By Boniface Chizea
MY own Governor, it gives me great pleasure to write this tribute as you celebrate your diamond jubilee anniversary, having known you since your undergraduate days at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
You were among the group of Banking and Finance students that came on a short excursion to the United Bank of Africa where I was the Manager in charge of Strategic Planning. Our paths crossed again after you graduated and joined the banking industry, as the Deputy Managing Director, Zenith Bank and up on till you were announced as the 10th indigenous Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Let us go down memory lane to recount some of the landmark achievements you achieved in your sojourn so far at the Central Bank. What is remarkable for me is how you have managed to weather the many storms at the Central Bank, so much that, some of us in your corner were genuinely concerned about your health. This follows the outcry and criticism of Nigerians who bay for your blood, heaping all the problems of the country on you. They expect you to pull out the magic wand to make circumstances change overnight, particularly with regards to the falling exchange rate.
The fact remains that from the period you assumed office, the oil market which is the goose that lays the golden egg for Nigeria as far as the inflow of foreign exchange is concerned went soft as price went southwards. This is in stark contrast to the situation during the tenure of your immediate predecessor. Therefore, it was a battle stabilising the exchange rate. To make matters worse, most Nigerians on the sidelines are all professional “economists” who always feel they know better than any other person and are prepared to pontificate what they think should be the preferred policy response, and if you do not follow their cue, you are dubbed as clueless.
But you did not hide your intentions regarding your stand on how the rate ofexchange will be managed under your watch. You made it clear, I recall in your maiden press release that you do not believe in currency devaluation. As you rationalised, devaluation as a policy makes sense only in the context of export promotion strategy. Otherwise one ends up importing price increases leading to spike in inflationary pressure and galloping prices which is detrimental to the wellbeing of a generality of the population. Fortunately, President Buhari shared your views and it was, therefore, easier for you to stand your ground.
My governor, we must commend you for courageously banning extension of foreign exchange for the importation of over 43 items. Today, I must admit that the country is better for it as import bills have come crashing down. The struggle with managing the rate of exchange as should be expected remains work in progress as you have only recently courageously refused to continue to extend official foreign exchange to Bureau de Change operators that have constituted themselves as channels for the draining of foreign exchange supply as they have kicked aside their original mandate of playing at the retail end of the market, thereby, becoming big time players, competing with the banks and alsoturning themselves into channels for the movement of illegal funds and money laundering in the economy.
But my governor, you have scored the bull’s eye with your efforts at extending development finance to deserving sectors of the economy. Of course, the nay sayers have been at it, saying you have left the mandate of the Central Bank to push other matters. But your mandate is clear on this matter and you are very much on course. You have done quite a lot in this regard, even the blind can see.
As far as I am concerned, two issues exemplify your efforts in this regard; the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme that has made the country self-sufficient in rice with other items on the queue and your efforts as Nigeria confronted the pandemic. Without the contribution of the Central Bank, Nigeria economy would have been in shambles. When the fiscal authorities launched the Economic Sustainability Plan, but for the loan you extended it could have been a different ball game. You also ensured that the stability of the financial system was not endangered by extending various accommodations to the banks.
You extended attention to other important areas such as the development of local capacity for the manufacturing of vaccines. Not too long ago, INFRACO Company meant to enlist private capital for the urgent improvement on available infrastructure in the economy was officially launched by the President signing off on it and appointing key players. I am on record to have observed objectively that if we are looking for one institution that has been accountable for the country’s quick exit from the pandemic to resume growth, that it must be the Central Bank under your watch.
What more can one say, the President also admitted openly that it was one of his best decisions to have reappointed you as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria for a second term.
My governor, you are most welcome to the sixth floor of life; to now qualify in every sense to be addressed as an Elder. I know it is good feeling particularly when you cast your mind back to recall many others you know who have not been so privileged. We must learn to count our blessings always. Particularly as you celebrate in apparent robust good health with chubby rosy cheeks looking nothing like the stress you go through.
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It has pleased God for this event to occur not too long after you were reappointed for an unprecedented second term by a President who inherited you as a Governor and who has been severally accused as not known for his broadmindedness on such matters! My Governor, it is not a mean achievement and we must continue to thank and glorify God for his bountiful mercies.
Thank you for remaining the essential Godwin Emefiele. We bless God for the life you have lived and beg him to walk with you as your strength, to enable you do even greater exploits in the years ahead at the Central Bank of Nigeria to his glory and the better interest of a generality of our population.
My own governor, congratulations and many more Spirit filled happy returns in robust health, wisdom, understanding, prudence, charity, joy, serendipity and above all else the fear of the Lord. Remain in God’s Love. Amen.