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OPINION

Ortom’s Second Term and The Task Before Him

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Benue State Governor Ortom
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As Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom takes oath of office today to mark the commencement of his second term, our correspondent CHRIS GAGA, examines his first term in office and the expectations of Benue people from his last term as governor.

It was on the 29th May 2015 when governor Samuel Ortom ascended the throne of power as the 5th democratically elected governor of Benue State.

Today makes exactly four years after, and governor Ortom having rewarded a renewed mandate by the sovereign people of Benue State will be taking the oath of allegiance for the second time as executive governor of the food basket state.

Of course his reelection by the people of Benue state may be a clear pat on the back and a repose of confidence that the governor has tentatively performed optimally during his first term, after all, reelection into such offices ought to be the collective resolve of the people to reward hard work in terms of performance. Thus, whether this was the basis for his reelection or not, it is probably not the crux of this analogue.

While the event of his inauguration for the second term is historic, many Benue people may rarely see his second term as a time for consolidation, but rather a time for the governor who is said to have performed poorly in his first term to cut his stint in the annals of development of the state. No doubt, the expectations from the Benue masses are high.

Considerably, a cursory throwback on governor Samuel Ortom’s first four years in office becomes key as he renews his oath to occupy the Benue Peoples House in the next four years. This perhaps may give the people insights into what the governor is set to achieve for the state in his last term.

Memorably, the governor in his first term had a developmental blueprint christened, “Our Collective Vision for a greater Benue.” This blueprint had five cardinal areas of focus which encompasses; Agriculture-driven Industrialization, Steamed Based Education, Security, youth empowerment and job creation, and Improved Infrastructure. But while the governor has obviously done well and is applauded in the area of Security, it has remained a tantalizing mirage as to whether any of the other cardinal areas of his blueprint have been implemented even averagely.

Largely, his efforts in tackling insecurity is the greatest achievement of his first term. This is cognitive of the peoples Anti-Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law as firmly implemented by his. administration. His amnesty program which yielded minimal impact is never to be left out, same as his dexterity in handling internal and inter-border disputes recently.

Although the governor has listed his achievements in the various sectors of Agriculture, education, health, infrastructure, youth empowerment and employment, his critics and many other Benue citizens say such achievements as highlighted in his scorecard are not feasible. His critics may be fair, they may not.

But while it will be highly unfair for anyone to say the governor has failed woefully in his first term, it is definitely not out of place to say the state deserve better developments than where it is staggering presently.

Positively, the Benue State governor is not unaware of the task ahead of him in his next four years in office. He has admitted repeatedly that costly “mistakes” were made in his first term, but “lessons” have been learnt, and he was ready to relaunch Benue into its pride of place amongst other states in his second coming.

Of course, one of the major problem governor Samuel Ortom promised and was expected to tackle in his first four years, which is the welfare of Benue workers has remained unsolved but rather degenerated. Benue workers are now owed salaries to the tune of 5 months(state), 10 months(Teachers), 11 months(LGs), and over 14 to 18 months(pensions) respectively as against 3 months(state), 4 months (local government) he inherited in 2015.

Investigations also have shown that the first term of governor Ortom administration is alienated from the rural areas. There seems to be little or no government presence at the grassroots, a situation that has caused gross decay in rural infrastructures such as feeder roads, bridges, lack of electrification and other basic amenities in spite of claims that his government has carried out over 800 water projects in the rural areas. Obviously, the 23 local governments of the state deserve better transformation in his second term.

The hopes and expectations are still high even as the governor takes oath of allegiance to mark the commencement of his second term in office. For many, it is time for Samuel Ortom to make the people reposed or redevelop confidence in his government through robust and physically viable developmental projects that tends to transform the state and improve the livelihood of every Benue citizenry.

Expectedly, our Correspondents spoke to some Benue citizens who spoke on their expectations from the second term of governor Samuel Ortom One of them, an elder statesman and former permanent Secretary in the state, Engr. Peter Torjum, expects the governor to take development to the rural areas of the 23 local governments of the state. He also wants the governor to address the issue of welfare of workers and pensioners in the State.

“The governor should take development to the rural areas because his first four years witnessed low presence in the rural areas of the state. So he should focus on the grass roots.

“Let him bring in technocrats who can perform very well so that his second term will not be abysmal. He needs competent hands run his second term. It is key.

