Whose Interest Is Vice President Osinbajo Serving?

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Whose Interest Is Vice President Osinbajo Serving? …Cheap jabs at the CBN will not earn the Vice President the political relevance he desperately seeks Finally - and suddenly too, our ‘apolitical’ Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has found his voice! It is truly a miracle that the Professor has woken up from his deep slumber and he is now firing from all cylinders. However, like most discerning Nigerians, we insist that the mission and intentions of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo can barely be disguised: at a time, Nigeria, like other nations of the world is working towards rebooting its economy which was slowed down by the effects of the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic, the Vice President has chosen to break ranks with President Muhammadu Buhari and his government to appeal to mob or base sentiments. The Vice President has suddenly become ‘a man of the people.’, The sad truth however, is that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is the biggest ostrich in town; he is lampooning the monetary and fiscal policies of a government he serves in as second-in-command. At what point, really, did the Vice President start disagreeing with the policies and programmes of the Buhari administration. To our knowledge, in the last seven years, Prof. Osinbajo has been swallowing hook-line-and-sinker politics, programmes and policies of the Buhari administration. So what suddenly changed? We have in particular noticed that in recent times, the Vice President has been directing his newly acquired populist pretensions at rather soft targets: The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and its Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele. This is so cheap and way below the belt. It is no secret that the Central Bank of Nigeria has since the pandemic struck, been working round the clock to help stem the slide of the Naira against the Dollar, in particular, deploying fiscal and monetary policies. The drop in the value of the Naira, like most educated Nigerians are well aware, is as a result of a cocktail of factors that can not be blamed on the CBN alone. But it is convenient and politically savvy for the VP to scape goat the CBN simply because that is what the mob (potential voters?) want to hear. At the just ended Mid-term Performance Review retreat for Ministers, Managers of Nigeria’s economy and other top officials of the Federal Government presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President turned the the solemn forum to a soapbox of sorts to grandstand, or better still, campaign, this time against his boss, the President and an administration that he is not just the second-in-command but de facto head of the economic management team. At the retreat, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo brought to the open, what should, at best be discussed at either within the confines of the Federal Executive Council Meeting, National Council of States meeting or the Economic Management Committee meeting. The Vice President chose a public forum to suggest that there is no synergy among persons and institution managing Nigeria’s economy under President Muhammadu Buhari. Rather shamelessly, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of Nigeria chose a retreat that was being streamed live on radio and television globally, to openly ask the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to adjust the naira exchange rate “to be as reflective of the market as possible to boost supply.” We were not surprised when embarrassed experts, who are familiar with the workings of the CBN and what the Bank has been doing to shore up the Naira and the economy at large, immediately rose in stout defence of the CBN Governor and in fact many of these experts were quick to caution that the unguarded public utterances of the Vice President in recent times, especially at the retreat, could further damage the nation’s economy that is struggling to rebound from the effects of the pandemic and other factors that are way beyond the control or even the function of the CBN. Vice President Osinbajo said the naira exchange rate was artificially low and lamented that this was discouraging foreign capital inflow to the country. But we are aware, and the CBN under Emefiele has repeatedly explained to Nigerians that no currency is managed at fixed rate value and that the value of of any currency is usually a reflection of the strength of the economy of the concerned nation. Other than the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria’s economy is plagued by huge borrowing by the Federal Government, excessive demand for dollars, subsidy of petroleum products, balance of trade deficit and rising cases of insecurity. How come Professor Osinbajo failed to address these critical issues? At the retreat, Professor Osinbajo called on the CBN to review its strategy on forex and ensure that the naira value reflected the market reality, rather than the “artificially low” rate that was deterring investors from bringing foreign exchange into the country. “As for the exchange rate, I think we need to move our rates to be as reflective of the market as possible. This, in my own respectful view, is the