Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, on Wednesday, urged Federal Government to attach premium to palm oil production, saying its price is higher than crude oil’s.
Emefiele stated this in Abuja when he appeared before Senate’s Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions for screening for his second term nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He did not, however, give the current prices of the commodities in the international market, but said that palm oil was a goldmine, which Nigeria had capacity to export to many countries.
The CBN governor expressed concern that though Nigeria was one of the major palm oil producers in the 1960s, it failed to consolidate on it because of the discovery of crude oil.
He, however, said that the CBN, through its legal functions, would come up with a special programme to boost palm oil production to help in diversifying the economy.
According to him, Nigeria had the potential to export palm oil and boost its revenue generation.
Emefiele recalled that “in the 60s, Nigeria controlled 40 per cent share in the global palm oil chain’’.
“We were exporting our palm oil to different parts of the world, but because we found crude oil, we receded and abandoned it.
“The price of a tonne of palm oil is more than the price of a barrel of crude oil. So, what happened?
“For other countries, when they had the opportunity in agriculture and in the crude sector, they did not let their guards down; unfortunately, we did and that is what we are paying for today.
“Such move is so, so that when there are some external shock, it will not be felt.
“We will grow that market again and after that, we will go into cocoa,” he said.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his commitment to repositioning the agriculture sector.
According to Emefiele, the president had on different occasions insisted that the country should be producing what it would consume and consume what it would produce.
He noted that the charge resonated with CBN management, which took it further by starting the Anchor Borrowers Programme that had impacted so much on the lives of Nigerians.
He also disclosed that the apex bank was coming up with a fund for the creative industry “to engage Nigerian youths so as to increase employment rate as well as tackle restiveness’’.
The CBN governor informed the committee that the bank had worked assiduously to stabilise the economy in many areas.
“We went into the regime of restricting Foreign Exchange. This was intended to control import and encourage export, to reduce pressure on the reserve.
“Fortunately, we saw import dropping to as much as six billion dollars on a quarterly basis to today that it is significantly lower.
“Having adjusted the demands and trying to see how to balance the foreign exchange rate, a number of intervening actions were introduced to help boost the supply of foreign exchange into the market.”
He pointed out that the bank had explored other intervening initiatives that would help boost the supply of foreign exchange into the market, including encouraging investors.
Emefiele added that CBN had been able to reduce the exchange rate from about N500 to a dollar to the current rate of N360 to a dollar.
He promised to make further effort to ensure stability of the exchange rate for a clear monetary policy direction.
“Exchange rate now converges substantially at N360 to a dollar; inflation trending downwards for about 25 consecutive months now, from about 18.72 per cent in 2017 to as low as 11.72 per cent now.
“In the area of interest rate, we tried as much as possible, but unfortunately we have not quite achieved what we thought we will achieve on interest rate moderation.
“Though we have moved from about 18.5 per cent to 14 per cent, we will still work hard to bring it further down.”
On recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank’s population projection of over 400 million for Nigeria in 2050, Emefiele said much work needed to be done for policies that would make life easy for the people.
“We just came back from the IMF world programme in April and in the World Bank-IMF World Economic Outlook, Nigeria is positioned as a country whose population will rise to over 425 million people by the year 2050.
“That will present Nigeria as the country with the third largest population in the world after China and India, and surpassing the United States of America.
“We, from the Central Bank on the monetary policy side, have come to realise the instrumentality of the Anchor Borrowers Programme.
“A programme where access to credit is being provided to our masses all over the country will be a way to generate employment and boost economic activities among our rural population.
“The results are there to see that as a result of our Anchor Borrowers Programme where we have disbursed over N190 billion to over 1.1 million farmers, cultivating over 1.3 million hectares of land, we need to do more.
“As we do this, we make finance available at low interest rate, make access to credit easy for our people and in doing this, we will be able to create jobs for them and improve their livelihood.
“I am very optimistic that this can be achieved,” he said.
Emiefele called for prayers and concerted efforts to consolidate on his achievements, if his nomination was confirmed.
He said, “You have all testified to what we have done in the last three to four years. I am not saying it is that simple. It is difficult but we will do our best.”
He pledged he would not rest in ensuring that the next five years would be unbearable for those bent on sabotaging government policies, adding that the bank would do anything to bring such persons to book.
“We need your prayers because the road ahead is still very tough. So, I appeal to all Nigerians to respect the policies and laws of the country.
“Part of the problems we have is lack of respect for our policies. Nigeria is very good at putting in place policies that are sound and workable, but implementation is almost zero and that must change,” the governor said.
On belief that the bank was operating multiple exchange rate, he said it was not true.
According to him, the bank only have multiple windows to make it easy for Nigerians who make use of foreign exchange, and in spite of the multiple windows, there is convergence of rate, with about N360 to a dollar.
In his remarks, Chairman of the senate committee, Sen. Rafiu Adebayo, said that the committee would put its report together and submit to the Senate in plenary for further action.
He commended Emefiele’s effort in stabilising the economy through various initiatives, and urged him to put in more effort in ensuring that some economic challenges currently bedevilling the country were tackled.
The Senate had on May 9, read a letter from Buhari requesting the confirmation of the CBN governor for a second term.
It, thereafter, directed its Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, on Monday, to screen the appointee and report back.