The Centre for Integrity and Good Governance (CIGG) has condemned the threat by a coalition of civil society groups to embark on a rally against Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele.
A body called the Coalition of Civil Society Groups, CCSGs, has said it would mobilise over 10,000 civil society organisations (CSOs) to rally against the continued stay in office of Emefiele over what it alleged to be poor handling of the economy, naira swap policy, among others.
But CIGG in a press statement issued on Thursday by its Convener, Mr. Waheed Aderibigbe and Co-convener, Mr. Obinna Ukariaku, faulted the coalition of CSOs and the grounds upon which it threatened to stage the ant-Emefiele rally.
The Centre regretted that certain persons and their cohorts have been hiding under the guise of civil society advocacy to blackmail public office holders thus tarnishing the reputation of other noble CSOs. It said that the threat to occupy CBN smacks of ignorance and a lack of understanding of the dialectics of basic economics.
“Rather than blame CBN for the prevailing hardship with rising composite food index which, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, jumped to 23.22 percent in April 2023 compared to 18.88 percent recorded in the same period in 2022, Nigerians should query why crude oil, the nation’s major foreign exchange earner, is not refined locally. It is not the fault of Emefiele that an Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)-member nation would prefer to export her crude oil and import refined products at exorbitant prices,” the statement said.
The Centre attributed the fate of the naira to the low receipts from sale of crude oil and the poor export status of the Nigerian economy.
The statement said inter alia: “Any attempt to blame CBN or Emefiele for the poor state of the economy and increasing food prices shows a lack of understanding of basic economics. No nation will make significant economic progress if she imports more than she exports; if her primary sector is comatose and her citizens show a strange lifestyle of preferring imported products to those produced at home; and if the government (not the central bank) has consistently displayed a lack of vision and political will to diversify her economy rather than rely on a single product which she has no control over its price.
“This is what has happened to Nigeria. We are paying today for the negligence of yesteryears. Past Nigerian governments failed to take advantage of huge earnings from crude oil export to diversify the economy, build new refineries or turn around existing ones to save forex used in importing refined petroleum products,” CIGG said.
The Centre cited an instance where Nigeria exported $27.73 billion worth of petroleum products in 2020 while the value of the country’s petroleum imports in the same year was $71.285bn, showing that Nigeria’s petroleum imports exceeded its exports by $43.56bn during the period. Such deficit, the Centre said, defined the nation’s oil and gas industry in the past decades “because Nigeria neglected her refineries and voted for imported refined petroleum products at high costs.”
On the issue of naira swap, the Centre said: “We are disappointed that any person or group of persons would justify a weird monetary situation whereby as of September 2022, N2. 73 trillion out of the N3. 23 trillion currency in circulation, was outside the vaults of commercial banks across the country.”
The Centre said such currency retention and circulation imbalance can only happen in Nigeria where some corporates and crooked individuals have turned their offices and homes into bank vaults to warehouse naira notes against the grain of logic and law.
“In the case of the naira swap policy, Emefiele did what a responsible Central Bank Governor should do. The scarcity experienced in the early days of the policy was as a result of sabotage from some fraudulent commercial bank staff who hoarded and diverted the new notes to politicians and others with a penchant for running alternate banks in their homes and offices. This is against the good intentions which the policy was designed to achieve. This is not the fault of Emefiele or the CBN,” the statement said.