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Central Bank’s unholy concave with CACOVID

By Charles Onunaiju
04 December 2020   |   3:35 am
The Central Bank is among the most solemn institution of any country in the world because it is an unbiased umpire and policy engine that provides seasoned and reasoned roadmap to the direction of national economy...

The Central Bank is among the most solemn institution of any country in the world because it is an unbiased umpire and policy engine that provides seasoned and reasoned roadmap to the direction of national economy through the vital tools of monetary and fiscal policy. It is assumed to be above the various factions of economic players as it essentially seems to be beyond the whims and caprices of any group of economic players but should be seen to provide policy direction that enables all economic players, the critical ambience to maximize their contributions to the growth of national economy. Watching all economic players across the board with a view for appropriate policy options to incentivize productivity and discourage speculation and generally keep the national economic train on track is the key responsibility of the central bank.

Unfortunately, since the return to civil rule in Nigeria, in 1999, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been anything but solemn and unbiased umpire top policy engine it is supposed to be. From Mr. Charles Soludo, who among other inanities, totally unbefitting of a central bank organized chartered flights for members of the national assembly to the funeral of former President Obasanjo’s late wife, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo; to Mr. Lamido Sanusi Lamido, who turned the central bank to an opposition party. But all these pales to nothing to the current desolation of the bank by its current occupier, Mr. Godwin Emefiele.

The recent concave of the current central bank governor, with the mis-named private sector-led coalition Alliance against COVID-19 (CACOVID) is a dangerous compromise of key national institution in what appear to be a clear bid to capture the Nigeria’s state and its most vital artery. The CACOVID, a private-sector group in cahoots with the central bank is clearly not representative of the Nigeria’s private sector and its diverse entrepreneurial community. It consists largely of bankers, financial speculators and other such oligopolistic entities like the Dangote group.

Not even the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Chambers of commerce or organized medium and small scale business are part of the so called private sector led CACOVID. It is most worrying that the central bank that should regulate commercial banks and check their excesses which are very numerous, is rather in alliance and coalition with them. How can erring banks be checked, sanctioned and disciplined if their top-notch are cahoots with the central bank? A key mandate of Central Banks is to foster level playing field and healthy competition among all players in the economic sector. A central Bank that offered itself for a coalition and alliance with a faction or at worst, a clique of the broad players in the economy is certainly in an open subversion of its mission and a wanton abuse of its mandate.

On the 25th of November, the governor of the CBN and select private sector coalition partners unveiled a 100 billion life-line for the police among others. According to Mr. Emefiele, “to further strengthen the security apparatus, CACOVID has committed to provide over N100billion to procure equipment and gadgets for the Nigerian police force over next two years,” with a key figure in the coalition, Mr. Aliko Dangote adding that “with N100billion, we would import vehicle, we would buy munitions, we would buy so many things to retool the entire police….” To “retool the entire police,” and even buy munitions for it,” is nothing short of a brash and reckless ambition to render an already weak Nigeria’s state, terribly nominal and its people, modern-day slaves in the chessboard of desperate primitive accumulation of wealth by a tiny cabal.

The privatization of public and state institutions without the minimum requirement of public offer and competitive process is the specific invention of Nigeria’s elite for its vile and buccaneer capitalism, the most astounding victims of which are the broad private entrepreneurial sector, crowded out and even killed by the monopoly of a small clique with access to the state that they wilfully manipulate. No content with manipulating the state, the CACOVID alliance using the central bank as a surrogate now desperately wants to own the state, with a consequence that citizenship may in due course have to be redefined to suit their vision of a privatized republic.

Nobody knew what the CACOVID alliance or coalition members pay for tax and it is important that the relevant tax authorities should diligently audit these group and their individual corporate entities, publish their net worth and their tax returns because their unsolicited charity may not just consist only in their privileged access to critical advantages that should have been available to all players in the economy, but also an unreturned tax receipt to the public treasury. Small and medium scale business are daily buffeted with heavy taxes and assorted levies by several organs of state that distort their growth and pervert their constructive roles in contributing to the national economy, while the “big boys” who rub shoulders with high state authority do not have to worry.

The seemingly benevolent tissues of charity woven around the ambition of the CACOVID alliance, to reconstruct the Nigeria state and recast it, in their own image and as mere instrument of private accumulation of wealth must be diligently interrogated by patriots, including the working people and their representative organizations, scholars, private sectors operators and their respective representative institutions.

Citizens, including youths, students and women, whose citizenship are most likely to be redefined, in the event of successful and comprehensive state capture should closely study the shenanigans of the CACOVID alliance.

The Central Bank of Nigeria is in desperate need for rescue from the current stranglehold of the CACOVID alliance and the first step in that direction is to summarily sack Mr. Godwin Emefiele, so that he can focus more seriously on his role as the coordinator of the CACOVID alliance. The central bank is too solemn, sensitive and critically vital with an attribute of unbiased policy umpire whose core functions include setting the base rate, control of money supply through open market operation, banker’s banker that maintain their reserves and above all, the control of the nation’s reserve of foreign currencies.

To use the central bank as a soft under-belly for state capture has dangerous consequence for the economy and even national security.

Onunaiju is research director of Abuja-based Think Tank.