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Unauthorised Biography of Godwin Emefiele

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By Sola Oni

On Thursday, February 2, 2023, the Business Editor, Channels TV, Ini John-Mekwa, literally put the National President, Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria, Mr Victor Olojo, on the spot during a short interview on zoom on the ongoing nagging issue of Naira notes swap . The apex bank mandates banks to pay new Naira notes . The banks complain of inadequate supply of the new notes . Innocent Nigerians are groaning under the yoke of the ding-dong controversy between the Central Bank and commercial banks.

Responding to a question that POS operators were taking advantage of Naira scarcity to charge those who are desperate to withdraw money huge interest, poor Olojo explained that his members also had to source for Naira notes in many places, including filling stations at a cost. One of the biggest headlines in Nigeria on Wednesday , October 26, 2022 was arguably the announcement by the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele that the apex bank would redesign some of the Naira notes and make them legal tender before the end of the year. This is a federal government. project of which the apex bank has the statutory obligation to execute every 5 to 8 years by global standard. But it is believed that in the last 20 years, such a comprehensive re-design has not been done. The rationale for redesigning N200, N500 and N1000 is to help curtail counterfeiting, enhance CBN’s visibility of money supply, promote financial inclusion, boost cashless transaction , reduce the expenditure on cash management, tame inflation and perhaps track some money launderers. In addition to the new design, the apex bank has announced the limit of cash that an individual or corporate entity can withdraw at the counter and the maximum daily withdrawal at ATMs.

The intent of the federal government looks good . But market watchers were quick to finger electricity and network challenges in many parts of Nigeria, especially the rural areas brick walls. They therefore cautioned the government to ensure a more conducive environment before the new policy becomes operational. This position was reinforced by the initial damning reaction of the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed that: ” We were not consulted. It was the announcement that we heard. But there are also consequences -we are looking at what the consequences will be. There will be some benefits but, there will be some challenges . I don’t know whether the monetary authorities have actually looked very closely at what the consequences are and how they will mitigate it”.

The die is cast . The Oracle has spoken. Nigerians are already contending with the consequences of a good policy erected on hasty implementation procedure. Ironically, by esprit- de-corps, Ahmed is now assisting our embattled Emefiele in the damage control tower to hawk a product that is fast becoming a hard sell. Voices of wisdom, including some national assembly members have passionately appealed for extension of January 31st deadline which they maintained was unrealistic to exit the old Naira and assume full swing of the new one. After much grandstanding,
Emefiele arrogantly announced that the deadline had been increased by just one week to 1OthFebruary and his master,
President Buhari assured that within seven days, every Nigerian would have access to the new Naira notes.

There are issues. The apex bank is threatening fire and brimstones that commercial banks should start paying the new Naira notes. But the banks are secretly crying foul that the new notes are grossly inadequate. In the process , some banks in Ogun State became conduit pipes by hoarding N4 million new Naira notes. It is curious how the new Naira notes develop wings to parties and money changers.
It is stressful to withdraw money from ATM why banks have to ration withdrawals for inadequate cash. It will not be surprising that the new Naira notes may surface significantly after the general election .

In every adversity, there are opportunities . Operators of POS took over the bank jobs . They charge an average of N2000 on N10,000 of the old notes as people are desperately in need of cash . The apex bank’s decision that people can still deposit old currency after the new deadline is covered by law but has defeated the objective of tracking money launderers.

Positive impacts of President Buhari’s promise of resolving the scarcity of new Naira notes within seven days is yet to be felt nationwide and time is progressively running out. Economic activities have been bruised. In the process, Emefiele who appears to enjoy controversy in his characteristic military approach has said the new deadline would not be extended. Nigerians are tired of threatened assurances but need action. Top analysts believe that the operational methodology of making the new Naira notes available is flawed. They argued that the apex bank should have released the new notes in tranches to ensure widespread while more N100 note is pumped into the system to supplement the new currencies in the process. This is the prayer of traders.

When Emefiele was appointed the Central Bank Governor by President Goodluck Jonathan on June 4, 2014, everyone was happy that a consummate banker from Ika South Delta State, who is fully armed with strong background in banking and finance has come on board. Upon assumption of duty, the cerebral pioneer staff and former Group Managing Director of Zenith International Bank rattled the financial market by blocking importers of 41 items, including toothpicks from the official forex window since the items could be produced in Nigeria. Due to his stella performance in his first term, President Muhammadu Buhari. joyfully extended his tenure in May 2019 for another 5-year term and the last. Emefiele appears to have become his master’s son and wears a toga of sacred cow in the Buhari’s Administration. If he does not have the backing of the presidency, he could not have announced the decision to print new Naira Notes without input from the Finance Minister. As a further confirmation of his strength in the power equation at Aso Rock Villa, in May last year, the Chief Priest of the apex bank downplayed the bank’s core mandate of promoting and maintaining monetary stability and sound and efficient financial system in Nigeria and validated
his rumored presidential ambition on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Sensing danger and real conflict of interest, INEC disqualified him from contesting at the Primary level. Emefiele did not only dare the public condemnation of his partisanship and massive call for his immediate resignation , but went to the High Court, Abuja with impunity to restrain INEC from disqualifying him. This can only be done by a sacred cow as his principal looked the other way. But the Court refused his prayers to participate in the Primary Election. The landmark judgement is a strong basis for a review of the relevant section in the Central Bank’s Act which is silent on eligibility of a serving governor to run for an election in Nigeria.