only way to improve supply,” the Vice President said. Truth is that the nation’s economy is worse than most people think. If the CBN “floats” the Naira as being suggested by the Vice President, then be rest assured that the cost of goods and services would skyrocket. The Vice President also elected to use such a public gathering to tell the world that officials and agencies of the President Buhari administration are working at cross purposes. “There must be synergy between the fiscal and the monetary authority. We must be able to deal with the synergy; we must handle the synergy between the monetary authority, the CBN, and the fiscal side. Sometimes, it appears that there is competition… If you look at some of the interventions, you will find that those interventions are interventions that should be managed by ministries,” the VP said. He continued: “The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment should handle MSMEs interventions, and we should know what the CBN is doing. In other words, if the CBN is intervening in the MSME sector, it should be with the full cooperation and consent of the Ministry of Industry. Sometimes you will get people who are benefiting more than once because we simply have no line of sight on what is going on, on one side.” Professor Osinbajo further shocked Nigerians and the world when he retorted: “We cannot have a CBN-led economic plan and a government-led plan. We would end up duplicating, and even there may be beneficiaries of grants benefiting multiple times.” If truly this dichotomy exists, why is Prof. Osinbajo speaking up for the first time in about seven years. The Vice President even chose the forum to blame the Central Bank of Nigeria and other banks for failing to implement the N2.3trillion post COVID-19 stimulus package, thereby causing “economic pains” for Nigerians. This claim by the Vice President is not true at all. It is even an ungodly claim. On the contrary, the CBN under Emefiele has been receiving genuine accolades for the masterful way the Bank went even beyond its core mandate to help navigate the nation’s economy out of the unexpected effects of the novel pandemic. The far-reaching interventions of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in various sectors saved the Nigeria’s economy from a deep post-COVID-19 crisis. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the CBN introduced and implemented a suite of measures aimed at reducing the risk to financial stability, boosting demand and economic growth, ameliorating the impact of the pandemic on some sectors and obligors, such as the Oil & Gas, Manufacturing, Agriculture, pharmaceutical and hospitality sectors. Key among the measures taken were the approval of regulatory forbearance to banks to restructure their loans to severely affected sectors; provision of liquidity support to banks; provision of the COVID19 Targeted Credit Facilities (TCF) disbursed to individuals and households through the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank, several CBN intervention funds targeted at the real sector, and the mobilization of the private sector to contribute to the National response under the CACOVID Initiative. Other complementary measures included actions to enhance the resilience of the banking industry to the threat of cyber risk and deployment of an industry wide Cybersecurity Fusion Centre (C2FC) and Malware Information Sharing Platform (MISP) to address the growing cyber risk by providing a unified interface for cybersecurity intelligence sharing and enhanced incident response capabilities. On the contrary, Nigerians easily recall that in the first tenure of the Buhari administration, all the Social Investment Programmes, such as N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers, National Home-Grown School Feeding and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programmes (GEEP) were warehoused in the Office of the Vice President. However, given the very abysmal achievements of these programmes in the Vice President’s Office, President Muhammadu Buhari was compelled by the exigencies of the time to move them out of the VP’s office and domiciled them in a full Ministry under a substantive Minister with the full complement of civil service structure, which is today the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management. In the same regard, President Buhari, two years ago, stripped Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of some of his powers over some Federal Government agencies under his supervision. Indications were that these agencies were being poorly supervised under the Vice President. President Muhammadu Buhari also had cause to disband the Economic Management Team (EMT), which at the time was headed by the vice president and replaced it with an Economic Advisory Council (EAC). So, just Like President Muhammadu Buhari knows too well, we now know that Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is not the genius that he is portraying himself to be. Our advice is that the Vice President should not, through his persisting attacks on the CBN, sacrifice Nigeria’s fledgling economy on the altar of populist politics and glaring grandstanding. ABDULMAJID MUSA National Chairman,NIGERIA ECONOMIC ADVANCEMENT FORUM MERCY DANIEL( Secretary)

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