It was not any surprising to see some bread-and-butter youth organisations craving for crumbs by churning out all manner of press statements on issues they knew nothing about. That was the same thing that came to mind when we stumbled on a poorly-crafted media release calling for the resignation of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, within 48 hours, on Monday.
As usual, the incident would not have deserved any reaction, if not for the identity of the organisation, Arewa Youth Assembly. The identity of the promoters of that warped media engagement, namely, the North and Islam, necessitated this intervention.
Despite the cascading erosion pervading our socio-cultural and religious ecosystem, we never envisaged a situation where northern youths would allow their conscience and energy to be hijacked by some unscrupulous elements for devilish reasons.
This intervention is not to attack this youth group, but, instead, to guide them and work towards salvaging them from the grip of economic predators who are on the verge of extinction due to the innovative reforms being championed by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and executed by the CBN, under Chief Emefiele.
In as much as we know the extent to which these economic predators can go in undermining the CBN reforms, we thought using a northern youth organisation to stoke ethnic and religious tension by peddling barefaced unintelligent lies and harebrained innuendoes was not only against northern interests but also an onslaught on our cultural and religious ethos and beliefs.
It is instructive to state here that those elements who are now going helter-skelter because the economic reforms being undertaken by the CBN have blocked all their criminal avenues of fleecing the nation have now devised a means of fighting through the instrumentality of these gullible northern youths.
For the record, it is expedient to educate these northern youths on some of the reforms by the CBN and how deeply entrenched it went in protecting our economy and preserving our security and integrity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already triggered the deepest recession since the 1930s, according to experts. In many developing countries, millions of families already spend upwards of half of their income on food in normal circumstances, according to the World Food Programme.
Importantly, countries that rely heavily on imported food to meet demand, including sub-Saharan Africa, face disproportionate risk from supply chain failures, especially in the face of border closures.
One does not need a clairvoyant to tell him why Nigeria did not suffer from food shortages in the period when the coronavirus pandemic locked down the country.
Previous policies and actions taken by the Buhari administration through Emefiele’s CBN were fully responsible for this respite. They are basically the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) launched by the President in 2014, coordinated and supervised by the CBN under the able leadership of Chief Emefiele; and the closure of land borders by the President.
It is public knowledge that the ABP, launched in 2014 by President Buhari, has empowered rice farmers and processors in the country and resulted in a significant boost in rice production.
Data from the CBN shows that the ABP has added six million metric tonnes to rice supply in the country annually and created nearly six million direct jobs a year. Official statistics from the Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) reveals that about two million direct jobs are created every cropping season. And Nigeria has three cropping seasons in a year, all of them fully funded by the CBN. These jobs are restricted to only the production value chain of rice, and do not include millions of other jobs created in the processing, packaging, transport, marketing sectors of the rice ecosystem.
Courtesy of Emefiele’s reforms, over 100 integrated rice millers are working across the country, providing thousands direct and indirect jobs. This is not to mention over 50 fertilizer plants, hiring thousands and counting.
The ABP has so far saved Nigeria a whopping N369 billion per annum, while the country consumes N1.5 billion worth of rice every day. This breakthrough has saved the country the challenge of sourcing forex or devaluing our currency to finance this monstrous import wage bill.
In all honesty, Nigeria was able to feed itself in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic courtesy of Emefiele’s agricultural revolution, which was further strengthened with the closure of Nigeria’s land borders.
It is worrying to see northern youths being misled into attacking an institution/individual that benefited them the most. Emefiele’s silent revolution is reincarnating the Nigerian pyramids all over the country. The biggest pyramid in Nigeria was unveiled in Kebbi State. The pyramid was a rice pyramid. Before that of Kebbi, other rice pyramids were built and unveiled in many states across the country.
Through ABP alone, Nigeria became Africa’s biggest producer of rice. It surpassed Egypt, which hitherto occupied that position.
President Buhari truly understands and appreciates the fact that a nation can hardly sustain its economic growth without a strong agricultural base and the reasons are obvious, hence his support to CBN’s reforms.
Agriculture, which is the mainstay of the North, provides food, raw materials and employment and it is believed that agriculture is the largest provider of employment; it is estimated that more than 65 per cent of industries and business activities are supported by agriculture at primary and secondary levels.
It is, therefore, amazing for a northern youth organisation to launch a baseless war on Chief Emefiele, who is championing this reform that converts millions of northern peasants to millionaires. It is even more worrisome when these unprovoked and misguided attacks are coming in the midst of the Value Added Tax (VAT) war, launched by some southern state governors against the 19 northern states.
Chief Emefiele, after his appointment, had promised to boost provision of improved seedlings and access to finance for rural farmers in the agricultural sector across 10 commodities: rice, maize, cassava, cocoa, tomato, cotton, oil-palm, poultry, fish and livestock/dairy.
This singular CBN policy has burnished our image internationally, saving the country the challenges of securing foreign exchange to service multibillion-dollar rice import bills, among others.
What Emefiele requires at this critical period is our collective support, not dragging his reputation into the murky waters of politics, or distracting him from delivering on his mandate.
•Engr. Maisalati is the national coordinator of Our North, Our Pride Coalition