Saturday, February 04, 2017 1.23PM / Opinion by Olufemi Awoyemi
The governance status of the CBN was laid bare late yesterday night when a series of tweets from the official handle of @cenbank was used to promote a personal agenda #WhyEmefieleMustStay.
This was not the first time that I had seen this hashtag on the social media. Suffice to say, I respect and recognize the right of private citizens to articulate and enlighten public discourse by promoting their arguments for a particular course of action. It is trite knowledge that anyone can push such an agenda within the ambit of the freedoms and rights we all cherish. Ditto for any other group seeking a change in leadership like those with the #EmefieleMustGo hashtag.
Anyone, that is, those that do not fully appreciate the nature of, importance and purpose of the financial independence principle behind providing a tenured office for the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria are more likely to engage in such impulsive actions.
Fact is that the ink on our recent misadventure to ‘sack’ an incumbent Governor of the CBN has not yet dried; and it would be an ill-advised move to sack another Governor without significant consequences arising from the signaling effect that would send to the markets locally and internationally.
Any self-respecting Governor of a Central Bank that has lost the confidence of his/her government knows what to do. That is not the case here. Indeed, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) has expressed confidence in the status maintained by the CBN; a position not a few analysts and financial services firm have expressed positions on.
Yet, that is as far as it goes except for those well versed in the dark arts of politics and power play who for self-interest motives push agendas that undermine institutional value and relevance. Other than these ones, most of the responses and reactions have been no more than natural dissent, professional disagreements on the course of actions/options open to the monetary authorities and lack of depth in providing an articulated position on the direction of monetary policy under possible fiscal side scenarios.
That is to be expected and has been acknowledged in personal statements of the monetary policy committee (MPC) members in the last few quarters. Indeed, the CBN acknowledges that monetary policies has ran its course and can become more effective in delivering on a recovery and growth agenda once we sort out benign fiscal side issues.
To launch a hashtag campaign using the CBN’s institutional handle therefore was nothing more than an emotive response to the challenges the CBN was confronted with, a situation not helped by previous actions and statements that saw a pivot from purely monetary policy mandate(s) to a more “executive-type” posture which confused financial market traditionalists as it excited the more politically inclined members of the financial community and the public.
It is always important to note that until the CBN acknowledged nor reminded the market/public that monetary policies are by nature “responses” to developments and that they cannot/could not nor are they intended to be the “solve-all” interventions needed to reverse an economic course; especially one belatedly agreed upon…..they carried on like an extention of the executive arm of government.
This action appears in some regards, an extension of the shifting posture of the CBN in the last three tenures/terms and while a case can be made for a more vocal monetary authority; none can be an acceptable excuse or reason for failing to appreciate the “signaling” role it plays and represents.
More importantly, it underscores the role of a proper governance structure for the CBN; where it currently operates like a sole administrator-ship without a properly constituted board of Governors.
It is a considered opinion that the greatest disservice a leader can do to a national institution is to elevate personal thoughts & insecurities to a corporate position.
Those handling the CBN Governors tweets and @cenbank handle could have sent out the contents/same set of tweets (which can and should be challenged for the proper enlightenment of all) without promoting the #WhyEmefieleMustStay position. If this was not included and it was left at #EmefieleQuotes #CBN; the institution would have been in order (and hopefully included dates and speech/statements where quotes were taken).
To promote a personal agenda or to equate a campaign around a personality as that of an independent monetary authority is wrong even in this fast developing post-fact world; and it must be nipped in the bud/dropped. It undermines institutional integrity and opens the central bank to ridicule.
The best type of response the CBN can and should give to a concerned market and public will be something close to the Speech Given By Mark Carney, Governor Of The Bank Of England, At The London School Of Economics recently in the heat of the post-brexit debate and his retention in office. That should not be a difficult thing to expect from the Central Bank of Nigeria. Or is it?
Find below the tweets.
EDITORIAL NEWS UPDATE @ 3.11PM, Saturday, February 04, 2017:
We are able to confirm that the @cenbank twitter account page has since been updated and the contentious tweets removed.
This is a commendable response from @cenbank. We thank them for their prompt response.
The searchlight must now be beamed on this institution in the light of not a few gaffes including publishing results it later termed as inaccurate returns/records from some banks as referred to in the press release of last week - CBN clarifies alleged wrong FOREX purchase figures. A lot of soft values rides on the back of a CBN that has a zero tolerance for such gaffes; allowing for occasional, not routine need for rebuttal’s and clarifications.