At the time the incumbent Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele assumed office seven years ago, the nation’s economy was already operating in fits and starts with high inflation rate, youth unemployment, the real sector operating at far below installed capacity and other sectors also confounded by their own challenges.
There was an urgent need to retool the economy in a fundamental way so as to check the downward trend. The bank, on his watch, expanded its mandate and added the diversification of the economy away from the subsisting mono-cultural tradition that depended heavily on crude oil which was not doing so well then. The vagaries of the oil market made Nigeria’s economy so vulnerable.
The foray of the CBN into agriculture and other non-oil minerals was an instant hit as the once prostrate sectors came alive with private sector interests that were galvanised by deliberate and measured financial interventions. Just as these were beginning to stabilise, the world was taken by storm as the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presented an unexpected global challenge.
The CBN under Emefiele, though taken aback by the devastating effect of the virus, however remained focussed and optimistic that its policies will provide a buffer that will absorb the shock of the pandemic and sustain the economy. The CBN was positive that this development, though troubling, presented a clear opportunity to re-echo a persistent message it has been sending for a long time, and at this time even more urgently so: the nation must look inwards if it must guarantee food security, high quality and affordable healthcare, and cutting-edge education for the people.
The bank came up with intervention programmes for agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure, health, the creative industry as well as the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The CBN channelled funds at single interest rates to operators in these sectors and is implementing positive policies that are expected to see their operations come back to life.
It is important to point out, in our view, that within the period under review, the CBN authorised commercial banks to give up to N2 billion as facilities to youths interested in going into agriculture. The loan, which comes under the Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme (AADS) at five per cent interest rate per annum, was created by the regulator in collaboration with state governments to engage 370,000 youths in agricultural production.
In this sector, the Anchor Borrowers Programme, (ABP) has attracted in our opinion, the most attention because it, in more ways than one, revolutionised the nation’s agricultural sector and gave farmers a new hope and fresh impetus.
So far, CBN has committed over N631 billion to the programme that focuses mainly on farmers cultivating cereals (rice, maize, wheat etc.) cotton, roots and tubers, sugarcane, tree crops, legumes, tomato and livestock.
The impact in agriculture is clearly evident in the volume of rice, beans and maize the nation now produces which have significantly reduced the import bill on food.
Similarly, in line with its COVID-19 response plan, the apex bank created a N100 billion credit facilities for the health sector, under the Health Sector Intervention Fund (HSIF), another N100 billion Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) and N1 trillion intervention fund for the manufacturing sector. From January 2021 to date, the apex bank has disbursed over N157 billion for 29 real sector projects. Within the same period, the bank has disbursed another N26 billion for 10 projects under the covid-19 manufacturing intervention scheme (CMIS) while over N255 billion has been disbursed for 78 projects under the CMIS from January 2020 to May 28, 2021.
Furthermore, the CBN has already funded over 91 healthcare projects amounting to over N97 billion under the health sector intervention fund (HSIF) as at May 28 2021. Also, it has disbursed over N111 billion to 29,023 beneficiaries under the AGSMEIS as at May this year while another N3 billion was disbursed to 341 beneficiaries under the Creative Industry Finance Initiative (CIFI) within the same period.
Under the Targeted Credit Fund (TCF), this newspaper is informed that over 548,345 beneficiaries have received a cumulative sum of over N253 billion. It also disbursed over N3 billion to 7,057 NYIF beneficiaries and N85 billion to746 MSMEDF beneficiaries within the same period. It is interesting to note that these intervention programmes are spread across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT.
However, there is the challenge of loan recovery as many beneficiaries are wont to assume that those facilities are political largesse that are not meant to be repaid. But the CBN is trying to disabuse the minds of those harbouring this thought. Over and above the difficulties posed by loan repayment, is the insecurity as well as separatist movements across the country.
Even with these, there is no doubt that the CBN under Emefiele, in the last seven years, has placed the economy on a path of growth and development.