Bulkachuwa, Emefiele Pass Senate’s Acid Test

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Bulkachuwa

The Senate has confirmed the appointment of Godwin Emefiele, as the governor designate of the Central Bank of Nigeria and Zainab Bulkachuwa, as the president of the Court of Appeal on March 26

|  By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Apr. 7, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

BY virtue of their achievements in the society, Godwin Emefiele, managing director of Zenith Bank, one of the biggest commercial bank in the country, and Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, president of Court of Appeal may not need any introduction in any part of Nigeria today.  But when they appeared before the Senate on Wednesday, March 26, Emefiele and Bulkachuwa looked like errant high school students summoned to the principal’s office to defend certain allegations levelled against them.

Emefiele and Bulkachuwa are no offenders. There were both at the hallowed chambers to be screened and confirmed for the appointments for which they had been nominated by President Goodluck Jonathan. In separate letters to the Senate, Jonathan had, as constitutionally required, requested the legislators to screen and confirm Emefiele and Bulkachuwa for the position of governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and the president of the Court of Appeal, respectively.

Emefiele was nominated in the wake of the crises at the apex bank which led to the suspension of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the bank. Now that he has been confirmed, he is expected to take over from Sarah Alade, the acting governor of the bank on June 1, when Sanusi’s tenure expires officially.

On her part, Bulkachuwa was nominated for the position of president of the Court of Appeal. Despite the fact that she held the position in acting capacity since 2012 following the expiration of tenure and subsequent retirement of Justice Dalhatu Adamu, she had to face the lawmakers before her appointment could be confirmed.

Emefiele
Emefiele

Although it is usually regarded as mere formality by most Nigerian, the screening and eventual confirmation of both nominees was tough. Perhaps, the lawmakers went the extra mile to grill them because they had been nominated to fill sensitive positions.

The message from David Mark, the Senate president, after the confirmation of both nominees summarises why the lawmakers went the extra mile. “These are two very key appointments and the amount of time we spent on it is a clear indication of the importance that we attach to these confirmations. The two people involved are very distinguished Nigerians and our prayers would go with them that Justice Bulkachuwa would deliver Justice on time and Emefiele would ensure that he does the prescribed responsibilities of the governor of the Central Bank without fear or favour”, Mark said.

Bulkachuwa, who was the first to face the lawmakers, had an easy run compared to what Emefiele went through. In less than 30 minutes the senators had asked her questions bothering on the delay dispensation of justice in the country and the challenges of the Nigerian judicial system.

According to her, the poor funding of the judiciary is one of the factors responsible for the usual delays in the dispensation of justice, especially in cases of elections in Nigerian courts. She added that because judges in Nigeria still have to do things manually and evidences are not obtained on time, the delays are to be expected.

“On the funding of the judiciary, this is a very serious issue with us. We are the biggest court in the country. We have 90 justices as at now. We have 16 divisions of the Court of Appeal. But our budget this year is N10.1billion. The justices have their salaries, allowances which should be charged on the consolidated revenue fund. So if you take that out of the N10.1billion what are you left with? Then we need courts and houses for our justices but we cannot continue.

“And then we have so many houses of the Justices. They are dilapidated. They are out of fashion. Like the ones in Lagos, they are the old colonial houses that were given to our Justices since the time Supreme Court days because we inherited both the houses and the courts from the Supreme Court. We cannot renovate them because we lack the funding to do that. Some of our houses are in a sorry state. If our justices are comfortable, I assure, you have the best set of judges in Nigeria,” she said.

“It takes also  the dwindling budget of the Judiciary. I don’t allocate the budget. I am just confined to what we have and we have been trying to manage as much as we can. But we had to cry out. That is why we cried out last year and we are still crying out. We need our budget to be looked into. We need to have tools because our tools are our books, comfortable quarters and then comfortable houses.”

