Appraising Emefiele-led team’s interventions against COVID-19

Mr. Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, heads a team of seasoned central bankers ably making stimulatory interventions to mitigate the Covid-19-induced health and economic crises. The high-quality responses the bank has put forward so far to navigate the economy through an unusual crisis speaks loudly of the caliber of executive capacity at its command.

The ability to grease the production functions of the economy and prevent the congealing of President Muhamadu Buhari’s movement to the next level agenda sums up the might the CBN team has brought into play this time around. 

Monetary and fiscal injections are the key elements of stimulatory interventions by fiscal and monetary authorities to stem the tide of coronavirus-induced economic lockdown. The CBN governing team has set in motion strategic interventions on the monetary side of the policy actions required to counter downward pressure on the economy and financial markets.

Significant consequences of the coronavirus outbreak on the global economy have heightened prospects for economic recession, depletion of external reserve and domestic inflation induced by exchange rate depreciation in Nigeria. The CBN team has stood up to its mandate of ensuring financial stability in the face of the serious adverse implications of the global pandemic facing the economy.

The bank’s purpose has been clearly defined – which is to apply a set of stimulatory interventions to cushion the adverse economic impacts of Covid-19 on households, businesses, financial institutions and other stakeholders in the economy.

The stimulus interventions began promptly as far back as March when the Emefiele-led management team slashed interest rates on all applicable CBN intervention facilities from 9 to 5 percent. This is to last for a period of one year to March 2021. Considering the volume of CBN’s interventions in critical sectors and activities, the measures represent an enormous stimulatory force on the beneficiaries and the economy.

The bank also extended its moratorium on all its intervention facilities by one year beginning from March 2020. This applies to intervention loans under moratorium at the time of this policy. Development finance intervention constitutes one of the major goals the Emefiele-led CBN team set at the onset of his administration in 2014. The CBN governor has so far used robust intervention funding to catalyze growth in critical sectors of the economy.

The bank has also increased the number of existing intervention funds by the creation of a N50 billion targeted credit facility. The fund is channeled through NIRSAL Microfinance Bank to households and small and medium enterprises hard hit by Covid-19. The focus is on hoteliers, airline service providers, healthcare merchants, among others. This is in addition to increasing the size of existing interventions to agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

A credit support package has also been organised for the health sector as a critical part of the bank’s Covid-19 response. This is to enable the operators meet increase in demand for healthcare services and products. The fund is targeted to empower pharmaceutical companies to set up or expand manufacturing operations in Nigeria and healthcare institutions to build or expand their operations in the country.

The apex bank has also taken a strategic step to weave some support around financial institutions. It has granted regulatory forbearance to all deposit money banks to enable them restructure loans to households and businesses most affected by the outbreak of Covid-19, particularly in critical sectors of oil and gas, agriculture and manufacturing. The idea is to take early steps to preserve the financial health of banks and ensure overall financial system stability.  

The bank has also taken steps to reinforce its loan-deposit ratio policy that lifted aggregate bank credit by N2.35-trillion last year. In view of the changed operating environment, the bank has positioned to support industry funding levels in order to maintain the capacity of banks for counter cyclical lending.

CBN has put forward a specific intervention of N1.1 trillion to support businesses affected by the global health crisis. The intervention is intended to fill the gap of a cutback of the federal budget by N1.5 trillion, a loss of close to N4 trillion in the equities market from the January peak and huge downside risk likely to discourage banks from lending this year.

The CBN’s management team has so far responded effectively to the adverse implication of the global pandemic on the naira exchange rate and external reserve. One big step that has saved the financial markets and warded off much pressure on the exchange rate is the bank’s containment of the activities of portfolio traders.

The CBN took innovative steps this time to limit the impact of the hit and run behaviour of foreign portfolio traders on the financial markets. This is the underlying factor that has limited losses in asset values in the equities market. It is equally a major stabilising factor in ensuring a fairly stable foreign exchange market despite the volatility in crude oil price.

Two other critical measures by the CBN’s team are generating counter cyclical forces that are helping to stem the threat of economic recession. The bank’s governor led the Bankers Committee to a commitment not to lay off bank staff despite the operating difficulties created by COVID-19 pandemic.

Another step to stimulate the domestic economy is the policy to cut off official foreign exchange supplies to importers of locally produced goods. These measures have gone a long way to support the naira exchange value and are generating a positive multiplier effect that is cushioning the force of economic recession.   

Godwin Emefiele (CON)
Mr. Godwin Emefiele took over the mantle of leadership as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in March 2014. In over six years of his leadership of the bank, he has pursued his vision of people-focused central banking. His policies and programmes have been geared towards job creation, reducing the high level of Treasury Bill rates and improving access to credit for MSMEs.

He has taken steps to deepen CBN’s intervention programme in the agricultural sector and build a robust payments system infrastructure to drive financial inclusion. He has also taken bold steps towards attaining key macroeconomic goals such as exchange rate stability, financial system stability and maintenance of adequate stock of external reserve.

Prior to his joining the bank, Emefiele spent over 26 years in commercial banking culminating in his tenure as group managing director/CEO of Zenith Bank Plc. The bank is one of Nigeria’s largest banking institutions with over 7,000 staff, about US$3.2 billion in shareholders’ funds and subsidiaries in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, South Africa, China and the United Kingdom.

Emefiele’s leadership strengthened Zenith Bank’s position as a leading financial institution in Africa, winning recognition and endorsement at home and abroad for giant strides in key performance areas of corporate governance, service delivery and deployment of cutting-edge ICT.

