for ourselves and the drivers to meet our targets are human capital as well as education. Infrastructure is also critical.
“Lagos has got appetite to take part of the N15 trillion of the infraco company. In 24 months we should see rail being moved to Lagos. There are other five rail projects that we are going to be shipping out and InfraCo fund will be very viable for us to see how we can develop infrastructure.
“Before the end of the year we can start building the Fourth Mainland Bridge.”
Banks should liberalise lending policy towards Northern Nigeria- Gov Zulum
Governor Babagana Zulum has called on banks to liberalise their lending policies toward Northern Nigeria to facilitate economic growth of the region.
Making this call at the Banks’ CEO Summit, Zulum said poor banking support for Northern Nigeria has affected and weakened the agricultural and economic development in the region.
He said: “ The mainstay of the north we all know is agriculture but inadequate funding has continued to be-devil it’s development. Poor banking support for Northern Nigeria has affected and weakened agricultural development in the region.
“Banks being financial institutions for wealth creation are expected to assist agriculture by providing finance to improve production.
“In his writing: “Effects of poor banking support for the development of Northern Nigeria,” Mahammud Hadisa, argued that poor banking support for Northern Nigeria has caused the gross reduction in the output of agriculture.
“He argued that regulatory agencies need to improve on banking policy support for agriculture and banks need to establish agriculture lending units to train manpower with proper knowledge and capacity for working with formers to achieve the desired production capacity.
“I personally share Mahammud’s insight into the adverse effects of poor banking support in Northern Nigeria. It has remained the root cause of poverty in the rural areas.
“I therefore make a personal appeal to bankers for liberalisation of their lending policies to Northern Nigeria in order to promote the development of agriculture in the region.”
Collaboration among states needed to tackle insecurity, build resilient economy -Fayemi
Speaking at the event, the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, called for collaboration among the state governors to tackle insecurity and drive growth in the economy, saying that the issue of insecurity can only be resolved through such collaboration.
He said it was necessary for the state governors to look beyond their individual states and start to drive regional growth across neighbouring states in order to benefit from economies of scale and regional integration.
Fayemi also emphasised the need for a partnership between the federal and state governments in developing and implementing a national economic plan to increase the chances of success of such plans.
According to him, the state governors have identified reform of land management across states as a critical deliverable for 2021, saying that many states to deploy Geographic Information System, GIS and ensure that at least 50 percent of lands and properties in urban areas registered and geo-tagged.
He said: “We must look beyond our individual states and start to drive regional growth across neighbouring states to benefit from economies of scale, and regional integration. For example, security, which is a major constraint to economic activity, can only be resolved if states work together, share intelligence, and adopt a common approach to this problem. We will continue to encourage states to seek collaborative solutions to such problems, so the solutions can be effective and sustainable.
“We will also continue to engage with the federal government and its institutions, to ensure that states are an integral part of developing and implementing national economic plans. Only last week, we received a brief of the Presidential Economic Advisory Committee on its poverty reduction plan for Nigeria. We will study the plan in detail and share insight from our various sub-nationals that will enhance the plan, and ensure we also actively participate in its implementation.
We adopted a similar approach with the Economic Sustainability Plan, and the collaborative effort adopted has given more impetus to the plan, evidenced by its rapid implementation across states. One example of this is how multiple states have provided land to Family Homes Funds, and also delivered its workforce as guaranteed off-takers when the houses are built. Without the active participation of states, such an exciting plan to improve the housing stock in Nigeria would have a reduced chance of success.
“We must remember that a rising tide lifts all boats. As sub-nationals we must jointly and severally create an environment that makes it easier to do business, and as a result, attract domestic and international investors. We have invited the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) to partner with us on this, and the Book of States publication recently released by NIPC, is only a first step, which showcases the comparative advantages and investment opportunities across the 36 states.
We will deepen this by using peer lessons to adopt proven models of investment promotion, and ensure that no part of the country is left behind. With the adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), it is now more important that we focus on both national and sub-national business reforms. This is why we will also work with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBCEC) to monitor and advise States on how to make their jurisdictions more competitive.
“As I have said at different fora, many might argue that none of the actions we take at the sub-national and even national levels to revive our economy will succeed with a high level of insecurity; and I agree. However, I will repeat that we need to emerge from this crisis with a plan to create jobs and put food on the tables of our people; I repeat this knowing that by focusing on job creation and poverty reduction, we will reduce the lack of opportunity, which remains a big incentive for crime. Where unscrupulous characters insist on crime, we must be ready to tackle them with well-trained and appropriately remunerated security agencies.”
States must increase investment in education to tackle poverty, insecurity – Rewane
The 36 states government must increase investment to address the problem of poverty and insecurity in the country.
Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Bismarck Rewane made this call at the Banks’ CEOs Summit, citing inadequate investment in education as a major cause of poverty and insecurity especially in the northern part of the country.
