Section 2 of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act stipulates that the principal objectives of the bank shall be: to ensure monetary and price stability, issue legal tender currency in Nigeria and promote a sound financial system. The section further states that the apex bank shall maintain external reserves to safeguard the international value of the legal tender currency, act as banker and provide economic and financial advice to the Federal Government.
The CBN has, however, over the years, been directly or indirectly involved in the financing of growth-enhancing programmes and other projects of the Federal Government which are incidental to the bank’s core mandates. Some of these development and corporate social responsibilities interventions by the bank have received accolades while some, public opprobrium.
For instance, in 2012, the bank under the leadership of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, now Emir of Kano, came under criticism when it donated N100 million to victims of the Boko Haram menace in Kano. Critics of the action claimed it was illegal for the bank to engage in philanthropic activities outside its core and statutory mandate.
One of the leading critics of the bank’s action, Femi Falana (SAN), had called on the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, to sanction Sanusi. The human rights activist said: “From the law setting up the Central Bank of Nigeria the diversion of public funds to assist victims of disasters is illegal in every material. The management of the Central Bank cannot be allowed to continue to dissipate public funds under the pretext of carrying out any social responsibility outside the ambit of the law.”
However, when Sanusi was summoned by the then House of Representatives’ Committee on Banking and Currency, mandated to investigate the donations, he said it was legal. Specifically, Sanusi said the apex bank had always intervened in the economic development of Nigeria and “the legal basis for the interventions in certain sectors of the economy is contained in Section 31 of the CBN Act 2007”.
Notwithstanding the legal justification or otherwise, stakeholders have commended the CBN for its initiatives and interventions encompassing real sector, agriculture, small and medium enterprises, infrastructure and youth empowerment.
Some of the initiatives, under the bank’s leadership of Godwin Emefiele are Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme, Real Sector Support Facility, SME Credit Guarantee Scheme, SME Re-structuring and Refinancing Fund.
Others are Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, Power and Airline Intervention Fund, Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilisation Fund and Anchor Borrowers.
The recent interventions by the bank in the education and health sectors have received accolades from stakeholders. About N63 billion was committed by the apex bank into building Centres of Excellence in nine Federal Government’s owned universities to enhance post graduate studies in financial related courses.
The CBN also planned to build diagnostic centres in the six geopolitical zones of the country and Abuja. The FCT facility is expected to have both heart and cancer diagnostic centres.
Inaugurating one of the centres of excellence at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria recently, Emefiele said the project was part of the apex bank’s intervention in education. He explained that the centres would be delivered in phases and the first phase, which comprised the University of Nigeria Nsuka, University of Ibadan and ABU Zaria, had been completed and ready for the use by the institutions. He said the others, nearly completed, are those in University of Lagos, University of Port Harcourt, University of Jos, Bayero University Kano and University of Maiduguri. Emefiele stressed that education and health are the bedrock of any nation development and there was the need to invest in them. He said that the centre with 500-capacity auditorium, ICT facilities and e-Library.would compete with any business school globally.
Emefiele said that when the centrex become operational, programmes such as Forensic Accounting, Global Financial Market, Risk and Compliance Management would be offered at the centres. He assured that the bank would get involved in the management of the facilities to forestall decay.
The governor also disclosed that the bank would engage accounting specialists and practitioners working in central banks across the world to bring their wealth of experience to bare at the centres.
President Muhammadu Buhari lauded CBN for supporting the Federal Government’s investments in the education sector as well as other key areas of the economy.
Buhari also tasked the apex bank to extend such funding support to researches in the tertiary institutions.
He said: “It is no longer secret that the state of facilities in our universities and other higher institutions of learning can no longer meet up with the requirements of ever growing population of our students. This is largely due to perennial challenges over the years and my government is committed to tackle it” he said.
The Vice Chancellor ABU, Zaria, of one of the beneficiary universities, Prof. Ibrahim Garba, commended CBN for the gesture. He said the donation of the centre was the highest intervention the university had ever received and that it would enhance academic learning, especially at post graduate level. Garba said the centre would afford the university the opportunity to establish a Business School to offer Economics, Accounting, Banking and Finance, Business Administration and Statistics in post graduate studies.
The CBN boss also disclosed his plan to build seven diagnostic centres in the six geopolitical zones of the country and Abuja. He said, based on availability of fund the projects are expected to commence by 2020 and ready by 2024.
Emefiele said the intervention would help to reduce capital flight and brain drain in the health sector. He said: “The centres will be done in a way that a referral will come from teaching and private hospitals and those coming to access care at the centres will be paying to generate revenue. In that case, the centres will be able to fund and manage themselves without CBN interference.”
Zainab Abubakar, an economist with the Federal University Dutse in Jigawa State, commended CBN for the interventions and described education and health as critical sectors that needed such assistance. Abubakar explained that there must be healthy people in the country for optimal efficiency and productivity.
Like Abubakar, stakeholders believe that the CBN’s interventions in the two critical sectors would spur development and innovation.
. Sumaila is a staff of the News Agency of Nigeria.