“In the area of welfare, I know the salary is regular now, except for the arrears. So he should try to pay we pensioners our wages as at when due, that is most important. And he should then pay some gratuities and pensions arrears. All these things if he pays then we will be very happy and support him to run his second term very well,” Engr Peter Torjum said.

A youth, Mr. Terseer Bamber wants the governor to cash in on agriculture which is the main stead of the people so as to improve the economy of the state.

“The expectations of an average Benue person is development beyond what we have seen in time past. We expect job creation, infrastructural development and most importantly assuming our position in the comparative advantage we have, which is agriculture. In the past four years of Ortom administration, we have not seen these things as Benue youths, come to limelight.

“So my expectations in his next four years is to see him prioritize these areas I have mentioned. First of all, commercializing agriculture, moving to improve infrastructure both within the cosmopolitan centres of the state and the rural areas, and then most importantly paying particular attention to youth employment and empowerment, because if that is not addressed, we are definitely sitting on a time bomb,” Mr. Bamber noted.

Mr. Odaudu Owoicho opined that, “as a Nigerian and an indigene of Benue State, my expectations from Ortom’s first and present administrations have been high. But, like the saying goes: “Expectations Kills”, so, for this singular reason and experiences of poor leadership from the past political administrations, I expect nothing, but if this present leadership led by the Samuel Ortom’s (PDP) gives us a new direction and thought, I will expect nothing but the best. More particularly in the areas of salary payment and augmentation, job creation/youth empowerment amongst other things – industrialisation, infrastructural development and other basic amenities for the wellbeing of the people.”

Another Benue indigene who preferred to be addressed as Martins, said bluntly that governor Ortom has nothing to offer Benue judging by his antecedents in his first term and even others positions.

“GOING BY HIS ANTECEDENTS IN THE THE FIRST TERM, I DON’T EXPECT MUCH FROM HIM, BECAUSE HE HAS SHOWN THAT HE LACKS VISION.  This is without sentiments, but as a keen observer, going by his past records, he has nothing to offer Benue.

“I have been a keen observer of Ortom’s leadership right from when he was chairman of Guma local government in the early 90s.  He did nothing, I think he is just very good in media propaganda. I see,  he has demonstrated incapacity so I can’t expect much from him,” he said.

Miss Annabel Zegeor said she expects alot from Ortom’s second term, but especially welfare of Benue workers and pensioners in the State.

“I expect him to be very focus and particular about salary of workers especially the arrears. People are suffering much. The pensioners are also suffering; he should look into their issue.

“And again I suggest the governor choose new advisers because he couldn’t do well in his first term to be honest. No one knows, the kind of advisers he had then been part of the reasons for his poor performance. So he should take care of that, if he wants to do something.

“For me, even though we are not expecting too much from him, he should at least make Makurdi clean and safe to stay by constructing drainages because when it rains, it is usually difficult for some residents to even cope with the level of water,” she said.

Miss Joy Johnson wants the governor to at least open up some streets in Makurdi to easy movement and make the town look neat.

” I don’t expect too much from the governor. But he should try his best and construct some major streets in Makurdi metropolis. That alone is something,” Joy Johnson noted.

Mr. Benedict Terhemen is of the expectations that the governor will do his best for the state during his second term, having parted ways with his godfather, Senator Akume was which the governor said was his detractor.

“We voted him the first time but he didn’t do the things he promised to do for us, and he said his Godfather was the reason for his poor performance, but thank God the God father is not there again. So we expect that his second term will be different and better unlike his first four years.

“He has not even chosen his cabinet yet, so we expect that he will select those who will truly help him in developing the state, but not selfish persons,” Terhemen noted.

Comrade Cletus Aruta, a youth, expects the governor to emulate his counterparts in the neighboring states of Ebonyi and Enugu states who are far doing well in the area of infrastructure and other things.

“I want His Excellency to continue with the payment of monthly salaries to Benue State, Local Government Workers and Pensioners and clear the backlog of salaries owed to them especially the Pensioners who had served the State meritoriously and now retired with a lot of family responsibilities such as payment of school fees, house rents and feedings.

