My obligation to Nigerians is to ensure the economy rebounds- Emefiele

The Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, on Sunday said that his obligation to Nigerians is to ensure that the economy rebounds and that he is confident that the country will return to the single digit inflation rate in the near future following the rate of recovery of the Country’s economy.

Emefiele, in an interview with Arise Television, said that with the improvement seen in growth from the negative 1.7 percent in the last quarter of last year to the negative 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2017, the inflation target “is achievable in the course of time”.

The Apex bank boss who elaborated on the huge gains in exchange rate management and stability stated that such was made possible by some of the actions the bank took in the last couple of months.

He said, “In 2017, with the improvement, we have seen in growth, from the negative 1.7 percent in the last quarter of last year to the negative 0.5 percent in the first quarter of this year. We have seen exchange rate stability with some of the actions we have taken in the last couple of months. We do expect that if this trend continues, we should get better. Firstly,  with inflation trending downwards, we are hopeful that in the course of time, we will get back again back to single digit inflation.”

According to him, Nigeria had developed homegrown solutions to its economic challenges and that the feedbacks from those decisions are positive.

He continued, “ Why needed to adopt Nigerian option, because of our peculiar reasons. On inflation, the CBN had a target of six to nine percent, unfortunately, it grew to 18.8 per cent and I am happy it is coming down, and I am hopeful it will continue to get better. We looked at the foreign exchange market, and today we have ensured that forex is not N500/$1. It is now between N360 and N370/$1 and we will ensure it gets even better from where it is right now.”

“We want more people to in and invest in the economy, and that was why we introduced the Investors’ & Exporters’ Window. We want forex market that will be determined by demand and supply. It has helped in forex flow and led to the appreciation in the naira we are seeing today,” Emefiele said.

On the real exchange rate for the Naira, he said that despite any method used in determining the value of the local currency, the real effective exchange rate should not be above N325/N330 to the dollar.

The CBN Governor while commenting on the ban placed on forex for 41 items, said there was the need to take a look at what is being imported into the country.

“Why should we import toothpick, palm oil, and even rice? At a point in time, Nigeria was the largest producer of palm oil, controlling 40 percent of the market share. Why should we set aside forex for the importation of products that we can produce in the country? My view is that forex should be devoted to critical segments of the economy and for the importation of items that we cannot produce in the country. When items, such as palm oil, are imported, the local producers are made poorer.”

“When we import rice, we impoverish the rice producers in Abakaliki, Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina and other parts of the country. We need to look at that very seriously because God has blessed this country, with good climate, good weather, which should be taken advantage of. Since we can produce these things, let’s use them to feed our people so that we can save foreign exchange for the country,” he said

Emefiele said he grew up seeing the country’s economy thriving in the 60s and 70s, adding that he owed Nigerians an obligation to ensure that the economy rebounds. He believes that with the level of commitment shown to agriculture and rice production, many manufacturers were already indicating interest in the supporting government’s efforts.

“As we continue this plan, we have seen some multinationals coming to say they will join us in rice production, palm oil production among others,” he said, adding that the CBN would continue to support multinational that help in building the economy by supporting government’s efforts at promoting agriculture.

“If PZ Wilmar Nigeria needs foreign exchange because they have a little shortfall, I will give them because I have seen their contributions to the economy. Coscharis has acquired thousands of hectares of land in Anambra, trying to grow rice. And we were there last year, and this year, we will be there again to see what they have done. Dangote is also investing in rice farming,” he said.

The CBN Governor said that with  Kebbi, Jigawa, Sokoto, Anambra and Ebonyi states were showing lots of interest in rice production, the country’s  economy is on the road to full recovery.