Wednesday, 7th June 2023

Emefiele: Man in the eye of the storm

By Adolphus Aletor
22 February 2023   |   3:55 am
Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, will go down in history as the busiest and the most castigated CBN governor in the history of Nigeria.

CBN governor Godwin Emefiele (Photo by Olukayode Jaiyeola/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, will go down in history as the busiest and the most castigated CBN governor in the history of Nigeria. The past few days have seen attacks on commercial banks branches, which the Governor superintends due to banks’ failure to dispense cash in sync with demand across their ATMs and the counter due to the changes occasioned by the Naira redesign policy. The citizens perceived this failure as an attempt by banks to hoard cash, so they meted an unfair share of the outcome of the policy on the banks. Recent images and snippets of news have shown direct attacks on CBN offices in some locations in Nigeria as citizens now perceive that the current cash shortage at ATMs and banking halls is not the fault of the commercial banks but the CBN itself. A perception that President Muhammadu Buhari has now clarified.

On February 16, 2023, at 7 am, the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, made a public broadcast where he did not only take ownership of the policy but displayed an uncommon understanding of the current situation. He showed, through his broadcast that he understands the import of the policy, possible offside and backlash, and his political Will and courage to see it through despite the challenges. Furthermore, Mr President then understands that the citizens for whom he introduced the policy must not die before they reap the benefits; he “approved the CBN that the old N200 bank notes be released back into circulation and that it should also be allowed to circulate as legal tender with the new N200, N500, and N1000 banknotes for 60 days from February 10, 2023, to April 10, 2023, when the old N200 notes cease to be legal tender”. He also approved that all,” all existing old N1000 and N500 notes remain redeemable at the CBN and designated points” in line with Section 20(3) of the CBN Act 2007.

The attack against Emefiele reached an unprecedented crescendo after the Federal Government failed to heed a Supreme Court order granted without hearing from the CBN, restraining the bank from going ahead with its policy ending the use of the old notes as of February 10, 2023. While many accused him of Contempt and claimed that disobeying the land’s highest court deserves a severe penalty, others, however, argued that the supreme court erred in that decision because ex-parte orders were no longer fashionable, as you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence.

They argue that the court should have invited the CBN to defend itself before the order. Some people counselled that on the Contempt issue, people should stop crying more than the bereaved as it is only the court whose decision the CBN disregarded that can institute Contempt and that they should allow the Supreme Court to do so at their wish.

Emiefele is not new to such controversy. In his attempt to curb the exchange rate, he took drastic tactical steps by withdrawing the allocation of dollars to the BDCs. He went after institutions that he claimed to be manipulating prices by publishing exchange rates on their website. The majority applauded this action while the players groaned, criticized and affirmed that their exclusion would not make any difference. His Anchor borrower’s programme, primarily celebrated, came under heavy criticism when information on the default rate became public.

When he introduced the Targeted Credit Facility through Nirsal Microfinance bank to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 with an N50 billion fund, it was received well, even though beneficiaries took the access as their share of the national cake. Many criticized him heavily for his foray into politics and his attempt to justify his action by seeking court action to restrain his Board from carrying out any action against him. Some, especially politicians, have not seemed to forgive him for this action.

While many continue to criticize him and seek his sack or resignation, a few have argued that he cannot act on his own accord. When a child challenges a man to an open fight, look around; an adult is in hiding. There has been this consistent argument that the Governor is a Principal’s appointee and that Principal is President Muhammadu Buhari. It behoves the Principal to decide what his terms of reference are; if he falls short or is meeting and, at some point exceeding it. The decision to mark his script is in the hands of his Principal. Many have advised that he should be allowed to do his job.

The Governor is an astute professional of many unbroken years, consistently proving himself in the execution of visions in line with that of his Principal. He has shared in the success of excellent written and unwritten stories. You cannot take away these accomplishments from him, irrespective of your perception. It is not a mean feat. Not everyone gets appointed to the exalted office of the number one Banker. Many erudite and scholarly persons do not attain such a feat even though they passionately crave it.

Despite all the barrage of criticisms and castigation, he remained focused on his Principal’s goal and was finally vindicated and exonerated by the broadcast of February 16, 2023. The question on the mouth of a few now is; can critics focus their energies in the right direction now that they know who is behind the mask?