“Secondly, I want him to use his 2nd Term in office to embark on massive urban and rural infrastructural developments in Benue State like we are seeing from his counterparts in our neigbouring States of Nasarrawa, Enugu and Ebonyi State which Benue State is far behind right now especially the

construction of Aliade-Mbakinde-Obarike Ito and Oju-Awajir roads which he promised Igede people during his first tenure. He should create an enabling environment for Private enterprises to come and invest in Benue State as almost all minerals and raw materials in Benue State are wasting and untapped into finished goods which will in turns create job opportunities for Benue youth and curbs youth unemployment and insecurity in the state.

“Finally, I want him to use his second term to build and equip our Public Primary and Secondary Schools with the State of Arts facilities such as good class room blocks and toilets, Libraries and provision of Chairs and desks and other office equipment as you know how important is Primary and

Secondary education which are the foundation of learnings and child development,” Aruta said.

For every Benue citizenry, there is a basket full of expectations and they are quite high, but interestingly, governor Samuel Ortom is not unaware of the dilemma before him.

Perhaps, his first four years were laced with excuses, mistakes and administrative blunders, but of course none of such feeble excuses may be entertained by the sovereign people of Benue State that refrained contemplating his replacement even against all odds during the 2019 elections.

The public outcry is alarming. Yes, not very many may have had it juicy during his first term, but the decision of the people to retain governor Ortom is a thunderous statement that, he the governor should not be taken for granted.

The people want good infrastructures such as good roads, schools, hospitals. The state desire industries, factories that can process their fruits, yam, etc, thus investment is what should be encouraged.  The rural dwellers are cut off from the scheme of things, they yearn for feeder roads to help convey their farm produce to the markets.

The governor must understand that Agriculture remains our main stead and as such explore every opportunity available especially facilities provided by the federal government to encourage and transform the agricultural sector as well as generate revenue for the state. If possible, as the food basket state, the people expects the governor to romance with the federal government which is channeling huge resources into the agricultural sector with the aim of driving the policy and making the proceeds available for the development of the state.

The welfare of the people as it concerns their wages is an over trashed issue which the governor should deal with without any backslide. It is also instructive to urge the governor to consolidate on his gains in the area of Security through firm implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law already in use. This as many others believe may put a permanent end to the incessant clashes. This is not forgetting the many Benue citizens who are victims of the invasion and have been suffering in various IDPs camps. It is a necessity for the governor to liaise with the Federal government to make sure that these innocent people return to their homes in safety as soon as he settles for his second term.

It is indeed an epoch-making event as the fifth democratically elected governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom renews his vow. But as he commences his second term, may his conscience be pricked to live a legacy befitting the goodwill the people have shown him, may he aim for success, and may he not disappoint the confidence bestowed on him. May the governor summon unusual courageous and be focus in implementing his developmental blueprint, “Our Collective vision for a greater Benue”. He may have meager resources at his disposal, but prudent and careful management and appropriation of such resources will do the State a great deal indeed.

OPINION

Rivers Politicians and National Politics

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By Blessing Wikina

National Politics, would always be a beckoning graveyard for Rivers Political Leaders who are following the allure of being in Abuja after their tenure.

They have never passed the qualifying exam, becos they think stacks of cash, personal ambition, and grotesque intrigues,  can bestow national presence to them at the expense of Rivers people’s need.

  National Politics has its allure, no doubt, and it’s momentary bragging rights, plus low hanging fruits temptation for the Politicians.

 

    At least, some nominees from their stable will be jerked up to Board members,  Ambassadorial postings, etc….

even displacing qualified persons. But do they remember that those perkings are mere cosmetic.

    Rivers State would be better, if their economy is improved, made sustainable, and stand on its footings rather than on droplets from  the dinner table, which is what you have access to now.

    They assume that local profiling, and their “tigritude” status in Port Harcourt ,can be photocopied to the center. No. No. No. 

    The rest of Nigeria knows the indices, and welcome our ego, pride, and money, as mere glittering fragments, and baits to hook our guys taste, and lead them to self destruct.

   We do not have a population figure that can tilt a national election to victory, nor the benefit of Political Elders at the top, to push our cases, when such mighty men and “owners of Nigeria” meet behind closed doors. 

    When the majority and power blocs in Nigeria are ready, they will always dash anyone, anybody, any lucky person, from here  power, without an effort, without a fight, without a “godfather”. Cases in the far past, and near past are signposts. 

    Ambition, aspiration, noise, had never given any politician from here his political need, because it does not amount to an assets base. 

