The Central Bank is working with the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to ensure the full disbursement in three weeks, of the more than N200 billion power support fund meant to resolve a pile of legacy debts and empower generating and distribution firms to produce and wheel more electricity to businesses and homes in the country.
Issues around electricity tariff in the country and controversy have stalled the disbursement of the fund over an announcement made by the power regulator just before the recent general elections.
According Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank “the disbursement was slowed down by the reversal in the tariff and we are working and discussing this matter so we can fully disburse.
“ The regulators NERC has told us they did not backtrack on the issue of tariff, that they have sent messages to the Discos to send them what is called a cost reflective tariff and once the Discos send this cost reflective tariff, they will give the approval.”
He was speaking with BusinessDay in the apex bank governor’s first wide-ranging sit down interview with any Nigerian newspaper.
He said, ”what happened is that some companies have received payment. Yes the funds have not been fully disbursed but we have disbursed about 25 per cent N56bn to some Gencos and Discos out of a total of almost N213bn. We will be meeting with the NERC, the embeds, so we can work to remove some of the hiccups along that chain and in matter of three weeks we should see these efforts resulting in total disbursement.”
Emefiele, who acknowledged that his immediate two predecessors had done an excellent job, Professor Soludo focussing on consolidation and Emir Sanusi accomplishing a feat in the area of reform of the banking and financial system, said he would like to be known for significantly pushing the nation’s economic development.
He said, “this is partly why we are focusing on the issue of power. The lack of adequate power is holding back economic and industrial development and we are encouraged by the policy thrust of president Muhammadu Buhari who has made the issue of infrastructure and economic development a central plank of his administration.”
He insisted that while the Central Bank and the government will continue to launch initiatives which help to clear obstacles to business competitiveness in Nigeria, adding that Nigerians and investors in the country need to change their paradigm because Nigeria does not have to remain import dependent.
The Central Bank recently listed 41 items which will no longer be imported via the official foreign exchange window.
He explained, “I cannot understand why some one will tell me that palm oil is an intermediate product and so we should allow it come in.
“I cannot understand why somebody will tell me that cold roll steel is an intermediate product, when we know that there are firms in Nigeria producing and converting hot roll steel into cold roll steel and people want us to continue to import cold roll steel. “That will not happen because we will say no, let them go, those companies in Nigeria which can and are already converting the hot roll steel which they can import, into cold roll steel. Don’t tell me it is an intermediate product. What will it take to import a machine that can convert your hot roll steel into cold roll steel and you create jobs for your people? That is what we are saying.”
He said the apex bank had received representations from interest groups on some of its recent policy guidelines on foreign exchange management but noted that the bank had a responsibility to do what it is doing.
“I do not have to seek their approval to do what we are doing simply because Nigeria has no business continuing in what we have been doing that has turned the country into a dumping ground rather than a production economy.
“ I have read some these concerns you alluded to. They have written to me and I am going to invite them for a meeting so we can engage.”