THE federal government has given the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mr. Godwin Emefiele, kudos on his 41 items policy, saying that it has both saved the nation’s foreign exchange, made diversification a reality and created jobs for many Nigerians. Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele The position of the administration was expressed by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, at the launching of the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS), in Abuja, yesterday. According to him, the CBN policy under which it refused to give foreign exchange to importers of the affected items which could be produced locally was attacked by various interest groups but that it has become evident that Mr. Emefiele and his team have been justified. His words, “Before we even came in, I met the CBN Governor at Frankfurt, in 2014, it was my first time of meeting him and we got talking. I said to him, you are under attacks. He had just listed certain items for which he said the CBN would not provide foreign exchange for their importation. The missiles came from all over. Some said ‘fire him, he is unfit.’ I said to him, ‘carry on because you are doing the right thing.’ “I have always been very angry about Nigeria’s appetite for imports. We import too much and no country has ever become great because it’s a great importer. You are a great country because you are a great producer. “You buy only what you can’t produce or what you desperately need. Produce what you can produce and export what others need from you. Then your economy will become great. What happened to Nigeria over the years was that other countries found us as a very cheap source of foreign exchange for themselves. “Rice, sugar, pencil, toothpick, eraser, envelopes, tissue paper, honey, tomato pastes, red wine, champagnes and the rest of them. We were importing shiploads of them and we were clapping for ourselves. Virtually everything we were importing went back to sustain the economies of other countries, while bringing unemployment and poverty into our own country. “Today, our youths have nowhere to go and when you said let us slow this down some people said he was an enemy. But I said to him carry on. “In public life, what is good may not be immediately popular. A classic example was Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1964. He asked the Yorubas of the South West to pay a little more tax so he could educate everybody. People demonstrated and complained that he was taking their children from the farms; he was taxing them too much and he lost election. He had to move to Lagos as leader of opposition. “Is there anybody from the South West, today, who wouldn’t worship him because of what he did for education? Though it wasn’t popular then, looking back now, we know he did the greatest thing for his people. “When we came in, in 2015, the president mandated us to diversify the economy. But for the Anchor Borrowers Programme which came in on November 15, 2015, the rice and wheat production we are witnessing today won’t have happened with 5million to 17 million tons of paddy produced in July, last year. The only thing left now is support for milling and we are working on that.” In his address, Mr. Emefiele said that his resolve to make CBN people-centred remained firm. He said, “On my assumption of office in June 2014, my resolve and vision was to create a professional and people-centered Central Bank, with a focus on Development Financing. Core of that vision, was a CBN that will act as a financial catalyst by targeting predetermined sectors that can create jobs on a mass scale and significantly reduce our import bills. “The CBN under my purview has not deviated from that vision and has empowered entrepreneurs to drive growth and ensure that the twin goals of increased employment and poverty reduction are attained.” The AADS, he said, has been designed to create an ecosystem with the active participation of both the public sector, state governments in this regard and the involvement of the private sector. Under it, loans would be given to youths between 18 – 35 years to invest in the agri-business value chain at a single digit interest rate. The governor of Kebbi State, Alh. Atiku Bagudu, who is the Head of the Technical Sub-Committee, urged the CBN to partner with only Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) whose business models support agriculture, rather than including all banks, some which don’t have interests in the sector. He also urged the federal government to put in place tariffs and trade policies to protect Nigerian farmers from imports from nations where the governments subsidise agriculture.
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