Nigeria is experiencing a mini-version of the United States government shutdown.
The refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari on one hand and the Nigerian Senate on the other to back down from their positions concerning the acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, is now having repercussions in other areas.
Why it matters
The biggest casualty so far is the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which is responsible for formulating the country’s monetary and credit policy.
On Sunday, the governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele, announced that the first meeting of the MPC for 2018 which was initially scheduled for Monday and Tuesday would not hold due to inability of members to form a statutory quorum.
By law, the MPC has 12 members – the CBN Governor as Chairman; the four CBN deputy governors; two members of the board of directors; three appointees by the president; and two by the CBN governor.
A quorum is formed when at least five members of the MPC are in attendance, three of whom must be members other than the governor or the deputy governors. There are however currently eight positions on the MPC that are vacant.
Ordinarily, that should not be a problem. President Muhammadu Buhari sent five names to the senate since October 2017 for confirmation but the senate has refused to confirm them.
And it’s all because of Ibrahim Magu.
The acting EFCC chairman has twice been rejected by the senate based on security reports by an agency in the presidency, the Department of State Services (DSS). But Pres. Buhari insists that he would not replace Magu as chairman. The senate on its part has resolved not to confirm new presidential nominees until Magu is removed.
In his statement on Sunday, the CBN governor Emefiele said there is no cause for worry as the fundamentals of the Nigerian economy remains strong and rates will remain unchanged for now.
It is clear however that this state of things cannot continue – the legislature and the executive have to find a common ground quickly. Currently none of them is commenting about the issue and Nigerians are unclear if lines of communication are being explored to resolve the stalemate.
TheScoop spoke with five experts to give us their views on the situation and where they think the fault lies. Our experts shared different opinions on the matter. We have edited for brevity below:
Nnamdi Anekwe-Chive, an analyst at CHIVE-GPS, a Think Tank based in Lagos:
It’s a wrong approach, for President Buhari to insist on Ibrahim Magu, thereby creating a gulf with the National Assembly. The MPC is critical to the overall macroeconomic stability of Nigeria’s financial sector.
Ibrahim Magu is not the only Nigerian cop that can fight economic and financial crimes and the sooner the President resolved the impasse over Magu’s status as the EFCC chairman the better for the political and macroeconomic environment.
Tunji Andrews, Lead Economist at Time, Trade and Commodities (TTAC):
I would say that both parties need to understand that the MPC is a key economy management body and it must not be politicised in anyway.
That said, market operations will still continue as the decisions of the last MPC meeting is still law as regards CBN standing deposit & lending facilities etc. We did not expect them to shift rates anyways, so remaining at status quo isn’t harmful yet.
I urge the president and the members of the NASS to quickly move to resolve this impasse, as it could have happened at a time where action was crucial to our economy’s stability and playing games with the economy should not ever be.
Ugo Obi-Chukwu, CEO of Nairametrics:
I think the National Assembly are the ones holding the country to randsome just to score cheap political points. You do not instigate collateral damage over a contentious appointment. If the President broke no law by sending Magu repeatedly why is the NASS joining the matter with matters of national and economic security?
I believe this sends a wrong signal to foreign investors about the priority of the government especially the ruling party.
I see it as two different issues. One, is it illegal to present same person multiple times? Considering that the guy is investigating members of NASS? Two, how does this matter concern appointment of other people critical to running the country? Someone is clearly irresponsible and it is the NASS.
Cheta Nwanze, Head of Research, SBM Intelligence:
Nna, it is mighty suspicious. It gives the impression that the president is acting out someone’s script, else I don’t see why this. Who could that be? How close is that person to our President?
Sacrificing confidence in the economy for the sake of an Ibrahim Magu is all shades of suspect.
Feyi Fawehinmi, UK based accountant:
At this point, given that Magu has been in office for close to 3 years, we have to assess the cost benefit of this strategy by the presidency. The cost will definitely be in terms of reputational damage to the anti-corruption fight but you might argue that Babachir did more damage than anyone else already.
How effective has Magu been? It’s not that clear cut. EFCC has favoured the theatrical above competence and doing the hard work.
One way or the other, we need some decisiveness from the presidency to get rid of this problem as quickly possible as it’s spilling into other areas.