The CBN Forex Policy dialogue which held in Lagos, lived up to its billing. It was an exchange of fiery ideas and much more
The event which was put together by the British High Commission in partnership with the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), held at the Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos.
The Naira traded for N385 to a Dollar at the close of business on Tuesday.
A day before, the nation's faltering currency had gained three points at the parallel market to close at N468/Dollar.
“I am here to listen”, said Ukeje as he made to address the first set of questions he had scribbled on a notepad. He was asking for an earful, but he got much more.
It became immediately clear that the panelists and the organised private sector--which made up the audience--had managed to get under Ukeje’s skin as the event wore on.
It was an audacious move to represent the CBN at an event; especially at a time when the Naira has continued to depreciate against the U.S Dollar, when inflation has reached double digits and when the regulatory bank appears to be rigging its own Forex policy.
ALSO READ: Nigerians blast CBN at policy dialogue
At a point, Ukeje was at pains to explain if the Forex policy unveiled by the apex bank earlier in the year, was a float, a flexible exchange rate or a devaluation.
“We should be wary of an absolute devaluation”, Ukeje said, while explaining that the CBN was operating a “flexible exchange rate that is managed”.
Renowned economist and CEO of Financial Derivatives company Ltd, Bismarck Rewane, couldn’t hold back his dig at the government and the CBN.
Rewane lamented that the Forex management regime had worsened liquidity crisis and that the resulting uncertainty has negatively impacted investor confidence.
Dr Eniola Ajayi also sank in her claws at intervals, berating the federal authorities for what she referred to as the mismanagement of the Forex market.
There were also notable inputs from Muda Yusuf who leads the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and Laoye Jaiyeola of the NESG.
Mrs. Nneka Okekearu who represented small and medium scale businesses was measured in her criticisms, but pulled no punches with her suggestions.
Questions were allowed from the audience as well.
Time and again, entrepreneurs lamented how Forex shortage and inflation had left their businesses on the verge of collapse.
Discussants also called for more synergy and coordination from the fiscal and monetary authorities.
“There is no transparency in the market”, lamented one panelist.
“There should be more intervention to protect the poor…devaluation has left the poor poorer”, chimed Dr Ayo Teriba, another renowned economist whose inputs have been sought by the economic management team in the Presidency.
Segun Awolowo of the Export Promotion Council, represented the federal government at the dialogue session.
He assured the charged room that feedback from the event will be taken on board by the economic management team headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
“We have to ramp up exports. Nigeria must export or perish!”, declared Awolowo.
Across the room, everyone agreed that the CBN has to do better with its monetary policies.
Ukeje was visibly rattled each time the mic was passed his way by the moderator.
At one point, the CBN boss blamed portfolio investors for the Forex crisis; insisting they always sought for the slightest excuse to run away with their money.
He was defensive at intervals and uneasily calm on occasion.
But the mood at the event couldn’t have been missed even by the most casual of observers. It was a charged, lively atmosphere.
In Lagos where a chunk of the private sector calls home, the recession has landed devastating blows, the charged audience revealed.
At the Forex policy dialogue, everyone was willing to vent that frustration.
After the event, Andrew Fleming of the British High Commission told Pulse that the event which was put together by his organisation, had achieved its objective.
There’ll be many more monetary policy dialogues of that kind from his organisation until Nigeria emerges from its economic recession, Fleming promised.
Ukeje had however left the hall an hour before the event was billed to end. Only a few persons noticed he had disappeared. He had had enough for one day in the nation’s business capital.
There's just so much an Adviser to the CBN Governor can take.