Before his banking career, he was a lecturer in finance and insurance in two Nigerian Universities. Emefiele holds degrees in banking and finance from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and is also an alumnus of Stanford University, Harvard and Wharton Graduate Schools of Business where he took courses in negotiation, service excellence, critical thinking, leading change and strategy.

Aishah N. Ahmad

Mrs. Aishah Ahmad is deputy governor in charge of financial system stability at the Central Bank of Nigeria, a position she has held since March 2018. She is responsible for leading the effort to promote a sound financial system in Nigeria, which is one of the principal objects of the bank as specified in the CBN Act. In this role, Ahmad is a member of the governing board and committee of governors at the CBN and chairman, Financial Institutions Training Centre.

Prior to her appointment as deputy governor, she was executive director, retail banking at Diamond Bank Plc with over 22 years’ experience as a corporate executive and finance expert. Her banking and investment career spans several financial institutions, including NAL Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc.

Her passion for finance fueled the attainment of several academic and professional qualifications over the years. She is a member of the Chartered Financial Analyst Association and Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association. She also holds a Master of Science Honoursdegree in finance and management from the Cranfield School of Management, UK and an MBA (Finance) from the University of Lagos. She obtained her B.Sc. in accountancy from the University of Abuja.

Ahmad is a strong advocate for female and youth empowerment; she volunteers at SOS Children’s villages and was former chairman, Executive Council of Women in Management, Business & Public Service – a leading women-focused NGO in sub-Saharan Africa. She is married and blessed with two sons.

Mr. Edward L. Adamu

Mr. Edward LamekekAdamu was appointed deputy governor in charge of corporate services directorate, the Central Bank of Nigeria in March 2018. He graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1981 where he obtained a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in quantity surveying with second class upper division.

He also obtained post-graduate certifications in project &programme management, strategic management, credit administration, knowledge management and human resource management. He is a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors and the Institute of Credit Administration.

Adamu began his career in the Unified Public Service in 1983 with the Bauchi State civil service. He spent thirty five years in the service, twenty five of which he spent in the Central Bank of Nigeria.

During his years in the Central Bank, he was seconded to the Gombe State Civil Service from 2008 to 2010 as senior special assistant and head, procurement management and due process office. He returned to the CBN in 2010 and was appointed director of strategy management department in 2012. He was later deployed to the human resources department of the bank in 2016 as director, a position he held until his retirement from the services of the bank in February, 2018.

Adamu is innovative, people-oriented, personable, visionary and creative with the courage to engage, inspire and influence people into collaborative action for collective good. He is an excellent communicator, negotiator and thought leader with insight and ability to provide transformative solutions to complex problems. He attended renowned institutions like INSEAD, IMD, Wharton, Chicago Booth, Palladium/Harvard and the United Nations Development Programme.

His hobbies include writing, mentoring and community development. He is happily married with two girls and two boys.

Folashodun Adebisi Shonubi

Mr. Folashodun Adebisi Shonubi is deputy governor in charge of operations directorate at CBN and has held the position since October 2018. He holds Master’s degrees in business administration and mechanical engineering, from the University of Lagos. He is a resourceful banker with over 30 year’s professional experience.

Prior to his appointment to the board of the bank, he was managing director/CEO, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System [NIBSS] Plc from 2012 –to 2018. Before joining NIBSS, he was executive director, information technology and operations, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, a member of the board of Union Homes and director, information technology and corporate services, Renaissance Securities Nigeria limited. At Renaissance Securities, Shonubi held responsibility for the group’s IT infrastructure in Africa.

Between 1999 and 2007, he worked in MBC International as deputy general manager and supervised the IT operational platforms. He also worked in First City Monument Bank Plc as vice president and in Ecobank Nigeria Limited as executive director.

Shonubi also had a stint with Citibank Nigeria Limited as the bank’s head, treasury operations. He has served in a number of sub-committees of the Bankers’ Committee, including the ethics and professionalism sub-committee.

Kingsley Obiora

Dr. Kingsley Obiora is deputy governor overseeing economic policy directorate at the CBN, a position he assumed in March, 2020. Prior to his appointment in the bank, he was an alternate executive director in International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC, USA. In this capacity, he was a member of the executive board collectively responsible for conducting the daily operations of the fund. He also assisted to represent the interests of 23 African countries, including Nigeria at the board.

He first joined the IMF through the globally-competitive “Economist Programme” in 2007. He worked in the European department as well as strategy, policy and review department in the course of his extensive work on exchange rate assessment, debt sustainability analysis, decoupling and spillovers, real sector analysis as well as several reviews of financial sector assessments. Prior to this, Obiora worked at the West African Monetary Institute in Accra, Ghana and the Centre for Econometric and Allied Research at the University of Ibadan.

While on secondment from IMF, Obiora simultaneously served as technical adviser to Nigeria’s National Economic Management Team as well as special assistant to President Jonathan’s chief economic adviser from October 2011 to May 2014. During this time, he played key roles in helping to shape the country’s economic policies on several fronts, including energy subsidies, power sector reform, measurement of job creation, architecture of development financing, diversification of the economy, oil price

benchmarking in the budgetary process, regulatory framework for doing business, port reform and asset-based economic mapping and modeling.

From June 2014 until July 2018, Obiora served as special adviser on economic matters to the CBN governor. In this position, he contributed to the overall analytical and policy work of the CBN, bringing his extensive international and domestic economic experiences to bear in helping the bank understand the ramifications of and deal with spillovers from external shocks emanating from the significant drop in global oil prices.

Obiora has a first degree from the University of Benin as well as master’s and doctorate degrees in economics from the University of Ibadan.