    Over the years, inspite of their annual pilgrimage to Abuja, they hadn’t even deployed their huge earnings to any economic productive venture back home.

    To date, there are no farms, companies, outlets, or even chains of businesses linked to them at home. 

    They had not provided daily economic employment, or even pushed their vuvuzellas into influential positions nationally.

     Events had made me to declare to Rivers Politicians, a welcome to your graveyard, located in national Politics……if you fail to bring economic involving investments back home.

    Past question papers, alliances, permutations, scheming,  and intrigues, plus cash won’t give anyone from here a respectable dominant national profile, except a mere errand boy political position.

    If you are not dashed power, by them,  their undertakers will gladly show you an open grave…..

When you don’t bring things home to ignite economic activities for our people…..you will be like this power outlet……over loaded, over burdened, over used……and non effective.

*Blessing Wikina, a retired Director of Information with the Rivers State Government, writes from Port Harcourt.*

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Perspective

Democracy Day Speech By Benue Governor, Ali

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SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY REV. FR. DR. HYACINTH IORMEM ALIA, THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF BENUE STATE, DURING THE OCCASION OF DEMOCRACY DAY CELEBRATION, HELD AT THE IBB SQUARE, MAKURDI, ON WEDNESDAY JUNE 12, 2024

My great people of Benue,

2.​I am excited to join you today to mark 25 years of uninterrupted civil administration in our dear country – Nigeria.

3.

​This day affords us the privilege not just to merely mark the passage of time, but to celebrate all our past and present heroes of democracy; as well as reflect on our democratic journey in the state so far, particularly in the last one year prior to which your unanimous voices at the polls culminated into my emergence as your governor.

4.​Exactly two weeks ago, being May 29, 2024, made it exactly one year since I took the oath of office. However, I deliberately postponed my speech on that day so as to coincide with this year’s Democracy Day celebration. 

5.​I considered it more appropriate to use today’s celebrations to give you a brief but articulate account of my stewardship in the last one year; as well as point to the bright path that leads to a greater Benue which we all aspire for, as a government and as a people.

6.​Over a year ago, I stood here and made lofty but achievable promises to you. These promises, enshrined in our 7-point agenda, ranged from economic growth, to infrastructural development, security of lives and property, prompt payment of salaries and pensions/gratuities, amongst others.

7.​Upon assumption of office, we met Benue in an economic ditch. We immediately hit the ground running by engendering economic growth through agriculture. Accordingly, we procured100 trucks of fertilizer which was distributed to farmers at subsidized rates. The impact so far has been tremendous.

8.​Beyond provision of fertilizers, we also approved counterpart funding for International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD’s) Value Chain Development Programme in eight local government areas, with a view to enhancing rice and cassava production. 

9.​We further established collaborations with agricultural input suppliers to ensure the availability of improved seeds and seedlings. This was coupled with our reactivation of the swine/crop integrated project in Yandev, Gboko Local Government Area, through partnership with the French Development Agency to advance agricultural skills, as well as renovation of the infrastructure to boost enhance productivity. 

10.​Furthermore, we have struck a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) deal with Star Fertilizer Company Limited, in order to revive the state-owned fertilizer blending plant. This is in addition to our kick-starting of phased development of the Ikyogen Cattle Ranch.

11.​Meanwhile, plans are in top gear towards dredging the River Benue, as a catalyst for boosting agricultural activities and easy movement of agricultural products.

12.​Furthermore, just last week, I handed over 33 new tractors and the sum of 380 Million Naira to community interest groups across the state, to undertake climate-smart agricultural activitiesunder the Community Revolving Fund (CRF) scheme of the Agro-Climatic Resilience in Semi-Arid Landscapes (ACReSAL).

13.​I assure you that my administration is more than committed to improving the livelihoods of all and sundry in the state, especially through agriculture.

14.​With regards to Economy and Wealth Creation, our administration has created 1,450 ad-hoc jobs for the Nigeria Fire Extinguishers Control, with plans for permanent integration into the Federal Fire Service.

15.​We are currently setting up a multifunctional fashion hub in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President, to benefit over 250 professionals in the industry.

16.​In a similar vein, with 34 out of Nigeria’s 46 solid mineral deposits in Benue, we are on the verge of becoming a mining powerhouse. In view, we have partnered with Sound Core to clean up and develop the mining sector, projecting 3.5 billion Naira in revenue through our annual surface rent scheme.

