WHEN Godwin Emefiele assumed office as the tenth indigenous Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, in June 2014, he never equivocated about his desire to lead a Central Bank that spends its energies on building a resilient financial system that can serve the growth and development needs of the Nigeria economy. Coming to the table with almost three decades of banking experience, Emefiele unveiled a ten-point agenda, which spelt out his plan to make the CBN more people-focused.
He said the Bank’s policies and programmes would be geared towards supporting job creation and fostering inclusive growth, in addition to key macroeconomic concerns such as inflation and exchange rate stability. An unrepentant optimist about the potential of Nigeria and its citizens, Emefiele, in the past six years and six months, has worked closely with the country’s fiscal authorities, to ensure economic stability in Nigeria with its intervention in critical sectors of the Nigerian economy.
The CBN, under Emefiele’s leadership, has had to come up with new strategies to navigate the Nigerian economy through economic hurdles such as the challenge of foreign exchange inflow, the exchange rate, the economic recession, stagflation, financial inclusion and the gap in the value chains of majority of crops in Nigeria.
In spite of scathing criticism from some analysts who argue that the Bank has gone beyond its monetary policy mandate by delving into developmental issues, which the CBN Act (2007), as amended, recognises, Emefiele and his team at the CBN have remained committed to the patriotic goal of ensuring economic stability, through the Bank’s numerous interventions. Specifically, the CBN, within the period, has, among other bold actions, inspired the rice revolution through its famed Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, ABP, which has led to a near zero importation of rice into the country.
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The governor has also been at the fore of pushing for a diversification of the country’s revenue base with emphasis on agriculture and small businesses. Emefiele equally pushed through measures geared at reducing the huge sums spent by the country on importing items such as fish and rice, which went as high as N1.3 trillion a year. The tenacious implementation of the Bank’s policy of restricting access to forex from the Nigerian forex market to some 43 items, has led to huge improvements in the domestic production of those items and a reduction in Nigeria’s import bill. Pursuant to its developmental mandate, the CBN, either working alone or in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, has championed the establishment and implementation of various other initiatives all aimed at creating wealth and putting in place strong policies for creating jobs for the country’s growing youth population. These include: The Agri-Business/Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS);
The Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS); Youth Entrepreneurship Development Scheme (YEDP); The National Collateral Registry (NCR); and lately; The Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI).
In the course of Emefiele’s tenure as governor, the Bank has also introduced critical interventions such as the Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility, NEMSF, the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading-Payment Assurance Facility, NBET-PAF, the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative, and the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility, SANEF, among others, to directly support enterprises with huge potential for job creation, conservation of foreign exchange, import substitution as well as financial inclusion.
No wonder, President Muhammadu Buhari did not hesitate to recommend Godwin Emefiele for a second term in office, a rarity, considering that the CBN governor was appointed by a previous administration with different political leaning. With the advent of the corona virus pandemic, COVID-19, came global health and economic challenges, which Nigeria was not immune from. However, like every other proactive Central Bank in the world, the CBN stood up to be counted. Some of the measures taken by the Emefiele-led team to mitigate the adverse impact of the pandemic on households and businesses were:
A one-year extension of the moratorium on principal repayments for CBN intervention facilities; Regulatory forbearance granted to banks to restructure loans given to sectors that were severally affected by the pandemic; Reduction of the interest rate on CBN intervention loans from nine to five per cent; Mobilisation of key stakeholders in the Nigerian economy through the CACOVID alliance, which led to the provision of over N27bn in relief materials to affected households, and the set-up of 39 isolation centers across the country. Strengthening of the loan to deposit ratio policy, which resulted in a significant rise in loans provided by financial institutions to banking customers. Loans given to the private sector, have risen by over 21 percent over the past year. Creation of N100 billion Target Credit Facility, TCF, for affected households and small and medium enterprises through the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank;
Creation of a N100 billion intervention fund in loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners intending to expand and strengthen the capacity of our healthcare institutions; Creation of a research fund, which is designed to support the development of vaccines in Nigeria; and a N1 trillion facility in loans to boost local manufacturing and production across critical sectors. Also in line with its desire to stimulate the economy to boost employment across different sectors, the CBN recently introduced initiatives such as the Intervention Facility for the National Gas Expansion Programme; the Solar Connection Intervention Facility; and the CBN Facility Homes Financing Initiative.
Equally desirous of promoting a strong and credible payment system as well as deepening financial inclusion, the CBN has approved the licensing of more Payment Service Banks, PSBs. Only recently, the CBN governor announced measures aimed at deepening the foreign exchange market, providing more liquidity, and creating more transparency in the administration of Diaspora remittances into Nigeria. With this move, all beneficiaries shall have unfettered access and utilisation to such foreign currency proceeds, either in forex cash or in their domiciliary account. Even more inspiring is CBN’s role in the establishment of the N15 Trillion Infrastructure Company, InfraCo, Fund, an independently managed fund, set to drive a self-sufficient economy and to revolutionise infrastructural development in Nigeria. The InfraCo Fund is to close national infrastructural gap and provide a firm basis for increasing national economic productivity and growth. Godwin Emefiele believes that the future remains very bright for the Nigerian economy. He has consistently declared that the country possesses all that she requires to cement her rightful place as the largest economy in Africa. He strongly believes that proactive steps on the part of stakeholders in the banking and financial system in supporting the growth of sectors such as Agriculture, ICT and Infrastructure, will strengthen Nigeria’s ability to deal with the challenges that have been brought on by COVID-19, and stimulate the growth of our economy. It is in recognition of these bold moves borne out of rare passion and committed patriotism that Emefiele is being honoured by the Vanguard Newspapers.
The Man, Emefiele
Godwin Emefiele was born on August 4, 1961 in Lagos State, Nigeria. An indigene of Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State, Emefiele had his primary school education at Government Primary School, Victoria Island, a school that was formerly known and called Ansar-U-Deen PrimarySchool, Igbosere, Lagos. Upon completion of his primary education in June 1973, he proceeded to the Maryland Comprehensive Secondary School, Maryland, Lagos, where he obtained his West African School Certificate, WASC, in June 1978.
Emefiele studied Banking and Finance at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree (Second Class Upper Division) in June 1984, and in October 1986, he obtained Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree in Finance, winning the Best Graduating Student Award. He later engaged in Executive studies at Stanford University, Harvard University (2004) and Wharton School of Business (2005).
Leading financial institution
Before his banking career, he was a lecturer in Finance and Insurance in two Nigerian universities. Emefiele joined Zenith Bank Plc, at its inception in 1990, and rose to become Deputy Managing Director of the Bank in 2001. He served as Executive Director in charge of Corporate Banking, Treasury, Financial Control and Strategic Planning of the Bank. Emefiele also served as a director at Zenith Bank (Gambia) Limited. In August 2010, he became the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank PLC, and its subsidiaries in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, South Africa, China, and the United Kingdom.
Under Emefiele’s leadership, Zenith Bank strengthened its position as a leading financial institution in Africa, winning recognition and endorsement at home and abroad for giant strides in key performance areas like corporate governance, service delivery and deployment of cutting-edge ICT.On June 3, 2014, Emefiele assumed office as the tenth indigenous Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). As Governor of the CBN, Emefiele has been involved in various reforms aimed at financial system stability and sustainable economic development. A holder of the National Honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), Emefiele is married to Margaret Emefiele and they are blessed with children.
Emefiele is a recipient of the prestigious Zik Prize for professional leadership as well as several other awards from leading Nigerian and international media organisations, for the role he has played in the financial stability and economic growth of the country.