You have drawn a lot of flaks for donations by the CBN under your watch. What is the rationale for these donations?
When I came in, one of the things I discovered was that education was an area where we have had a lot of investments at the Bank. Since this process was on and I liked it, I talked to the board of the bank and they agreed that this is something that we should continue doing. They are largely interventions in educational institutions aimed at filling major gaps in infrastructure. We have tried to see if we can focus the schools on producing very high-quality personnel for the banking industry and finance-related areas. So, most of those centres of excellence are really for MBAs, MSc Finance and so on. They are supposed to produce high-quality personnel for the financial sector and give them the very best training.
If you don’t invest in human capital, the system will collapse. The graduates that come out and go to the banking industry will not have the ability to run the banks. Those that we employ as regulators will not have the skills to regulate. We don’t have the capacity in Nigerian universities to produce the kind of personnel that this industry wants. So at the level of the centres of excellence, the investments are aimed at contributing to the flow of human capital. Now if we don’t make the money, we won’t do it; and if we do make money and the board approves, we do it. What I have not understood in the criticism is the following: is it that it is wrong to intervene in education? Or is it wrong for the CBN to do it? I still have not understood what the criticism is all about.
Well the criticism is that CBN under you became a Father Christmas, dishing out money to all kind of things that are not related to your core mandate.
In 2002, there was a bomb blast in Ikeja, Lagos. The CBN Governor then was Joseph Sanusi and the CBN gave N10 million. What is the difference between giving bomb blast victims N10 million in Lagos and giving N100 million to bomb blast victims in Kano or N25 million to bomb blast victims in Madalla? I didn’t start it. It is a tradition of the bank. How is that Father Christmas? What is wrong with the board of the Central Bank approving if the Bank is making huge profits? What is wrong with the CBN contributing to relief for humanitarian disasters? What is wrong with the CBN getting banks together and contributing to flood disaster relief? We put in about N500 million when the flood disaster hit the country. We got the banks to put in money and we gave the money to the relief body set up by the president. Most of the victims of the Boko Haram bombings in Kano were not Kano indigenes. If you see the list, 70% of the people the governor of Kano State gave the money to were from the south. They were SSS officers and police officers whose barracks were bombed. They were people from all over Nigeria. The bulk of them were neither Muslims nor from Kano and the list was published.
What about the conference centre? Should the CBN be involved in things like that?
What is a central bank and who says the central bank should not be involved in these activities? On the basis of whose rule? How did this conference centre start? We all go out to Washington, Istanbul, Cape Town and other places for meetings and conferences of the World Bank and IMF etc. Let me give you an example. When I just became the CBN governor, there was a meeting of West African central bank governors and it was held at the Transcorp Hilton. But go to the Bank of Sudan and they have beautiful conference rooms. So when they were going to have the D8 meeting of central bank governors I said we needed to build a conference room in the central bank that will host the central bank governors and that is where we have our Monetary Policy Committee meetings now. We got Julius Berger to do it. We designed a roundtable with five cabins for simultaneous translation with video conferencing facility, with TV coverage facilities. Today, if the IMF and World Bank say they are coming to Africa, Nigeria cannot even offer to host