By Obinna Chima
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has assured foreign investors in the country of the safety of their funds despite the scarcity of forex the country is presently facing due to the significant drop in oil revenue.
Speaking in an interview with the press at the end of three different meetings with stakeholders in Abuja, at the weekend, Emefiele allayed fears expressed by some foreign investors, just as he guaranteed those interested in repatriating their funds that their monies were safe.
Recalling that the country faced a similar situation between 2015 and 2016, he said the central bank had put in place measures to ensure an orderly exit for those interested in doing so.
The CBN governor explained: “In 2015 and 2016, we faced the same situation. What did we do? We called a meeting of the correspondent banks and development partners. We told them that none of them would lose their money in Nigeria.
“And I am happy that we went through that without anybody losing his money in Nigeria. We made sure those that wanted to go were able to take their monies out because things turned around and we also put in place policies that made it possible for them to take their monies out.
“We always like to support an orderly exit, but not an exit where everybody rushes to the door at the same time. If there is a fire in this room and everybody rushes to the door at the same time, I am sure the fatalities would be more than if we all go out through the door in an orderly manner; and that is what we are appealing to everybody.
“If you have Letters of Credit or dollar obligations, we are asking you to be patient. There may be some delay, but I am giving 100 per cent assurance to everybody that they would not lose a cent of their monies if they desire to take their monies out. But we are seeking the patience and understanding of everybody.”
Speaking on efforts of the Bank in tackling the economic impact of the COVID-19, he said the CBN, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, was committed to galvanising the manufacturing sector in a bid to reset the economy.
He said the CBN had met with the banks, manufacturers in the health sector and the larger manufacturing group and explained that the challenge posed by the pandemic necessitated that, as leaders, the fiscal and monetary authorities must work together to moderate the health and economic impact of COVID-19.
Emefiele said COVID-19 presented Nigeria with an opportunity to reset the economy and as such there was a need for the country to prepare itself to get the manufacturing sector to work, while the banking sector would support the economy.
With the revenue drop from crude oil, the CBN governor said Nigeria had no choice but to diversify its economic base. He said the time had come for Nigerians to produce what could be produced in the country and consume what is produced in the country.
He urged entrepreneurs and companies to take advantage of the various interventions funds that had been put in place by the central bank to grow their businesses, create jobs and reduce the adverse consequences of the health crisis.
“We found out that after eight weeks of creating various facilities, the applications are not coming as fast as we thought and that was why we decided to call the banks and companies in the healthcare sector.
“Nigeria has an opportunity to reset again and begin a new journey towards industrialisation,” he said.
He reiterated that the pandemic presented an opportunity to prepare, as the largest country in Africa, for the take-off of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) next year.
According to Emefiele, there was a need to galvanise the manufacturing and health sector to be prepared for AfCFTA, especially with the significant slide in oil revenue.
“The dollars that we used to have in ample quantity would no longer come in the size and quantum they used to come. What does that also mean? It means that we have to prioritise to make sure that the available dollars are used to service obligations that are the priority.
It also means that we must produce those items that can be produced in the country and consume what can be produced in Nigeria,” he added.