17.​While tackling illegal mining and educating communities on the legal benefits, our administration in collaboration with the Federal Government, has formed the Mineral Resource and Environmental Management Committee, to protect resources and manage community conflicts.

18.​Meanwhile, we have revitalized government assets, including the Benue Investment and Property Company (BIPC) Kaduna Plaza, as well as the Guest Houses in Kaduna and Makurdi towns respectively. While transitioning to digital operations for better service delivery, we have also commissioned a BIPC bakery and water factory, and launched the Emperor Fertilizer and Motorcycle Hire Scheme, all domiciled in the State.

19.​My esteemed people of Benue, as you recall, when we came on board, our industries were moribund, with many on the brink of being taken over by private hands. We however, said a firm ‘no’ to the glorified wisdom of the last administration that “Government has no business in doing business”.

20.​Today, I proudly inform you that we have initiated the re-establishment and resuscitation of these industries, including Benue Breweries, Taraku Oil Mills, amongst others. This aims at creating more job opportunities for our teeming youths, as well as improving our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

21.​In the area of infrastructure and environment, in the bid to enhance movement of people, goods and services, we commenced the construction of 16 strategic roads in Makurdi and other parts of the State, particularly linking our rural communities. 98% of these roads have been completed, while others are still under construction.

22.​In total, our administration has awarded 51 road projects within just one year, including three underpass projects in Makurdi, Gboko, and Otukpo Local Government Areas, respectively.

23.​In addition, the ‘Light Up Makurdi’ project, extending from Agan Toll Gate to the Air Force Base and other parts of Makurdi, is now a reality and will be expanded to other parts of the State as we step into another year of our tenure. 

24.​We have also renovated and furnished the State Secretariat. We have reconstructed the Benue State House of Assembly Complex, and remodeled the Assembly Clinic.

25.​In the transport sector, the rejuvenation of the state-owned Benue Links Transport Company is another milestone. We have handed 100 new buses to the Company, and subsidized the cost of transportation. We have also upgraded the Company’s headquarters to meet global best standards.

26.​In health and social development, our administration was the first in Nigeria to implement the Revised Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF) 2023, at the revised rate. 

27.​We also re-introduced the Bond Scheme for medical students of Benue origin studying medicine, by approving the monthly payment of N103,000 per student. This is coupled with the approval of N100,000 monthly allowances for doctor-corps members serving in the State; as well as N15,000 as monthly allowances for other corps members posted here.

28.​Meanwhile, we have overhauled the Benue State University Teaching Hospital to meet international standards. We have also employed 500 new staff on merit, to augment the workforce.

29.​Our administration has also commenced full clinical services at the Muhammadu Buhari Mother and Child Hospital, Makurdi, to reduce maternal mortality and offer free medical services to women and children under the age of five. Meanwhile, plans are underway to ensure an effective primary healthcare delivery system in the state.

30.​In the aspect of security of lives and property, one of our most prioritized missions has been to ensure that our people, who have been displaced by marauders, can return safely to their ancestral homes. We have therefore initiated the process by lobbying the Federal Government to begin the construction of resettlement homes for our people. 

31.​More so, our administration, in collaboration with security agencies and relevant stakeholders, has been working round the clock to ensure that Benue is a safe haven for all.

32.​Although this task has been challenging, the impact so far has been very encouraging. For instance, we have nipped in the bud almost all the inter-ethnic/community skirmishes that were prevalent before and after we came into office.

33.​Also, farmer/herder crisis and militia attacks have been contained through both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches. And we are determined to lose no sleep until we totally secure our dear State. 

34.​We have also signed into law, the establishment of a state security outfit known as the Benue State Civil Protection Guards: A formidable force combining our Livestock Guards and Volunteer Guards to effectively tackle insecurity in our dear state. 

35.​ My good people of Benue, make no mistakes about the misinformation making the rounds that the Anti-open Grazing Law has been repealed. As a matter of fact, the Law has been strengthened with more stringent stipulations.

36.​Let me use this opportunity to salute all security agencies and formations domiciled in the state, for their priceless sacrifices towards the protection of lives and property. To all volunteers of information, logistics and other efforts towards securing Benue, we are truly grateful.

37.​In the education sector, our administration has made great strides towards repositioning it, right from the primary to tertiary level.

