Naira exchange rate artificially low —Osinbajo 

VICE-PRESIDENT Yemi Osinbajo has advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to tinker with the exchange rate to reflect the current realities. Speaking at the opening session of the mid-term ministerial performance review declared opened by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday, he lamented that the exchange rate was artificially low, making it difficult to attract foreign investors. 

He also affirmed that because of the low rate, Nigeria was unable obtain new dollars. 

He said: “As for the exchange rate, I think we need to move our rates to [be] as reflective of the market as possible. This, in my own respective view, is the only way to improve supply. 

“We can’t get new dollars into the system, where the exchange rate is artificially low. And everyone knows by how much our reserves can grow. I’m convinced that the demand management strategy currently being adopted by the CBN needs a rethink and that is just my view.” 

He was confident that the CBN would be able to address the issues, saying: “Anyway, all those are issues that when the CBN governor has time to address, he will be able to address in full.” 

He observed that the apex bank was competing the ministries, departments and agencies in fiscal terms, arguing: “There must be synergy between the fiscal and the monetary authority. We must be able to deal with the synergy, we must handle the synergy between the monetary authority, the CBN, and the fiscal side. 

“Sometimes, it appears that there is competition, especially on the fiscal side. If you look at some of the interventions, you will find that they should be managed by ministries. 

“The ministry of industry, trade and investment should handle MSMEs interventions, and we should know what the CBN is doing. In other words, if the CBN is intervening in the MSME sector, it should be with the full cooperation and consent of the ministry of industry. 

“Sometimes you will get people who are benefiting more than once because we simply have no line of sight on what is going on, on one side.” 

The vice president commended President Buhari for his leadership amid economic challenges. 

He stated: “Let me say on the whole that we have been able to weather the storm of a very very serious economic challenge. I think that is largely on the steady and stable leadership we received from the president. I think if Mr President had panicked in that period, we would have had a lot of difficulties, perhaps we would be in a much worse situation.” 

The commencement of the two-day performance review has, however, sparked uncertainly among cabinet members and other top government officials as to what lies ahead of them. In sacking former ministers of power, Saleh Mamman, and his agriculture counterpart, Sabo Nanono, on September 1, the president had warned that the exercise would be a continuous process. 

Presidency sources say the president may await the outcome of the ongoing assessment to determine his next step, which, the sources affirmed, may involve another tinkering of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in the home stretch of the administration. 

Speaking at the ceremony at the State House Conference Hall, President Buhari said he would stay throughout the two days of the event to listen to all cumulative assessment over the last two years and some months. 

The president warned all ministers and permanent secretaries to take seriously all issues relating to the implementation of their mandates towards the attainment of the laudable objectives of the administration. 

The president, thereafter, unveiled the Presidential Priorities Performance Management System and Dashboard, which has been in effect since January, saying that it had provided him the opportunity to track projects in real-time with live data. 

The president further said he had instructed the ministry of defence to create a modest military industrial complex for the local production of weapons, to meet up with some of the requirements of the country’s armed forces. 

According to him, the establishment of the industrial complex, which would be implemented under the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), would address Nigeria’s over-dependence on other countries for military equipment and logistics. 

He expressed delight that on efforts to strengthen national security, Nigeria recently received six A-29 Super Tucano now being used for training, surveillance and attack by the military. 

He also announced the approval of the sum of N13.3 billion for the take-off of community policing in the country. 

The president also assured Nigerians that the 11.9km Second Niger Bridge, 120km Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and other key projects under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) would be completed before the expiration of the second term of the administration. 

“The PIDF projects are advancing remarkably. These include the 11.9km Second Niger Bridge, 120km Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, 375km Abuja–Kaduna– Zaria–Kano Expressway and the East-West Road. Most of these projects are expected to be completed within this second term of our administration,” he said. 

Speaking on the railway projects, the president said, “The Itakpe-Ajaokuta rail line has finally been completed and commissioned after 30 years of its conception. Work is expected to commence very soon on the Port-Harcourt Maiduguri line and Calabar – Lagos Coastal Line to connect the southern and eastern states of our country. 

“Progress is also being made on the upgrading of our airports, with the state-of-the-art facilities in line with world class safety standards.” 

On the economy, the president said the nation witnessed three consecutive quarters of growth, after negative growth rates recorded in the second and third quarters of 2020. 

On the power sector, President Buhari noted that the implementation of a “Willing Buyer-Willing Seller” policy had opened opportunities for increased delivery of electricity to underserved homes and industries. He expressed the hope that the execution of critical projects through the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme will result in achieving the national goal of improved power supply by 2025. 

Addressing the issue of the Petroleum Industry Act signed into law on August 16, 2021, the president reiterated his directive to the implementation committee to complete all processes for the successful operationalisation of the Act within 12 months. 

In his opening remark, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said, “Overall, the total number of contracts, policies and briefs/notes approved by the Federal Executive Council between November 2015 and August 2021 stand at 1,403, comprising of 878 contracts, 319 policies and 206 briefs/notes. 

“From the above, the 878 contracts approved by FEC have mostly targeted the provision of infrastructure, geared towards enabling faster economic growth and development.”  

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