OPINION: Why Nigeria needs an independent CBN

by VICTOR OGIEMWONYI

The recent debate of the proposed bill by both chambers of the National Assembly aimed at restricting the independence of the Central Bank of Nigeria needs to be set in the context of the importance of the CBN as a national institution that needs to be kept independent. If you look around the country, the problems we have all around us are traceable to the failure of our institutions.

No matter who we have as President of Nigeria, we will continue to have problems if we don’t have national institutions that are independent and have the powers to take on the responsibilities we have charged them with. It is high time we stopped the continued centralisation of decision-making in Nigeria that is ruining everything. We have the most powerful President in the world because he is expected to approve everything. He assents to the bills passed by the National Assembly; executes the budget, and approves who becomes judges as recommended by the National Judicial Council. All these powers are normal for the President except that, those Institutions put in place to ensure the effectiveness of our laws cannot be second-guessed.

That is why it is important to properly vet those who we put in the leadership position in these institutions. If they hold a view, however wrong, they must be allowed to be so until they collectively change their mind or the end of their tenure, when change of personnel will be expected to bring new thinking to the institution. Until then, we will have to trust those that have been put in there. A case in point is the recent crisis that followed the recent NJC recommendation on Justice Isa Salami.

Putting the politics of the issue aside, the question is should the decision of a national institution like the NJC be subject to further approvals? If yes, then what is the role of the NJC as an institution?

How is the NJC as an institution different from the Supreme Court? Can one imagine where we will be if the decision of the Supreme Court is subject to any further approval? The Central Bank of Nigeria fits into this category as an important national institution. There is no doubt that the sponsors of the bill mean well, however, they may have been put off by some of the personal traits of the current Governor of the apex bank.

Given this, there is the need to always look beyond the occupant of the position and think of the importance of an independent CBN to our national economy. No doubt, there are a few areas the CBN Governor needs to improve on, especially as it concerns his communication with the public. He may mean well, but he sometimes delivers his message wrongly. I am sure he has since realised that being right always does not necessarily mean being effective and successful. He has sometimes been called a reformer with a brass band in tow. Everyone who occupies a public office will not get everything right 100 per cent.

In my opinion, however, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has been more right than wrong. We should be careful not to make laws specifically because we don’t like those occupying institutional positions of trust. The focus in the National Assembly should be on the qualification of the candidates that come to be confirmed for these positions. They should find out everything about the candidates, previous performances and their understanding of the job. They should be asked questions about the vision for the institution. They should do their best to understand his thinking. This is how to influence those the President nominates to head any national institution. Once the candidate is confirmed, they must be left to do their job to the best of their ability. If they appear wrong in their decisions, the people must be patient until their tenure elapses. The quality of any decision will be judged over time. National institutions require time to put in place the vision of the leadership at any one time. I will advise the National Assembly to leave the CBN alone to do its job. There will be plenty of time to judge Sanusi on his tenure in a few years.

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija. This piece was originally published in The Punch on July  3, 2012.

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