Written by Sarah NEGEDU

FG assures Nigerians, Nothing to fear over Lagarde’s visit

Some Nigerians have expressed fears over the visit of the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, Ms Christine Lagarde, with many seeing it as a bait to lure the country into taken an IMF loan.

These fears were however allayed with President Muhammadu Buhari’s bold declaration that his administration would look inward to mitigate the effect of falling oil prices on the nation’s economy.

Buhari, while receiving the IMF boss at the Presidential villa in Abuja, said his administration will enforce regulations to stop financial leakages and adopt global best practices in generating more revenue to mitigate the effect of dwindling oil prices on the Nigerian economy.

The president also disclosed that his administration will also enforce greater discipline, probity and accountability in all revenue generating agencies of the Federal Government.

In a statement by the his Senior Adviser on Media, Buhari said, “We have just come out of budget discussions after many weeks of taking into consideration the many needs of the country and the down turn of the economy with falling oil prices and the negative economic forecasts.

“We are working very hard and with the budget as our way forward, we will do our best to ensure that our country survives the current economic downturn.

“We have also told all heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government that on our watch, they will fully account for all funds that get into their coffers.”

Lagarde in her response clarified that she was not in Nigeria to propose loans for the country, rather to review the Nigerian economy and its impact on neighboring countries. She said though Nigeria does not need an IMF loan, fiscal discipline was needed for the country to survive its present economic reality.

In her words, “First, let me make it clear that I’m not here, nor is my team in this country, to negotiate a loan with conditionalities.

“We are not into programme negotiations and, frankly, at this point in time, given the determination and resilience displayed by the president and his team, I don’t see why an IMF programme will be needed.”

She however said the fund is willing to assist Nigeria in plugging revenue leakages, tracing stolen funds and restructuring its tax system.

At a meeting with the with the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and some Chief Executives of Banks in Nigeria, Lagarde called on the financial authorities to channel more resources to grow the real sector as well as the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.

Speaking with journalists at the end of the closed door meeting, Lagarde said she held discussions with bank CEOs to encourage them to lend more and at concessionary interest rates to the real sector of the economy to boost economic growth and development.

“This morning I have been with the CBN governor, I have also been having a series of meeting with the representatives of the banking industry and we have assured ourselves of a strategic defence on how to sustain the banking sector. We also have discussed how the financial sector can help contribute in financing the economy and support small and medium scale business and the development of Nigeria.

“From my perspective, it was a very productive meeting, very open to really exchange and consider how we can improve further the financial sector in Nigeria is strong and solid and it also needs to continue to be so but it also need to lend to the real economy and provide the needed credit for businesses.”

The IMF managing director also disclosed that discussions were held on how the bureau de change market could better be improved for greater productivity and service to the nation.

Responding, Emefiele commended the IMF boss for visiting Nigeria and the apex bank, adding that at the meeting, the CBN and the IMF had very fruitful discussion on how best to support the real sector and SMEs in the country.

 

“We had very fruitful discussions and indeed she gave support to the efforts of the CBN by also trying to encourage Nigerian banks to continue to support the real sector, support the small scale enterprises in Nigeria and indeed also try as much as possible to do those lending activities at very concessionary interest rates. The banks gave their word that they will try their best notwithstanding the challenges in the environment now.”

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