New governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Olayemi Cardoso, may have opted out of some key development finance projects of his predecessor, Godwin Emefiele, a move that will halt the bank’s interventionist programmes that helped Nigeria exit economic recession twice in five years – between 2016 and 2020.
Dr Cardoso was appointed alongside four deputy governors for the CBN by President Bola Tinubu in September 2023 following the suspension of Emefiele and the voluntary resignation of his four deputies.
Cardoso had told a Senate session during his confirmation that he would drop some of the policies of the Emefiele-led administration.
Multiple sources privy to some of the management meetings held by Cardoso and his deputies said he emphatically stressed that his administration would specifically drop the bank’s N63 billion Centre of Excellence programme, Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, eNaira (a financial inclusion instrument) and the controversial currency redesign policy introduced to curb banknote counterfeiting and vote buying during the last general elections.
A reliable source at the apex bank told this newspaper that Cardoso said the ABP was characterised by fraud while disclosing that he would discontinue states’ engagement.
Cardoso, it was said, believes that most of the existing CBN unorthodox policies introduced to support the fiscal side and create buffers for the national economy are not public-oriented.
The new management has, however, said it would focus on the core mandate of the central bank – monetary and price stability, promoting sound financial system and exchange rate control.
“The man has cancelled many things, including state engagements,” the source who asked not to be named, said. “They want to focus on the core mandate of the CBN and promote pro-masses policies.”
Former President Muhammadu Buhari launched the CBN-initiated Anchor Borrower’s Programme (ABP) in Birnin-Kebbi, Kebbi State on November 17, 2015, with an expectation that the scheme would lift thousands of small farmers out of poverty and generate millions of jobs for unemployed Nigerians. It was an intervention programme to cut Nigeria’s N1 trillion importation bill which Buhari said was not sustainable.
A director in the bank said the decision to discard the programme would reverse the gains of the past eight years. He also said Nigeria is now back to the era of allocation of foreign exchange to the importation of items such as rice, wheat, milk and fish, among others, which will contribute greatly to the depletion of the nation’s foreign reserves, especially in the face of low non-oil revenue and burgeoning fiscal deficits.
Thousands of farmers have reportedly defaulted in paying back the ABP loans which, among other things, were expected to increase the banks’ financing to the agriculture sector, help smallholder farmers scale up, achieve food security and ensure self-reliance in rice production.
According to CBN’s 2022 financial report, lending through the ABP stood at N1.079 trillion as of February 28, 2023, out of which N0.960 trillion was due for repayment. About 502 billion has been recovered, with over N5 trillion still under moratorium.
The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme guidelines stipulate that upon harvest, benefiting farmers are to repay their loans with produce (which must cover the loan principal and interest) to an anchor, who pays the cash equivalent to the farmer’s account.
Centre of Excellence
Like the ABP, the Centre of Excellence project was meant to shore up the capacity of Nigerian universities. This intervention was planned for nine federal universities nationwide to enhance post-graduate studies in financial-related courses and the Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneurship Scheme (TIES) to train and finance entrepreneurship ideas of Nigerian university graduates. The first phase covers the University of Ibadan (UI), the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. Those three universities already have operational centres.
The eNaira is referred to as a unit of account, store of value and medium of exchange. The objective of the eNaira is to aid financial inclusion and advance the boundaries of the payment system to make financial transactions easier for Nigerians.
At the launch of the digital currency in October 2021, President Buhari said the e-Naira was expected to foster economic growth by offering easier access to capital and financial services which will increase economic activities at low/no interest transaction rate.
“It is also expected to provide secure and cheaper diaspora remittance option and make such transactions faster. Due to its traceability, the e-Naira makes it more difficult for individuals or organisations to indulge in fraud,” he stated.