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Emefiele and Nigerians: Eating your tomorrow today

By Sunny Igboanugo on 27/09/2021

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Did you watch Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (NOI) arrive office on March 1, 2021 to take her seat at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as the helmsman? Surely, you, as a Nigerians would have been on the lookout for the usual paraphernalia of interest in such high offices – the car she came in, the long convoy accompanying her, the retinue of aides, the security cordon – the frenzy and all!

But was that the case? Did you notice the simple and nondescript car she came in? Did you notice that it was not a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV)? Did you notice the simplicity? Did you notice that there was no backup car? Did you notice that no other official accompanied her, either as an aide or security detail? If there were any, they were hidden somewhere not to be seen or noticed. Yet, the Director General of the WTO is one of the most powerful jobs in the world in the class of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

What does this tell you? Simple! Most great things come in small packages. Success does not lie in cacophony of flamboyance but in the quality of ideas, individuals and processes. This is what drives organisations.

As it is with institutions and organisations, so it is with countries. Unfortunately, the penchant for pointing fingers in the wrong direction has made it impossible for some Nigerians to appreciate that this is where the country and its people missed the road in terms of rapid economic growth.

Nigerians have failed to understand the meaning when the elders say that what is killing Oturu, the tree, is in its root. It simply means what is ailing this country lives within. This also includes the inability to ascend to the status of a world economy, which of course, is not in the absence of knowledge of the right thing to do to get there, but in the inability to shun the long, wide boulevard that leads to perdition in place of the narrow path.

Else, why should there be this noisy frenzy about the foreign exchange price that has seized the entire country? In the last few weeks the decibel of voices has increased over the crazy rise in the cost of foreign exchange. From the N350 to a dollar at the turn of 2021, the cost has soared, as at last week, to N550 to a dollar, raising a deafening din in the polity. Is it really that those shouting don't really know?

Of course they do. But here, there is a penchant for scapegoatism. That is why, instead of at least introducing other factors into the mix, all eyes as usual are in one direction as the hullaballoo has continues – the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). In the usual practice of pointing one finger at others and ignoring the other four pointing at them many Nigerians are practically asking for the head of Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the apex bank on a platter like the daughter of Herodias asked from her father, Herod the king of the Jews, the head of John the Baptist.

Such naysayers insist the CBN boss is the problem – the only problem. And they have thus, gone for his jugular. That the “remove Emefiele” mantra even echoed from the Wadata House, headquarters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), last week, indicates that it has also caught the political fire apart from being a function of a people travelling to Sokoto in search of what is in their sokoto trousers.

Yes! Are we that blind? Just imagine the picture the transformation of Okonjo-Iweala the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy to NOI of WTO. Picture the difference it would make to remove the lineup of the SUVs attached to her previous office alone.

Assuming there were 200 directors and heads of parastatals under the MOF where NOI used to head, all deserving of SUVs now having to drive the simple sedan, her official car at the WTO. Imagine the amount of forex that could be saved. Take for instance that each of the saloon cars costs N15million, at the usually inflated government figure instead of the N75million of one SUV. What is the figure?

Now, replicate the same for the hundreds of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government alone. What about the judiciary? Add the National Assembly! Is the picture registering? Then, go down to the states and let the governors and state officials copy the same example. Would we still be blaming Emefiele?

Just one government policy of a saloon car for every government official. That alone could solve the problem of forex by 20 per cent. Then, think of when those vehicles are all locally manufactured. What would the picture look like?

Now, whose fault is it that nobody has taken that route? Is it Emefiele’s fault that such a policy is not in place? Remember that there once was a time all official government vehicles were locally assembled Who is responsible for the reversal of that policy and at what cost?

Imagine the strides were successive governments to have sustained the policy. Would Peugeot Automobile of Nigeria (PAN) or Volkswagen of Nigeria (VON) be banished to history today? What about the vicarious negative effects in the automobile value chain – lost jobs, lost opportunities and all? Were those the fault of Emefiele?

That is just in one sector alone. What about the oil industry. How many barrels of oil are stolen and exported through the back channels daily? We hear they run into hundreds of thousands. Imagine how much that would have added to the public purse and how doing so would have mitigated the forex situation.

Was it Emefiele that ensured that Nigerian oil is never refined locally? Was he the one that shut down the refineries and made them redundant even with the billions of both foreign and local currencies spent on them, even under the supposed government of integrity?

How much has been allocated for the importation of petroleum products in the last six years or so? Did I hear $10billion yearly, which means $60billion during the period? Imagine if that amount was saved, ploughed back into the economy. Imagine what it would do to the scorching hunger for forex.

It is said that no less than $600billion are shelled out of Nigeria yearly through illicit financial outflow. Hear Bolaji Akinyemi, former Minister of External Affairs: “All those companies operating in Nigeria are also complicit in the transfer of these funds. And what most Nigerians don’t often realise is that if a foreign company allows you to take $100, be very clear in your mind that they’ve taken $500.

“So, it’s both sides. What I’d rather like to see is that as you’re pursuing foreign companies. I’m sure there are abroad, which will make a foreign company explain how all of a sudden it is coming back from Nigeria with may be $500million in profit on a contract. It simply doesn’t make sense.”

Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State, brought it home the more. Instead of harassing Emefiele, he says Nigerians should pity him for playing attack and defence at the same time – which is interpreted to mean dealing with both fiscal and monetary policies at the same time, when he should concentrate on one. Why are others sleeping on their jobs?

Of course, insulating Emefiele from errors would be like making him God. He is mere mortal, prone to mistakes, especially in economic matters where opinions are as diverse and divergent as those holding them. The question however is, if not him, what magic would the next person perform?

Osita Nwanisiobi, spokesman of the apex bank when confronted on the issue raised the red flag. Nigerians must beware! They might just be listening to a fifth columnist. “The rate in the CBN-unrecognised parallel market is not the reference rate of the naira. So, Nigerians should be wary of the activities of speculators who seek to manipulate the market for unpatriotic reasons.”    

As the saying goes, anyone desirous of being a millionaire should act like one. If Nigeria must live again, its economy must be competitive. Make the country safe again. Galvanise all sectors. Breathe life into the people and see the result.

Yes! God has given Nigeria abundance of oranges, but the process of making orange juices is that of the citizens. There, Emefiele will only play a role, but not all the roles!


Igboanugo, a journalist, wrote from Abuja



Posted on September, 27 2021

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