The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has blamed the Godwin Emefiele-led Central Bank of Nigeria and other banks for failing to implement the N2.3trillion post COVID-19 stimulus package, thereby causing “economic pains” for Nigerians.
Speaking at the midterm retreat of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second tenure, the Vice-President added the exchange rate was artificially low, and hence deterred investors from bringing foreign exchange into the country.
He noted that if Buhari had not set up the sustainability plan, the economic pains associated with COVID-19 would have been deeper and lasted longer.
Dishing out facts and figures of the achievements of the post-COVID-19 stimulus, Osinbajo lamented that the CBN and the banks delayed in releasing much of the funds causing implementation delays in the Agriculture, Solar Power and Social Housing sectors.
“Under the MSME, the Economic Sustainability Plan has resulted into 1.1million beneficiaries under the N75billion ESP Survival Fund for MSMES. This includes 459,000 beneficiaries of the Payroll support for 3 months, 293,000 transport workers and artisans who were beneficiaries of a one-off grant, 244,000 MSMES that benefitted from the CAC Formalisation Scheme and 82,000 businesses that received one-off grants under the MSMES Grants Scheme,” a statement from the Vice President office read.
“The VP also spoke of progress in the Agriculture sector under the ESP including N471billion allocated as loans for farmers across 14 Crop Value Chains, Beef Production, Aquaculture and Poultry Farming. But he lamented that only N14billion of the sum allocated has been released by the banking system; CBN and the commercial banks.
“Of the N471billion, so far only N14billion is disbursed to commercial banks and is yet to be utilised by farmers due to late release for the 2021 wet farming season.
“He had a similar regret regarding the Social Housing programme of the ESP where very low cost, mass affordable housing was planned-300,000 across the country.
“The VP said here are continuing delays in the disbursements of funds from the CBN. The Debenture Agreement for N200billion with the CBN which represents bulk of the financing was agreed on 22nd April and has been signed by all parties. However disbursement is yet to take place.
“There was a similar lamentation when the VP reviewed the Solar Power Naija programme of the ESP where 5million solar power connections are planned. This programme he said will increase energy access to 25million Nigerians. Already he disclosed that 704,000 solar connections are certainly underway now and another 600k connections is in the offing.
“But the 5m Solar Connections target is being delayed because while N140B was allocated through the CBN to facilitate, only N7B of that has been disbursed. Unwillingness of CBN to disburse funds, risk aversion of Public and private financial institutions particularly for Power projects,” were among challenges militating against a faster speed of implementation.
“The VP said with the Sustainability Plan in place, revenues improved despite oil production issues, while macroeconomic indices are trending in the right direction. Besides there has been a rebound in a number of sectors like Transport that had risen by 77%, Hospitality by 2%, Education 1%, Real Estate 4%, Trade 23% and construction by 4%.
“The VP noted that CBN reports indicated disbursements of a total of N798B to 3.9m small holder farmers under the Anchor Borrowers Programme, N134B to 38,140 beneficiaries in soft agric and small business loans and grants, and a total of N1Trillion to 269 real sector projects and another N103B disbursed to 110 health care projects.
“Prof. Osinbajo (SAN) said during if not for good policies, the Nigerian economy would have been worse off than most economies who are now struggling with the negative impacts of COVID-19. Osinbajo took the audience through the memory lane about the nation’s remarkable exits from two recessions – 2016 and 2020.
“It would be recalled that during the third quarter of 2020, the economy was already on a rebound, adding that the latest fourth-quarter figures show that the recovery of the Nigerian economy is steady thanks to the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP). The ESP is a product of the Osinbajo-led Economic Sustainability Committee (Esc) set up by President Buhari in April 2020.
“The Federal Executive Council approved the ESP in June 2020, while the Vice President was requested to lead the implementation of the Plan. The ESP aims to, among others, prevent a deep recession, ensure economic recovery, and inject funds into the economy through direct transfers.”