We write our history every second. On one hand, Emefiele shall go into the Nigerian version of the Guinness Book of Records
as the first governor of the Central Bank to serve for two-terms since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999. On the other, Emefiele is the first serving governor of Central Bank to seek court approval to enable him run for presidential election on the platform of the ruling party. Let us not blame the messenger but the message. It is obvious that the Emefiele is acting the script of his paymasters. The apex bank should not exhibit loss of focus under Emefiele. There are lots of gaps in the management of the Nigerian fiscal and monetary policies. The economy has been working on its head before Russia invaded Ukraine. We cannot continue to blame our economic woes on Covid-19 pandemic. Inflation rate was already double digit before the Covid. Nigerians had been contending with unemployment , low purchasing power and rising poverty before the pandemic. The Nigerian economic outlook for 2023 is gloomy. A global rating agency, Moody’s Investors Service has just dropped our credit rating from B3 to junk bonds. The agency has also stigmatized nine banks, including some tier-ones on creditworthiness. Although the finance Minister, Ahmed is contesting that the external rating agency did not understand the domestic economy, Nigerians are languishing in pains over exchange rate conundrum, forex scarcity, high cost of living, insecurity and many other physical and spiritual vices . The rating is a call to our economic managers to change their strategy. Where is our Economic Management Team ? We should not wait until our economy goes bankrupt like Ghana’s. How does the ebullient Lagos ‘Boy’, the powerful governor of the Central Bank want history to remember him ? Our problem in Nigeria is not dearth of ideas but implementation. I have not seen a big difference in the manifestoes of the three leading presidential aspirants. They are practically selling the same products.- all are pro-market, private-sector -dominant and apostles of removal of political fuel subsidy among others. What can distinguish whoever emerges the president after the election from the status quo and free Nigerians from the current land of Egypt is the implementation strategy.

Oni, an Integrated Communications Strategist, Chartered Stockbroker and Commodities Broker, is the Chief Executive Officer,
Sofunix Investment and Communications

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Anti-money laundering report rates Nigeria high

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GIABA, an inter-governmental action group against money laundering in West Africa, says Nigeria recorded significant achievements in its war against money laundering and terrorism financing in 2023.

GIABA said this in its 2023 annual report unveiled for ambassadors of member states, technical and financial partners on Thursday in Dakar, Senegal.

According to the report, Nigeria made progress in addressing the technical compliance identified in GIABA’s Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) in relation to various recommendations made to the country.

The report further said Nigeria had taken several measures to promote transparency and accountability in the administration and management of Non Profit Organisations (NPOs).

It added that the country also raised awareness in the financial sector about the vulnerabilities to Terrorist Financing (TF), developed and refined best practices in collaboration with the NPOs sector to address the deficiencies and challenge information on NPOs suspected to be at risk in terrorism abuse.

“Nigeria demonstrated that it has mechanisms for international cooperation and procedures to respond to international requests for information on NPOs suspected of terrorist financing or involved in other forms of support for terrorists.

“Nigeria demonstrated that it has a system for maintaining statistics on its Anti-money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) system,” the report said.

Despite the progress made in the country, the report, however, said the requirements for application of simplified due diligence measures were not consistent with the country’s assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing risks.

It added that the country did not demonstrate compliance with its internal procedures to designate target pursuit to United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR).

The report noted that GIABA had discussed and adopted the MERs of Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Guinea, which indicated that 88 per cent of the member states had been assessed.

It said the performance of Cote d’Ivoire showed that the country required major improvements in its AML/CFT regime in relation to its understanding of the risks, among others.

Similarly, the report said Liberia had demonstrated low effectiveness on 10 of the 11 parameters, noting that its shortcomings had impacted effectiveness such as lack of comprehensiveness of National Risk Assessment (NRA) in some areas.

It also said Guinea demonstrated low effectiveness on all the 11 parameters, indicating that the country required fundamental improvements of AML/CFT regimes.

Earlier, GIABA’s Director General, Mr Edwin Harris Jr, said this year marked the 24th anniversary of the fight against money laundering, “a mandate that has evolved to adapt to changes, and which now includes the fight against the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“GIABA is the response to the call of the international community for an alliance against transnational organised crime and its harmful effects on peace, security, stability and economic development of our member states.

“In June 2006, through relentless efforts and stakeholders’ mobilisation, GIABA was granted the status of a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-Style Regional Body (FSRB) and in June 2010 became an Associate Member of FATF.

“There is no doubt that our West African space is highly vulnerable to carry with it many consequences of money laundering and terrorist financing, and without a strong political commitment to combat it, the negative impacts on our economies will be enormous,” he said.