38.​For instance, as part of palliatives for the removal of fuel subsidy, our administration decided to pay for the 2023/2024 examination fees of all students in government approved public secondary schools in the state sitting for the West African Examination Council (WAEC), National Examination Council (NECO), and National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) examinations, respectively.

39.​At the Benue State University, we have expanded academic programmes, established new faculties, restored scholarships for medical students, and paid outstanding salary arrears. We have upgraded the ICT facilities, preparing over 10,000 youths for the global market. The idea is to train over 60,000 youths. 

40.​As a proof of our zeal towards re-writing the narrative of the education sector in Benue, we allocated 15% of the 2024 budget to education, surpassing the 7% at the Federal level. We have also trained over 150 headteachers, and distributed over 100,000 instructional materials across public schools in the state to enhance teaching and learning.

41.​This is coupled with the establishment of the Benue State Education Quality Assurance Agency (BEQA), saddled with the responsibility of daily monitoring and evaluation of all schools across the State, with the aim of improving the standard and qualityof education, as well as reawakening teachers and staff to their responsibilities.

42. This has so far yielded huge results, notably being the recent clinching of an international debate trophy in Indonesia, by four Benue secondary school students who represented Nigeria.

43.​Benue under my watch, has also weeded out thousands of ghost workers, ghost schools, and ghost agencies out of our payroll. We have gone further to cut off all leakages and conduits of inefficient money consuming channels obtainable in the past.

44.​Let it be on record that our administration has borrowed no dime since we came on board. And we shall only do so only when it becomes extremely necessary. Prudence in governance must know us and call us by name.

45.​Meanwhile, it is no longer news that improved staff welfare, prompt payment of salaries and pensions/gratuities, as well as arrears, is now a mainstay under my watch. And so shall it continue to be.

46.​Fellow Benue citizens, I can go on and on for hours, giving you a factual account of our achievements, your achievements in the last one year. However, for want of time, I have only drawn up this summary of our journey so far.

47.​I reserve special thanks to all members of my team for their unsung sacrifices in the quest for a better Benue; and to all of you for your support and belief in us.

48.​As a government of popular consent, I am mindful of the honour and trust bestowed on me. For this, I have pushed sleep and comfort to the backseat to ensure that I live up to the expectations and terms of our social contract. 

49.​Throughout this period, I have earned nothing close to love from those whose selfish interests I step upon to bring you comfort, happiness, and succour. But too high I place your interest above theirs, hence I have no regrets for what I have lost in the cause of this journey. 

50.​As we mark Democracy Day celebrations, I hereby restate my commitment towards re-writing the socio-economic narrative of our dear state. 

51.​I am forever committed to building formidable systems and institutions premised on fairness, accountability, democratic ethos, equity and justice; systems that are bigger and stronger than individuals including my humble self.

52.​I am counting on your continued support to our administration, so that together, we can reposition Benue on the global map.

53.​My vow is to always stand with you, by you, and always for you.​

54.​Thank you, and God bless!

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Business Analysis

The Imperative of CBN’s Autonomy

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By Ibrahim Modibbo 

Under globalization and multi-cultural settings such as ours, Nigerians are under no illusion to the enormity of the myriad of challenges confronting the President Bola Tinubu Administration. In my opinion, anxiety and trepidation seems to trial the move by the National Assembly, to amend the provisions of the CBN Act of 2007.

Industry watchers and members of the banking community fear that the attempt to amend the Act will erode confidence in the apex bank, have a negative impact on the banking industry and ultimately, affect the nation’s economy.

In the dynamic landscape of global economics, the independence of central banks stands as a cornerstone for maintaining sound macroeconomic stability and fostering confidence in financial markets.

Across all major world economies, from the United States of America, United Kingdom, the developed Asian economies to the European Union, this principle is upheld as a vital aspect of prudent economic management. However, recent proposed amendments to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Act by the Nigerian Senate threaten to erode this independence or autonomy, putting Nigeria at odds with global best practices and jeopardizing its economic stability going forward. In this piece, we shall examine the critical reasons why preserving the autonomy of the CBN is imperative for Nigeria’s economic future.

