2022 Year-End and 2023 outlook

By Ali Smarts

In retrospect, year 2022 saw lots of twists and turns across different sectors whether for brands, fast moving consumer goods segments, manufacturing, banking and financial services sectors with many players recording new feats, breaking new grounds, just as a few others suffered eclipse as well as unmitigated losses as the case may be.This series of reports on the outgoing year and new outlook begins with the head honcho of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele.

Mr. Controversy of the year goes to Godwin Emefiele!

There were great expectations when Godwin Emefiele mounted the saddle as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). However, eight years down the line, the received wisdom out there is that he may not have discharged the responsibilities expected of him well enough.

This is why: since inception he has literally leapfrogged into one controversy or the other, thus fueling snide remarks that he is not a good advertisement of his name. The literary interpretation of the name ‘Emefiele’ in Igbo language simply means ‘don’t err.’

Certainly, in the eyes of people in some quarters, the helmsman of the nation’s apex bank may have erred in some way.

For many Nigerians out there, another word to describe Mr. Emefiele is Mr. Controversy!

Indeed, the head honcho of the CBN has been courting controversy in recent times, especially in the past 12 months.

Lamentably, under his stewardship, the nation’s financial ecosystem has witnessed an unprecedented turn of events; the outcome of which led to some far-reaching decisions and also left bitter taste on the lips of many.

In the view of analysts, the nation’s already traumatised economy, especially the financial sector has witnessed a lot of topsy-turvy turns under him.

Since his emergence as the CBN top echelon there have not been synergies between fiscal and monetary authorities, just as other serious fiscal policy decisions which dire consequences, most of which miscarried, have shown him as someone out of focus and direction.

Signs that things were no longer the same with the Delta State-born banker became apparent after his failed presidential bid under the All Progressives Congress in April, a development, which further brought him to public opprobrium.

Fast-forward to almost three months after the failed bid, the CBN governor began to reel out different policies as if they were going out of fashion; chief among which was the new naira redesign with a deadline set for this January.

Just when Nigerians were trying to stomach that decision, he came up with the cash withdrawal limit policy regime, a development, which analysts have argued may be his swansong, if the chapter of accidents that have attended that decision is anything to go by.

Political expediency masked in anger by the state governors as well as sponsored protest matches ostensibly to make the CBN reverse some of his unpopular decisions, especially the cash withdrawal limit, has been rather frontal.

This is just as informed sources say certain members of the cabal in the corridors of power apparently unhappy with Emefiele’s antics tried everything within their powers to contain what they saw as his power-mongering tendencies.

It would appear that Mefi, which is a moniker made out of Emefiele’s surname, is indeed fighting many battles all at once.

The media has been awash with reports of under-hand-deals in the sale of Polaris Bank as well as Union Bank, with allegations rife that he sold some of these assets to himself using proxies. Although the apex bank has issued some rebuttals, many critics seem not to be convinced that Emefiele has no case to answer.

Also at the National Assembly, for instance, some members raised red flags over the whereabouts of the controversial N89.1 trillion stamp duty receipts. A certain AdetolaAdekola, a financial expert blew the whistle on what he described as the unaccounted funds of N89.1 trillion supposedly in the coffers of the banks under Emefiele’s supervision in the last seven years.

At issue is that a member of the House of Representatives from Jigawa, GudajiKazaure, in a viral video, recently had allegedly accused the CBN governor of attempts to cover-up facts surrounding the collection of the controversial amount.

He also alleged that he was deliberately being denied access to present a preliminary report of a committee set up by President MuhammaduBuhari to look into the alleged stamp duty funds being withheld by the CBN.

Also in the viral video, Kazaure urged the president to either allow him to present his report to him or immediately order a thorough investigation of the alleged stamp duty funds.

But the MalamGarbaShehu, the president’s Senior Special Assistant on media and publicity, described the Kazaure’s Committee as illegal, saying the committee was dissolved on the directive of Buhari.

In the statement which reads in part, Shehu said, “In the first instance, the committee on the alleged loss of stamp duty funds he is talking about is an illegal committee; it was dissolved on the directive of the president.

“Anyone familiar with our constitution will find it curious that a member of the Parliament is the Secretary of an Executive Committee.

“It suffices to say that the entire net worth of the nation’s financial sector, the assets of the banking sector put together are not worth N50 trillion, not to talk of the kind of money he is talking about.

“CBN assures that there is absolutely no problem, whatsoever, with money from Stamp Duties.”

The presidential aide further revealed that earlier investigations carried out by government departments and anti-corruption agencies on the stamp duty accounts indicated that nothing sensational had been discovered by them.

However, the last straw that may have broken the camel’s back was the allegations made against him by the Department of State Service, who have laid a manhunt for him over terrorism financing in Nigeria.

To stave off the DSS, some human rights lawyers, civil groups including the Arewa Youth Consultative Movement raised the alarm over an alleged plot by the DSS to frame up the CBN governor on trump up charges.

The group, operating under the auspices of the Coalition of National Interest Defenders, alleged that to achieve the aim of getting Emefiele arrested, the DSS had secretly instituted a court action against him at a Federal High Court in Abuja.

Describing the alleged action of the DSS as a strange development in the history of the country, the group demanded the immediate sacking of the Director-General of the DSS to prevent him from setting the country ablaze.

The Convener of the Coalition, Tochukwu Ohazuruike, said the security agency filed a motion in court, accusing the CBN governor of terrorism financing and other crimes it described as economic crimes of national security dimension.

Challenging the veracity of the claims of the DSS, the Coalition said if truly the Director-General of the DSS, Yusuf Bichi, believed his claims, he would not have allowed Emefiele anywhere near the President.

He added that by allowing Emefiele to travel with the President, it showed the DG of the DSS did not believe Emefiele was indeed a terrorist and this therefore meant that the claims of the DSS in suit no: FHC/ABJ/CS/2255/2022 between the State Security Service and Emefiele was made with the sole purpose of forcefully and wrongfully removing the CBN governor from office.

Interestingly, just as the DSS is yet to back off his tail, the two legislative chambers of the National Assembly have also been unrelenting in their plans to cut Emefiele to size.

For the umpteenth time, the lawmakers have been sending him invitations for a meeting with them to make clarifications on economic issues, as well as re-visit the CBN Act, most of which he has continued to fob off.

But in a move described as both confusing, the Deputy CBN governor, Aisha Ahmad, who was scheduled to attend a plenary session with members of the lower legislative chambers a fortnight ago, announced a slight review of the new policy regime on withdrawal limit by raising the weekly limits for individuals to N500,000 and N5million for corporate organisations.

Instructively, the move portrayed him as pliant and easily malleable according to economic and financial experts who followed the whole scenario leading to the impending fracas with the lawmakers.

While Emefiele may have succeeded thus far in holding out and totally avoiding physical scrutiny and coming under the radar of the NASS, the DSS, it remains to be seen how he is going to wriggle out of this whole mess and for how long the federal government would keep backing him.


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