Economic lockdown looms as MPC faces January quorum challenge

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The economy may be grounded early next year as the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which gives directions on interest rate and other monetary issues, faces the likelihood of not being able to perform its functions.

This is because the committee may not be able to meet next year owing to quorum issue.

On Tuesday, Suleiman Barau, retired as CBN’s Deputy Governor (Operations), making it legally impossible for the MPC to meet.

In all, there are currently only five members available on the committee.

Going by the second schedule of the CBN Act, for the committee to form a quorum, six out of 12 members should be available.

Another Deputy Governor, Adebayo Adelabu (Corporate Services), has served notice of disengagement ahead of the 2019 governorship election in Oyo State.

Sarah Alade, who was Deputy Governor for Economic Policy, had earlier retired in March 2017, but her replacement, Aishah Ahmad, is yet to be confirmed by the Senate since her nomination in October 2017.

Significantly, five external members of the committee ended their tenures in November, 2017, and their replacements are yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

The MPC is the highest policy-making committee of the CBN.

It consists of the governor of the bank as chairman, the four deputy governors of the bank, two members of the board of directors of the bank, three members appointed by the president, and two members appointed by the governor.

The MPC has the mandate to review economic and financial conditions in the economy; determine appropriate stance of policy in the short to medium term; review, regularly, the CBN monetary policy framework and adopt changes when necessary, and communicate monetary/financial policy decisions effectively to the public and ensure the credibility of the model of transmission mechanism of monetary policy.

In April, Buhari announced the appointment of Ummu Ahmed Jalingo, Justitia Odinakachukwu Nnabuko, Mike I. Obadan, Abdu Abubakar, and Adeola Adetunji as non-executive directors of the CBN board.

In October, he nominated Adeola Festus Adenikinju, Aliyu Rafindadi Sanusi, Robert Chikwendu Asogwa, and Asheikh A. Maidugu as new members of the MPC, but the nominations are subject to Senate’s confirmation.

The Senate refused to screen Buhari’s nominees in line with its July 4 resolution to suspend all executive confirmation requests until Ibrahim Magu was removed as the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The Senate, it was reliably gathered, was taking the decision to suspend indefinitely the screening and confirmation of the MPC nominees until the presidency relieved the acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, of his duties.

The Senate said Magu was unsuitable for the office.

The same treatment, it was learnt, is the reason the newly nominated Deputy Governor of the CBN, Aishah Ahmad, whose name had been forwarded to the Senate for confirmation, had not been confirmed since two months ago.

In accordance with the law, the nominees would not take office in January, as planned, until they were cleared for office by the Senate.

A dependable source told newsmen that the senators who were still angry with the presidency over the retention of Magu have vowed that henceforth no nominee of the president would be attended to until Magu was sent packing.

It was further gathered that the angry senators had impressed it on the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, that any attempt to manipulate the parliament, under any guise, would boomerang.

The decision to refuse confirmation for the MPC nominees, if carried out, would affect negatively the important duties of the MPC.

Prominent Lagos-based economist, who preferred anonymity because of his closeness to the committee, said the committee may not be able to meet in January if the present situation remained the same, since any discussion by and recommendation from such meetings would be seen to be a nullity.

“I think all well-meaning Nigerians should prevail on the members of the National Assembly to drop their standoff with the president and take the issue of confirmation of deputy governors and other members of the MPC as a matter of public importance.

“If this is not done, any decision of the committee will be seen to be null and void. There is no way the committee can meet.”

Cyril Ampka, an Abuja based economist, said the time was here for Nigerians to see the real enemies of the country.

“If you look at this critically, I think this is the time to see the real enemies of Nigeria.

“Both the presidency and the National Assembly are guilty in this regard.

“I can feel the grouse of the National Assembly about Magu.

“In my own opinion, I will advise the president to look for a new EFCC chairman and allow the standoff to end for the economy to move forward,” Ampka said.

In the opinion of Dr. Rasheed Alao, Head of Department of Economics, Adeyemi College of Education, “An important organ of the monetary aspect of the economy should not be politicised as it is currently.

“If by January this is not resolved, the economy will be grounded. I can’t just imagine Nigeria’s economy without monetary direction.

“If we really want to reap the gain of exiting recession, then we need to prevail of President Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly to look into this matter urgently.”

However, foremost Economist, Mr. Henry Boyo, said the stance of the senators may not have any adverse effect on the meeting as decisions at the meetings lately have been politicised.

“To me, I don’t think it is important if the membership is twelve or seven.

“This will not affect the meetings. I don’t see any difference because most times the decisions arrived at in meetings are always influenced by government.

“It will change nothing if they are complete or not. It is the people who are influencing them that will have their way.”

However, Dr. Boniface Chizea, MD/CEO, BIC Consultancy Services, said the issue rests with the president more than the Senate.

“In my own view, I think the president should find a way of making the leadership of the National Assembly see reason why they should confirm these nominees. The two parties should shun politics here and be nationalistic in their approach”, Chizea said.

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