From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has reacted for the first time to the presidential ambition of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, saying his fate will be determined by the apex bank’s board of directors on whether his actions have fallen foul of the laws in place to ensure he can most effectively carry out his duties.
In an interview with Bloomberg, the president in defence of Emefiele said he is following an alternative economic model, which Nigeria should be free to adopt.
According to him, the apex bank boss is a victim of accusations, because as CBN governor he follows a model outside of the economic orthodoxy.
Calls for Emefiele’s resignation had mounted when news broke that the N100 million presidential nomination and expression of interest form of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party had been procured for him.
A Nigerian court sitting in the capital city of Abuja had dismissed his request to not be prevented from contesting for the presidential ticket of any political party in the February 2023 elections.
Emefiele’s suit, rejected was seeking to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the country’s attorney general from disqualifying him from pursuing his presidential ambition.
Asked if he was concerned about the debate around the central bank’s independence following Emefiele’s interest in running for president, he said: “The CBN governor is appointed by the President. But this appointment is subject to confirmation by the Nigerian Senate. Ultimately, it will be for the CBN’s board of directors to determine whether a CBN governor’s actions have fallen foul of the laws in place to ensure he can most effectively carry out his duties.
“But there is a subtext to the accusations. Because the governor follows a model outside of the economic orthodoxy, he is labelled political. But the orthodoxy has proved wrong time and again.
“Instead, the governor is following an alternative economic model that puts people at the heart of policy. Nigeria should be free to choose its development model and how to construct our economy, so it functions for Nigerians.”
The President has also given reasons why Western allies must designate the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terror group.
Buhari in his written responses to questions posed by Bloomberg News stated: “In 2015, Boko Haram held territory the size of Belgium within the borders of Nigeria. Today they are close to extinct as a military force. The leader of ISWAP was eliminated by a Nigerian Airforce airstrike in March. The jets acquired from the US and intelligence shared by the British were not provided to previous administrations and stand as a testament to renewed trust re-built between Nigeria and our traditional western allies under my
“We urge those same international partners to take additional steps costing them nothing, by proscribing another group – IPOB – as a terrorist organization. Their leadership enjoys safe haven in the West, broadcasting hate speech into Nigeria from London, spending millions lobbying members of the US Congress, and freely using international financial networks to arm agitators on the ground. This must stop.
“My administration is the only in Nigeria’s history to implement a solution to decades-long herder-farmer conflicts, exacerbated by desertification and demographic growth. The National Livestock Transformation Plan, putting ranching at its core, is the only way to deplete the competition for resources at the core of the clashes. Governors from some individual states have sought to play politics where ranches have been established, but where they have been disputes have dramatically reduced.”
On why his administration was not heeding the call by IMF and World Bank and many leading economists to remove the fuel subsidy and unify the exchange rate, Buhari said subsidy removal becoming increasingly untenable.
He said: “Most western countries are today implementing fuel subsidies. Why would we remove ours now? What is good for the goose is good for the gander!
“What our western allies are learning the hard way is what looks good on paper and the human consequences are two different things. My set in motion plans to remove the subsidy late last year. After further consultation with stakeholders, and as events unfolded this year, such a move became increasingly untenable. “Boosting internal production for refined products shall also help. Capacity is due to step up markedly later this year and next, as private players and modular refineries (Dangote Refinery, BUA Group Refinery, Waltersmith Refinery) come on board.
“The exchange rate is still susceptible to external shocks that can suddenly and severely affect Nigerian citizens. As we step up domestic production – both in fuel (enabled by PIA) and food (agricultural policies) – the inflationary threat shall diminish, and we can move toward unification.”
The President also spoke on Bola Tinubu being his preferred successor.
Asked if he plans to endorse a candidate for president? If so, who? He replied: “Yes. I will endorse the APC candidate for president.”
Asked if he was concerned that people accused of blasphemy still get stoned to death on the streets in northern Nigeria, Buhari said: “No person has the right to take the law into his or her own hands.
“Christianity and Islam, our two Great Faiths and their Great Books have far more in common than they have apart. Nigeria has a long tradition of tolerance that we must draw on, and we must strive to find common ground.
“What comes out of this tragedy is to cherish what we share, while at the same time respect our differences.”