Rewane said: “There is a twenty year gap between when you invest in education and when you get the benefit in prosperity. Lack of education leads to poverty, poverty leads to insecurity. The lesson here is that insecurity somewhere is insecurity everywhere and economic insecurity leads to political insecurity. The time lag between misunderstanding and violence is becoming shorter in Nigeria.”
Giving the ranking of states in terms of development, Rewane said: “When you look at the state by state analysis, the fastest growing state in the country is Abuja with 9.35 per cent. Akwa Ibom is next with 4.53 per cent, Rivers is 4.49, Delta 3.57 per cent, Bayelsa 2.78 per cent and Anambra 2.7 per cent. Three of the states are oil producing states and the federal capital territory is beneficial of fiscal dominance.
“The slowest growing states are Zamfara 0.97 per cent, Ebonyi 1.17 per cent, Ekiti 1.22 per cent, Jigawa 1.26 per cent, Osun State at 1.29 per cent”.
According to Rewane, the highest unemployment in Nigeria is in Imo state at 48 per cent that means five out of ten people are unemployed.
He said: “Akwa Ibom has an unemployment rate of 45 per cent, Rivers State 43 per cent, Delta state 40 per cent and Kaduna 39 per cent. The lowest unemployment is in Anambra state followed by Kwara.
“Poverty is extreme in the Northeast of Nigeria, not as intense in the North Central and the South South. poverty is intense in the North West and that is where you are having insecurity. If what you consume as food in a day is less than N800, you are considered poor. In essence, Nigeria is a nation divided by education.”
Tackle insecurity, unpredictability to grow Nigeria’s economy — Dr. Salami
The Federal Government and other stakeholders must address the challenge of insecurity and unpredictability in order to achieve sustainable economic growth.
Speaking at the just-concluded Banks’ CEO Summit, Friday, a leading Economist, and Chairman, Presidential Advisory Council, Dr. Doyin Salami, said: “The Federal Government and other stakeholders need to do a lot to impact the economy. For instance, spending needs to be more efficient. We also need to tackle insecurity in order to attract substantial capital into the country. We should create an enabling environment for growth. The economy has to be very predictable. I had my Ph.D. in 1989. I have studied the growth and should know the right environment that can produce it.
“Also, the inflation should be moderate, while cost, and price, should also be moderate and consistent. We have to manage our population properly. We have seen other countries, including India do so successfully. Look at India, the population was controlled when the ‘tea boys’ were given much attention.”
Specifically, referring to agriculture, he said: “Furthermore, we must give priority to agriculture. Look at the recent National Bureau of Statistics, NBS report, we have not yet been able to impact agriculture. It is a great error. We need to create or add value along the value chain and create jobs for our people. We must also be able to reduce losses. Currently, many agricultural yields are destroyed before, and even after harvest because we lack the capacity to preserve them.”
Salami, who stressed the importance of energy, said: “More so, Nigeria is a great energy nation. But we must know that the energy is in transition, meaning that we should be able to evolve from petroleum-related resources to cleaner fuels. The question is this: what can we use in our Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB? We should progressively be thinking about adding value to our energy development.”
According to him, “Again, we should also know that technology is key. We should have the required infrastructural base to drive technology. We should also think about the ways and means of using modern railways to make an impact on other sectors in the economy.”
He added: “The biggest challenge which I think we must overcome is the challenge of predictability. It is not that Nigeria is not inherently not a good destination, it is that investors are afraid of Nigeria. Let me repeat, investors are afraid of Nigeria.
“Very few can predict what we would do next and they are hugely unwilling to take the risk. For as long as we are perceived as a risky alternative, for so long are we not going to make the kind of progress that we desire to make.”
More private sector investment needed to drive growth – Akabueze
The Director General, Budget Office, Ben Akabueze has said that there is need for increased private sector investment to facilitate economic growth especially through infrastructure development
Speaking at the Banks’ CEO Summit, Akabueze said: “The Nigerian economy is currently facing serious challenges, with the macroeconomic environment significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is imperative to reposition the economy on the path of recovery, growth and resilience. To enhance growth, significant resources will be required to implement projects and make the economic environment conducive to encourage the private sector to invest.
“However, the COVID-19 Pandemic has also worsened fiscal challenges of governments with significant impact on revenue-generating capacity.
Government needs to implement innovative measures to improve revenue collections.
“Government also needs to enhance the partnership with the private sector. The private sector is encouraged to invest in infrastructure through concessions, PPPs CSR, etc.”
He stated further: “Economic recovery is characterised by a sustained period of improved business activities. So it is important that we all understand and appreciate this, so there can’t be a sustainable recovery without growth and to enhance growth performance significant resources will be required to implement projects and make the economic environment conducive for investment.
“The benefits of growth just to underscore the points that we need growth in this economy, like higher average incomes. How much growth is associated with an increase in the level of real income? If that is not happening you are really not having growth, and then you have all the others – lower unemployment, improved government finances, so we must see government finances improve if growth is occurring, improved public services, higher investments and reduced poverty.”