The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said its interventions in key sectors of the economy through its development finance role have saved the country a total of N1.3 trillion annually on import bill.
The Deputy Governor, Corporate Services Directorate, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Edward Adamu, said targeted interventions and unconventional policy measures by the bank had helped to accelerate the actualisation of the federal government’s economic diversification programme.
He spoke at the opening of the ongoing 28th seminar for finance correspondents and business editors, with the theme: ‘Galvanising Development Finance and Monetary Policy for Growth,’ holding in Owerri, Imo State.
Adamu, represented by CBN Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, stated that while diversifying the country’s economic base presented a more sustainable and stable option, the CBN’s approach to stimulating economic development was anchored on agriculture, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and infrastructure.
Adamu, however, said the now-famous CBN Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP) had so far supported over 1.5 million farmers in the 36 states of the federation.
According to him, 16 different commodities have been cultivated on over 1.4 million hectares of farmland, a development, which has aided the creation of over 2.5 million jobs across the agricultural value chain.
Adamu noted that the apex bank had in recent times gone beyond its core mandate of maintaining monetary, price and financial system stability to undertake developmental initiatives with a view to spurring economic growth and job creation.
He said the CBN was convinced that focusing its developmental efforts on sectors with inherent potential for growth, employment and accretion to foreign reserves would further enhance the fortune of the economy.
He stated that the theme of the seminar was particularly relevant, in view of the evolving interconnectedness between development finance and monetary policy, not only in Nigeria but in other economies across the world.
Adamu also said that the ABP launched in 2015 had been designed to build partnerships between small holder farmers and reliable large-scale agro-processors with a view to increasing agricultural output, while improving access to credit for farmers.
He said the CBN’s targeted focus on the agricultural and manufacturing sectors was driven by the vast opportunities for growth in these sectors given the country’s high population.
Besides, the sectors have the ability to absorb the growing pool of eligible workers in the quest to meet local demand and save critical foreign reserves.
According to Adamu, the unconventional monetary policy initiatives have been premised on ensuring credit delivery to critical sectors of the economy.
He said this also informed the directive to deposit money banks to maintain a minimum Loan-to-Deposit Ratio (LDR) of 65 per cent by the end of December 2019.
The CBN deputy governor said the apex bank was also creating the necessary ecosystem to inculcate a better credit culture among Nigerians.
He said: “In all, there is sufficient evidence of significant reductions in our annual imports bill, and increased non-oil exports. Our development finance interventions have helped to bolster agricultural production by removing obstacles faced by smallholder farmers.”
He also said through various initiatives, the CBN had help to improve access to markets for farmers by facilitating greater partnership with agro-processors and industrial firms in the sourcing of raw materials.
In his speech, the General Secretary, National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) and a member of the National Executive Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Issa Aremu, commended the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, he described as his people-focused policies as well as his continued focus on stimulating domestic production.
He also lauded him for being on the same page with the federal government on the closure of the land borders, highlighting its benefits to the country.
Aremu also praised the CBN for its engagement with critical stakeholders while intervening in key sectors of the economy, adding that this is a positive deviation from the past.
He described the closure of the nation’s land borders as a move to ensuring fair trade among neighbouring countries, particularly the Republic of Benin.
He said the border closure should persist until Nigeria’s neighbours agree to play by the rules.
He said: “What Nigeria is doing is not border closure, it is protection of our borders. It is about ensuring fair trade for Nigeria.
“The trade we are having with some of our neighbouring countries- such as Benin Republic- because they bring in goods they are not producing and smuggle them into the country- they have killed the textile industry, rice production in the country and more.
“I am so happy that this land border closure continues for as long as our neighbours are not going to engage in fair trade agreement with us.”