CEO Recounts Banks’ Role in Halting Nigeria’s Forex Crisis

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Obinna Chima
The chief executive officer (CEO) of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe has narrated how bank CEOs in the country joined forces with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to tackle the foreign exchange (forex) crisis that confronted the country during the slump in crude oil price.
Wigwe, who is the Chairman of Body of Bank CEOs said this at the annual dinner of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) recently.

He described 2017 as one of the most interesting years in the country, saying that bank CEOs were meeting with the central bank governor every weekend during the forex crisis, in order to address the situation.

“When we got into 2016, the country went into an economic recession which continued until 2017. If you are not close to where the problem was, you would not appreciate how difficult it was to ensure that there is stability.
“But because of the work I do as the Chairman of the Body of Bank CEOs, I started working very closely with the governor of central bank.

“2017 was extremely interesting for all bank CEOs. We converted the CBN governor’s house on Sundays into a meeting room where all of us met every Sunday. We could not travel. But I think it is interesting that those days are behind us now,” Wigwe said.
He commended efforts by the central bank at ensuring stability in the forex market.

He added: “As we get into 2018, all of us need to work together as a body to make sure we have a much better country.”
After five quarters of continuous contraction of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Nigerian economy recorded a positive growth of 0.55 per cent in the second quarter of 2017.

Also, from a peak of 18.72 per cent in January 2017, headline inflation recorded eight straight months of disinflation, with the rate declining to 15.98 in September. In the same vein, the nation has recorded significant appreciation of the naira from over N500 to a dollar, to about N360 to a dollar.

Additionally, the country’s external reserves have recorded significant improvement in the past one year, closing at $34.160 billion as of last Thursday.
Earlier, the President/Chairman of the Council, CIBN, Prof. Segun Ajibola noted that some of the policy initiatives embarked upon by the different arms of government, ministries, departments and agencies have started yielding expected results.
“From January 2017, inflation rate has consistently declined, while the foreign exchange market has improved significantly.

“Just recently, the country had a quantum leap in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report. These impressive developments in the economy, nonetheless, the country still lags behind in human development indices,” he explained.
Furthermore, he noted that in the course of the year, the banking industry also witnessed great disruption that transformed the financial intermediation role of the sector.
More importantly, he stressed that the payment system has been hugely distorted by technology with and unprecedented increase in transaction volume.

However, he said there was need for the central bank to ensure that it guard against threats arising from the rising patronage of electronic payment channels, especially cybercrime.
“The CIBN has been working closely with all stakeholders to build capacity to tackle this challenge.
“Let me assure you that we remain committed to the promotion of high ethical conduct among our members and the banking industry is pivotal to achieving sustainable growth.

“In line with this, arrangements are on-going by the institute to commence a certification programme on ethics, which would cut across every cadre of staff in the banking industry,” he said.
According to him, the institute had developed a framework for the implementation of the competency framework in the banking industry, with the aim of ensuring standards among practitioners.