The director general said it was important for all the stakeholders to fully understand the need to take ownership of the fight and appreciate their contribution to building economies and by extension, the communities to achieve GIABA’s desired common prosperity.

“This is also in line with the core objective of the GIABA’s Strategic Plan 2023-2027 that focuses on sensitisation for the benefit of the various targeted audiences,” he said.

Despite challenges posed by the changing global trends and emerging threats, Harris said GIABA had focused its interventions on protecting national economies and their financial and banking systems from laundering the proceeds of crime and combating the financing of terrorism.

He said the organisation had also improved measures, intensified efforts to combat the laundering of proceeds of crime and strengthened national and international cooperation.

“Beyond information, these sessions aim to encourage the governments of member states to act in the relevant areas of the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing for the integrity of their economic and financial systems.

“By so doing, we are calling on you all to add your voices to the authorities back home, to strengthen the AML/CFT regimes in your countries,” Harris said.

GIABA is a specialised institution of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) responsible for strengthening the capacity of member states toward the prevention and control of money laundering and terrorist financing in the region.

In addition to that, GIABA also grants observer status to African, non-African states and inter-governmental organisations that support its objectives and actions that apply for observer status.

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Abia Assembly threatens to terminate contract with IVM over alleged breach

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Abia House of Assembly has threatened to terminate its contract with the Innoson Vehicles Manufacturing Ltd for allegedly reneging on agreement to produce vehicles for all the lawmakers.

The Speaker, Mr Emmanuel Emeruwa, made this known on Thursday in Umuahia, during an interaction with the media,  as part of activities to mark the one year anniversary of the 8th Assembly.

He regretted that members were yet to have their vehicles one year after their inauguration.

He said that the preference for IVM vehicles was informed by Gov. Alex Otti’s quest to promote local contents.

Emeruwa said that Innoson had received all the money required to produce vehicles for Assembly members, but  had reneged more that 10 times to produce them.

“So far, Innoson has not been able to produce or perform its own side of agreement.

“At this point, we are at the verge of terminating that contract and ask for our money back if he doesn’t perform within the next 15 days.

“This house is very serious about it and they cannot continue pacifying us after one year,” he said.

Giving a scorecard of the 8th Assembly in one year, the Speaker said that it had passed five out of 15 bills into law.

He said that the house had also made 40 resolutions and had received 46 petitions and 55 motions.

According to him, this Assembly is very active and before this time next year, more would have been achieved.

He said that the 8th Assembly had been very peaceful and had been enjoying a good relationship with the Executive.

The present Assembly which consists of 24 members, was inaugurated on June 15, 2023.

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Ogun Commissioner debunks housing scam, assures of transparency

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Commissioner for Housing in Ogun State, Jagunmolu Jamiu Omoniyi,  has debunked an alleged scandal in the housing scheme embarked upon by the government of Prince Dapo Abiodun, saying such allegation is an illusion by fifth columnists.

He added that individuals behind the alleged scandal are criminals in civil regalia who had tried unsuccessfully in the past to manipulate the laudable initiative, especially the ongoing Ogun State GRA Regeneration Schemes, especially that of Ibara Abeokuta.

It would be recalled that an online media platform alleged a scandal in the housing scheme, specifically that of Prince Court Estate, Kobape, Abeokuta.

The Commissioner, in a statement made available to journalists in Abeokuta on Thursday explained that the issue surrounding the delay in the allocation of the property to various applicants was caused by the present galloping inflation in the country, which subsequently necessitated little variations in the price of the property.

He added that the market value of the property has astronomically  gone up as high as N20m as against the N5.5m paid by the applicants, noting that the government had immediately activated stakeholders’ meetings to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

The statement reads in part: “In actual fact, those who are behind this fake news are individuals who had tried unsuccessfully in the past to undermine and manipulate the ongoing Ibara Housing Estate Regeneration Scheme for selfish considerations.

“They, therefore, resorted to propaganda and cheap blackmail to paint the government and its laudable projects black in the eyes of the people, not knowing that the good people of Ogun State are too sophisticated to fall for these machinations.

“The truth of the matter is that the delay in the process of allocation to applicants was caused by the sudden need for variations in the cost of the property as a result of galloping inflation as witnessed in the last year, as the cost value of the houses have gone up as against the N5.5m initially paid by the applicants, with such houses commanding up to N20m in open market.

“Consequently, the Government plans to engage all the applicants through various stakeholders’ meetings, as there will be an adjustment in the price of the property.

“To this end, those who are willing and able to meet up with the little adjustment will immediately get their allocations attended to and delivery structured within record time at the conclusion of the stakeholders’ meetings while those who cannot afford the adjustment will be free to request for instant refund of their deposits plus CBN’s prescribed interest rate.

“We want to reiterate that unlike before, the administration of Prince Dapo Abiodun remains committed to its avowed pledge from inception, which is to be transparent, compassionate, and considerate in all its dealings without exception.” he said.

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