Bulkachuwa said if the situation improves, judges and by courts will be more efficient. “A judge will sit in court maybe till 5 O’ Clock. He will go back home maybe rest for two hours and then he will spend the whole night working and then come back to the court the next morning. So if his condition is perfect or if his condition is manageable, I am sure we will have more productivity,” She concluded

As soon as Bulkachuwa took a bow and left the chamber, the lawmakers steadied themselves for their next guest. Rather than the usual large entourage that accompanies many nominees, Emefiele walked into the chambers accompanied by just three people. Decked in a black suit with a file in his hand, he looked like a scholar ready to defend his thesis.

Done with the introductions, Mark advised Emefiele to prepare to answer many questions from the lawmakers. “I am sure you are well prepared because you will be here for a long time. If you need water ask because there are many questions for you to answer.”

Mark
Mark

True to his words, Emefiele stood for more than two hours. He was grilled extensively by the lawmakers who hurled questions at him like missiles. Many of the questions bothered on monetary policies, the role of the central bank, economic growth and Emefiele’s plans for the bank if cleared for the appointment.

In his answers, Emefiele explained that contrary to popular opinions, Nigeria’s economy is stable with about $39B in foreign reserves. He added that for the country to experience the desired economic growth there must be a synergy between the CBN and the ministry of Finance.

The CBN governor designate also stated that the core mandate of the CBN is to ensure that the country has a strong foreign reserve and a healthy financial system. He also said the devaluation of the naira should never be contemplated because Nigeria is an import dependent economy.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria is the monitoring authority whereas the Ministry of Finance is the fiscal authority. It is important that in their relationship they must work in one direction. They must push in one direction. If we push in opposite directions what you will find is that we are not going to be able to achieve economic growth and development that we are talking about.

“It is important that both the ministry of finance and the Central Bank move in one direction. If the decision is that we should pursue a conventional policy, both the Central Bank and the ministry of finance should be seen to move in one direction. So, we expect that there should be a collaborative relationship where they are both ready to work together for the common good of Nigerians”, he said.

Emefiele assured the lawmakers that he would run the affairs of the apex bank in accordance to the laws of Nigeria. “I will not spend any money in contravention of the law. I would plead that you allow me yield on the issue of monies because these matters are in the court and I don’t want to make any statement that would be seen to be sub judice.

“I think one of the core mandate of the Central Bank is to ensure that we maintain a legal tender and they respect it and ensure that whatever is done that our own Naira has to be used as a legal tender. I will take it as a primary responsibility to ensure that the attempt to dollarise the Nigerian economy is discouraged. We should not allow it because it would create problem for the economy,” he said.

“I am aware that the core mandate of the central bank of Nigeria is to achieve the monetary and price stability. Another core mandate of the CBN is to ensure that we have a strong and build strong foreign reserve. We are also expected to ensure that we have a strong financial system in Nigeria,” Emefiele said.

On the employment problems in the country, Emefiele assured that under his watch decisions taken at Monetary Policy Committee will be those that will improve the dire unemployment crisis in the country.

“On the back of this mandate we would work very hard to ensure that we achieve macro-economic stability in this country where inflation rate shall be seen to continue to come down.  And where we would as much as possible continue to maintain a strong exchange rate for the country and build a strong foreign reserve.”

He also explained that growing the economy of the country is much more important than having a stable economy and this can be achieved through development banking model, adding that counties like Brazil and Mexico used the model to grow their economies

“Aside from these core mandates, we would ensure that the CBN and all stakeholders in the economy that we would play a central role towards ensuring that we grow the Nigerian economy. Growing the economy of Nigeria is a very important assignment other than just the core mandate of ensuring that we have a stable environment. We would do this through the development banking model.

“The DBM is a model that have been tried and tested in different jurisdictions in the world. In fact in some of the frontiers and emerging markets in the world we have seen development banking used as a tool towards achieving economic growth, development and industrialisation. In the Latin American countries of Brazil and Mexico, development banking was used to achieve economic growth and development in these areas.  And today Brazil is seen to be one of the BRIC states in the world,” he said.

At the end of the screening exercise, Emefiele and Bulkachuwa nominations were confirmed. Meanwhile, the Senate directed its committee on banking and finance to screen Adelabu Adebayo, the nominee for the position of the deputy governor of CBN. The committee is expected to turn in its report next week before the appointment would be confirmed.

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