It is crucial that we fully understand and appreciate the significance of maintaining the Central Bank’s independence. An independent central bank is critical for ensuring that monetary policy is conducted without political interference. This autonomy allows central banks to implement policies that focus on long-term economic health, such as controlling inflation, stabilizing the currency, and promoting sustainable economic growth. In major economies, central bank independence has been instrumental in achieving these goals. The Federal Reserve in the United States, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of England all operate independently of their respective governments, ensuring that monetary policy decisions are based on available economic data and analysis rather than political whims.

While commendably the idea of the proposed amendments to the CBN Act aim to enhance compliance and strengthen corporate governance, some of the key aspects pose significant threats to the bank’s autonomy. One of such proposal is the creation of a Coordinating Committee for Monetary and Fiscal Policies. This committee, dominated by fiscal authorities including the Ministry of Finance, would have a considerable influence on monetary policy decisions. Such an arrangement risks subordinating monetary policy to fiscal objectives, undermining the CBN’s ability to achieve its primary mandate of price stability in the economy. Apparently, this is a step in the wrong direction in the management of the Nigerian economy.

Fiscal policy, which is the cardinal responsibility or primary function of the Ministry of Finance, encompasses a range of activities related to government spending and taxation. This policy area involves the allocation of government resources, management of public funds, and implementation of tax regulations, all aimed at influencing the country’s economic conditions positively. While the effective coordination between fiscal and monetary policy is desirable, giving fiscal authorities dominance over the CBN compromises the bank’s ability to act independently. This fiscal dominance could lead to short-term policy decisions that prioritize immediate fiscal needs over long-term economic stability. For instance, the government might pressure the CBN to keep interest rates artificially low to reduce borrowing costs, even if such a policy could lead to higher inflation and other economic vulnerabilities.

Another alarming aspect of the current amendment process at the hallowed precincts of the Nigerian Senate pertains to the insistence on subjecting the Central Bank of Nigeria’s yearly budget to approval by the National Assembly. This proposed measure raises significant apprehensions regarding the potential politicization and interference in the operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The approval process could result in undue delays of monetary policy decisions, hindering the CBN’s ability to respond swiftly and effectively to economic challenges. In an environment where rapid decision-making is often essential, this could prove detrimental to Nigeria’s economic health.

Global best practices emphasize the need for central bank independence to ensure economic stability and investor confidence. Across the world today, major and emerging economies adopt this framework to ensure a situation of a more stable and predictable economic environments. For Nigeria to diverge from this path would not only isolate it from the global business community but also undermine investor confidence, leading to potential capital flight, increased borrowing costs from multilateral institutions, and a general loss of economic credibility as well as downward grading by global rating organizations.

The proposed amendments, particularly the inclusion of the Coordinating Committee for Monetary and Fiscal Policies, represent a concerning shift towards fiscal dominance. This committee’s role in determining interest rates on the CBN’s temporary advances to the federal government is especially problematic. With the committee chaired by the Minister of Finance as proposed in the current amendment and ostensibly dominated by fiscal authorities, there is a clear conflict of interest. Such a structure inherently favors fiscal objectives over monetary prudence, jeopardizing the delicate balance and the thin line required for sound macroeconomic management. The CBN should rather be encouraged to foster effective prudential guidelines in management of its advances to the federal government as enshrined in the current Act.

The potential for political interference in the CBN’s operations extends beyond the management of the monetary policy. It threatens the very fabric of Nigeria’s economic governance. An autonomous central bank acts as a check on government excesses, ensuring that fiscal policy does not compromise long-term economic stability. By undermining the institutional and operational autonomy, the proposed amendments risk eroding this safeguard and shield, potentially leading to economic policies driven by political rather than economic considerations.

While the Nigerian Senate’s intentions to amend the CBN Act may stem from a desire to enhance governance and performance by the apex, the proposed measures threaten to undermine the very foundation of effective economic management. Eroding the CBN’s autonomy not only contradicts global best practices but also risks plunging Nigeria into a cycle of political interference and economic quagmire.

It is therefore imperative that the Senate reconsider some key aspects of these amendments as enunciated here, preserving the CBN’s independence as a cornerstone of Nigeria’s economic policy framework. Only by doing so can Nigeria ensure a stable, predictable, and resilient economic future, in line with global standards and best practices. The nation’s economic health and international standing depend on it.

While admitting that some of the proposed amendments to the CBN Act are commendable as they are designed to entrench the culture of compliance, strengthen corporate governance, and reposition the apex bank for improved performance in attaining its mandate, most analysts however, say some of the major proposed amendments to the CBN Act appear to erode the bank’s autonomy and weaken the independence of monetary policy, at variance with international best practices. 

