Economy will bounce back, Buhari assures Nigerians

• CBN urges banks to explore agric sector gaps
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed confidence that the economy would bounce back strongly, given the right policy responses to the uncertainties created by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

He said that since the government could not wait for things to get better on their own, it had formulated appropriate policies and implemented them steadily to address the challenges head on.

“So far, government has implemented a wide range of fiscal, prudential and monetary measures that squarely address four key necessities to ensure sufficient liquidity to support government programmes for saving lives and livelihoods, maintain stability of the financial system, ensure continued delivery of financial services to the public and shore up confidence, and cushion economic activities,’’ the president said.

Buhari made the remarks yesterday while declaring open the 13th annual banking and finance conference in Abuja themed ‘’Facilitating a Sustainable Future-The Role of Banking and Finance.’’

According to Buhari, the banking system, which is a critical component of the financial sector, is not immune against the potential impact of the current economic situation as banks have to restructure potentially bad loans in every sector of the economy.

Represented by the Minister of Finance and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, Buhari said: “With the current partial lifting of the lockdown, there are positive indications that some businesses are getting back to pre-pandemic levels. However, the uncertainty over the duration and intensity of the pandemic as well as its impact on the economy continues to be a cause for concern.’’

According to him, while the moratorium on loans was a temporary solution in the context of the lockdown, the restructuring framework is expected to give durable relief to borrowers facing COVID-19- related distress, adding, “It is expected that in post COVID-19, the financial sector should return to normal functioning without relying on the regulatory relaxations and other measures as the new norm.’’

In his good will message, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, urged banks and financial institutions to explore agricultural sector gaps such as storage centers, transport logistics, and technology platforms, that can enable rural farmers to sell their produce directly to the markets.

Emefiele explained that the agricultural sector also offers significant opportunity for the nation to earn foreign exchange through export of processed agro products.

‘’With declining foreign exchange earnings from crude oil, banks should consider supporting agro processing companies that are export-oriented, as these measures would help to improve productivity of farmers, increase our foreign exchange earnings, reduce post-harvest losses, increase access to finance for farmers while supporting the growth of other sectors of our economy such as manufacturing and transportation,’’ the CBN chief said.

Earlier in his opening address, the President/ Chairman of Council, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Mr. Bayo Olugbemi, said the conference was organised to enable stakeholders brainstorm and come up with far- reaching recommendations to better position the banks to effectively play their roles that will impact on the economy positively at this critical time.

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