By Issa Aremu
There was no dull moment in the political economy of Nigeria in 2019.
Recalling my reflections in 2019 actually passes for another word counts of reflection: no dull moment.
More for the better than the worse!
Of special importance was the remarkable innovative corporate governance of CBN. Whoever fails to plan, is planning to fail, goes the popular received wisdom. As it is for human beings, so for public institutions and indeed nation states.
In 2019, CBN emerged as the singular institution that commendably sets corporate agenda for the next five years of the second tenure of its Governor. Mr Godwin Emefiele is the 11th Governor of the apex bank. Appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014, he was rightly reappointed by President Muhammadu Buhari for another 5 years term in 2018.
After eventful five years of what I perceive as activist autonomous central banking, Emefiele announced a renewed vision for the next tenure.
In his words: “Put succinctly, our priorities at the CBN over the next 5 years are the following; First, preserve domestic macroeconomic and financial stability; Second, foster the development of a robust payments system infrastructure that will increase access to finance for all Nigerians thereby raising the financial inclusion rate in the country; Third, continue to work with the Deposit Money Banks to improve access to credit for not only small holder farmers and MSMEs but also Consumer credit and mortgage facilities for bank customers.
Our intervention support shall also be extended to our youth population who possess entrepreneurship skills in the creative industry…. Fourth, grow our external reserves; and fifth, support efforts at diversifying the economy through our intervention programs in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
We are confident that when implemented, these measures will help to insulate our economy from potential shocks in the global economy. In my second term in office, part of my pledge, is to work to the best of my abilities in fulfilling these objectives”. Will other public institutions be audacious to set agenda in 2020 upon which we can hold them accountable?
Precisely because I was involved, I bear witness that with respect to intervention in manufacturing sector, CBN’s measures had renewed hope of the revival of cotton, Textile and garment sectors (CTG) policy.
Nigeria for once is moving from the old era of perennial cotton shortage to cotton surplus, thanks to CBN’s creative supports for cotton farmers in Katsina and other cotton growing centers through improved seedlings and credits. Understandably,€Stakeholders in the renewed drive to re-industrialize Nigeria praised CBN for the restrictions of sale of forex to importers ( read: smugglers ) of textiles into the Country.
This is one singular praise for the CBN Governor not too much. The Central Bank of Nigeria on Tuesday March 5, 2019 at its meeting with stakeholders in the Cotton, Textile, Garment value chain in Abuja listed all forms of textile materials among items prohibited from foreign exchange in the official windows. There is also an historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) facilitated by the bank between uniformed services: army, police, civil defense, customs service and textile manufacturers. The MOU envisages production of the service uniforms by local textile firms in line with presidential executive order 003.
The year 2019 was also the year of elections.
We can debate the quality of elections especially in Kogi and Bayelsa, but Nigeria democratically transited at Federal and many states. Kwara election was the most nationally adjudged free and fair under the OTOGE movement. It was indeed a revolution made possible through voters’ cards and vote counts not by some instant proclamation from the streets!
Also last year, on the 16th of May, at the plenary, the senate passed the amendment to an Act in concurrence with the House of Representatives which approved the new date of June 12th as new Democracy Day earlier in December 2018, following the adoption of a report by Senator Ahmad Lawan, the Majority Leader, for the Senate to concur with the House. The bill was passed almost one year after President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the date would replace May 29 for Nigerians to commemorate the return to the civilian government.
That singular presidential action closed the chapter of June 12 saga. With as many as 85 million registered voters, in quantitative terms, Nigeria remains a democracy destination. But this democracy needs quality control that must start with issues based politics of development and productivity as opposed to politics of corruption and violence.
In November, President Muhammadu Buhari accented to the new Deep Offshore (and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract) Act. It was what I called a smart patriotic economic move from above. This singular amendment of the Deep Offshore Act for once commendably balanced the age long corporate greed in oil and gas sector with urgent national needs in terms of revenue. Nigeria henceforth would receive “it’s fair, rightful and equitable share of income” from its oil and gas, hitherto made impossible with the old law that kept oil taxes to the barest minimum, disregarding the upward swing in oil prices.
The Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act was last enacted on March 23, 1999, with its commencement backdated to January 1, 1993. The provisions of the Act stipulate that the law shall be subject to review to ensure that if the price of crude oil at any time exceeds $20 per barrel, ( even when prices were in triple digits decades after!) the share of the revenue to the Nigerian government shall be adjusted under the PSC.
The new amendment promised to enhance national benefits from the non-renewable oil and gas resources. At international level, 2019 marked the centenary of International Labour Organization ( ILO). A century-long ILO remains “the principal centre of authority in the international system on labour and social policy”. ILO has come of age with 100 years of rich history in promotion of peace and social justice in the world of work.
As part of the ILO centenary activities, Nigeria for once played host to the Director General of the ILO, Guy Ryder at a global summit on youth employment creation in Abuja. Worthy of recalling is also the fact that, after addictive medical trips to Singapore, Robert Gabriel Mugabe (RGM) on September 6, 2019, heaved the last breath at 95 years . In 2019 foreign policy observers also hailed the proactive historic visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to South Africa between October 2 to 4, 2019.
Both leaders rightly damned xenophobic violence and the reprisals. The two Presidents also directed their Foreign Affairs Ministers to give practical expression to the Early Warning Mechanism for prevention and monitoring platform.” Nigeria and South Africa also agreed to exchange a list of frequent travelers, notable business people and academics to facilitate the issuance of long term multiple entry visas for 10 years.
Nigeria looks forward to an eventful 2020, the year late President Musa Yar Adua envisaged that Nigeria would be one of the leading 10 developed countries. Of course Nigeria missed out on all the 8 goals set for Millennium Development agenda that elapsed in 2015.
Will Nigeria meet the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2030 which is just a decade to go from today? Happy 2020!
Issa Aremu mni, is a renowned labour leader