Bank chief advises against removal of CBN autonomy
By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria
As debate over whether to remove the autonomy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or not rages on, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Maxifund Investments and Securities Limited, Okechukwu Unegbu, has advised members of the National Assembly not to tamper with the autonomy.
Unegbgu, who was a former Chief Executive Officer of the defunct Citizen International Bank, warned that amending the CBN Act would distort the entire banking system and harm ongoing reforms in the financial system including current drive for a "cashless" economy.
He made these remarks at the Zenith Bank sponsored Finance Correspondent Association of Nigeria (FICAN) bi-monthly forum that was held in Lagos this week. He spoke on the topic: “Banks’ Financial Performance in 2011 and Q1 2012: Implication for the Capital Market.”
Said he: “Why is the National Assembly trying to amend the CBN Act? The reason and only reason is because there is one strong character that had taken them on. We should be thinking of building strong institutions, so that anybody who gets there, whether the person is weak or strong, will continue to evolve in the system."
“We wrote a memo to the National Assembly, telling them that it is not right to do that. We fought for the financial and instrument autonomy of the CBN and so people cannot just destroy it. They are doing that because they have seen Lamido Sanusi as being too vocal and too strong to contend with them, therefore they want to cut his power, not thinking of the danger it will cause to the financial system. In going after Sanusi, they are trying to destroy the CBN, which should not happen.”
According to him, the banking industry and capital market should complement each other and therefore co-evolve within the financial system because that is the only way the two financial institutions can help the economy to achieve the desired growth.
“It means that financial regulations have to be reviewed. In other words, regulators in the financial system have to rethink about themselves. The financial regulation coordinating committee should always be thinking about cooperation,” he reasoned.
Going down memory lane, he explained that the capital market was very strong prior to 2008 arguing that at that time, that institution was behaving as if it existed alone in a system where there are so many other contending financial institutions or financial markets, saying “at that time, everybody was making money and forgot that in making money, there is what we call financial friction, and this is what happens between the banking sector and the capital market. Now, while the banking system has a lot of investible instruments, the capital market has few instruments. We only know about shares and stocks. This is because of the imperfect information in our system. Both the banking system and capital market lack information and this makes it impossible for banks to lend.”
On regulation, he advised: “Regulators should not narrowly focus on banks and the capital market separately, but should instead focus on them as an integral part of the system. Regulators in the world over has learned from the recent financial crisis that had happened, that focusing on banks and capital market regulations alone can be dangerous for the system.”