He is still yet to win the Prize for being the people’s banker. For
those of us that strongly believe that the real economy is clearly the
most important part of any economy and that the SMEs are by far the
most productive and useful segment in developing an emerging economy,
we cannot but insist and indeed state categorically that the CBN still
has a lot to do in solving the most basic and crippling problems
facing those genuinely trying to operate in the Nigerian economy.
Let us be as clear as possible, lest we are ingenuously misunderstood
or mischievously misquoted. Lamido Sanusi deserves all the accolades
he has received so far and many of his interventions were necessary.
When asked in the City of London in October 2010 to give some comments
I described Sanusi as the man who came to the CBN with the unambiguous
mission of sanitising the banking industry and who in the process of
doing so gave many some valuable lessons on bravery, honour, integrity
and self dignity. Contrast that with those many public officials that
say “yes but...” or the ones that say “I know but this is Nigeria...”.
One serious omission in the CBN’s achievement list is an action
targeted towards and felt by those millions of people and businesses
that actively produce, buy and sell the goods and services we use in
our everyday lives. They are the ones that operate in the real economy
and as we say in the classroom, using the old Sesame street song,
these are “the people in your neighbourhood”. Most of them have never
entered the office of a bank MD. They don’t own shares in the stock
exchange, they don’t buy those magazines you and I use to judge a how
a good a hotel is; but they are the ones that make food get to our
tables, they treat us when we are sick, teach our children, build our
houses, and even groom our appearance. They are the real people, Mr
Governor, and you need to be their banker. The CBN needs to come out
with clear and cogent plans for them.
Their needs are quite basic and out there for all to see, obviously
the CBN cannot meet all these needs but to be their banker and win
their prize the CBN Governor can take some steps that will deal with
the banking related challenges that has for too long crippled and
continue to cripple these business.
A major problem those operating in the real economy face has to do
with access to finance. The process is just too cumbersome in Nigeria,
the demand and conditions to be met are simply too onerous for most
businesses particularly start-ups. The interest rates on financial
products such as loans and overdrafts makes effective growth and
straightforward business practically impossible for those people and
organisations that want to be prudent and honourable in Nigeria.
While banking, even those who are lucky enough not to need any kind of
loan or those that are so unlucky that they cannot get any facility
will all have to deal with unpleasant levels of cost of transactions
for merely using their bank to pay and receive payments. Someone needs
to seriously speak to Nigerian banks about their COT and the best
person I suspect is the CBN.
One of the most intriguing disconnect I have picked upon in Nigeria is
the disparity between the people and its institutions. The chapter on
technology is quite a long one in such compendium and the banking
industry is not at all exempt from it. For a country where even road
hawkers have one or even more mobile phones it is hard to understand
why there are no cogent attempts to make telephone banking a popular
feature. Then there is that is even the bigger need to make electronic
payments, wire transfers and other kind of bank transfers readily
available to people and business in the country. It is a sad sight to
see people withdraw cash from one bank and then risk robbery, spend
time and even dare those bad roads to go make a deposit in another
Before and beyond all these is of course the problem of the foreign
exchange rate, the value of the dollar, British Pounds Sterling and
other foreign currencies against the Naira is simply a sad fact as we
read. For a country that imports most of the things it uses, including
petrol, something needs to be quickly and continuously in place to
manage the value of the Naira.