For example, the proposed coordinating committee for monetary and fiscal policies concerning monetary policy in their opinion will undermine the apex bank’s independence and capacity in achieving its price stability mandate, including fiscal and monetary policy coordination as well as undermining the CBN’s operational independence and weaken the apex bank’s flexibility in deploying appropriate policy frameworks in a dynamic economic environment to achieving its core mandate.

Similarly, the proposed amendment to the CBN Act by the lawmakers will promote undue political interference in purely economic matters, as the fiscal authority would dominate the proposed committee’s membership and chairmanship. Subjecting the CBN’s budget to National Assembly approval will also undermine its institutional autonomy and introduce the potential for political interference in monetary policy which could lead to significant delays in monetary policy implementation and hinder swift monetary policy responses with potential negative implications for macro-economic stability.

According to Dr. Williams Puye an economic and financial expert, some of the proposed amendments threaten the independence and operational autonomy of the CBN as the country’s monetary authority. He asserted that the inclusion of the coordinating committee for monetary and fiscal policies in determining the rates of interest on the apex bank’s temporary advances to the federal government will not only erode the bank’s operational autonomy, but also breed conflict of interest since the committee is chaired by the minister and dominated by fiscal actors.

The now controversial amendment bill to the CBN Act is sponsored by Senator Mukhail Adetokunbo Abiru and co-sponsored by all 41 senators of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions and proposes the establishment of a 7-member coordinating committee for monetary and fiscal policies to be chaired by the minister of finance, to among other things set internally consistent targets of monetary and fiscal policies that are conducive to controlling inflation and promoting financial conditions for sustainable economic growth.

It sets the tenure of the CBN Governor and Deputy Governors at a single non-renewable term of six years, appointment of a minimum of one career staff of the bank in the committee of governors, the appointment of at least one female among the External Directors as a Board member, that the five external directors should hold office for a non-renewable term of five years (one year less than the six-year tenure of the governor and deputy governors.

The amendment further proposes the establishment of the position of chief compliance officer in the rank of a Deputy governor, who reports directly to the Board and may occasionally be summoned to appear before the relevant committee of the National Assembly, limit temporary advances to the federal government, including modalities for the issuance of new legal tender to replace existing ones, providing that the withdrawal of the old legal tender should be carried out in phases and in a manner that does not cause any distortion to economic activities, while the apex bank should be in possession of sufficient new currency, not less than 70 percent of the old stock of currency to be withdrawn before embarking on such a programme.

In the area of Board governance, based on the fact that the CBN governor also serves as the Board chairman, the bill proposes that the board committees should be headed by non-executive directors instead of the deputy governors. The bill further proposes to amend the paid-up capital of CBN to N1trillion and that this figure may be increased from time to time by such amount as the government may approve either by way of transfers from the general reserve fund or by such other means as the government, in consultation with the board may approve. 

Another notable provision of the bill states that the CBN governor must appears on a semi-annual basis whilst the National Assembly in the exercise of its constitutional duties should reserve the power to invite the governor to make presentations from time to time as the need arises. It also proposes the publishing of a monetary policy report and an interim financial report every six months that should be submitted to the president and the National Assembly within one month of the reference period. 

It adds that where the governor fails to make a report to the president and the National Assembly as required by law, he shall be served with a warning letter by the National Assembly and if the failure persists, by a recommendation from the National Assembly for the governor’s suspension from office by the president. 

Most significantly, the bill proposes that the budget approved by the CBN board can only be implemented upon the consideration and approval of the relevant committees of the National Assembly.

It goes without saying that safeguarding the independence of the Central Bank of Nigeria is crucial for maintaining the country’s overall economic stability and fostering investor confidence with a good mix of monetary policy tools. The proposed amendments to the CBN Act, particularly those that threaten the bank’s autonomy, must be reconsidered to ensure Nigeria’s economic future remains secure and safe. The Nigerian Senate must be careful not to exacerbate the current economic woes in the country. Hence, by upholding the principle of central bank independence, Nigeria can align itself with global best practices and ensure a stable and prosperous economic environment for its citizens now and in the future.

Dr. Modibbo is an Abuja based Journalist & Commentator on National Issues

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