WTO: Why Okonjo -Iweala Wants Nigeria To Embrace The Digital Economy Which Has Gained Ground The World-Over

By Stephen Ubanna

In spite of the fact that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a one-time minister of Finance and Coordinator of  the economy and now Director General, World Trade Organisation, WTO, has promised to assist Nigeria exit its current recession, she may cross path with President Muhammad Buhari, a retired army General on the remedies to be used.

The WTO, Director General, was said to have told Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN that the Nigerian government should embrace the digital economy to exit recession which the Katsina state born Nigerian President may not be ready to expose the economy for now on the ground that it will be abused  by users.

The WTO Director General, who is not ready to soft pedal in her push for Nigeria to embrace the digital economy  is happy over the high cost of manufactured  products and locally produced food items in the country  had said  that  there are opportunities  that could be used  in improving trade   with other countries so that  the  economy  could climb out  of the Asian country of China emerged coronavirus, popular, COVID 19, recession.

Okonjo-Iweala: WTO DG

She insists that the country needs to embrace the WTO remedies and a digital economy to help Nigerian Industries grow. Okonjo-Iweala, who could hide her feelings had said that the WTO, has the trade remedies According to the United Nations, UN, Trade Agency Director General, the Nigerian government could apply the strategies which had worked in different economies without banning things. She noted that the government could use the trade remedies to protect the local Industries against dumping and cheap imports.

 Already, Inflation in Nigeria,  going by the reports of the National Bureau of Statistics , NBS,  has hit a four- year high The inflation last February as manufactured products and food items  prices were said to have hit 17.33?, thus heaping financial pressure on families faced with shrinking labour market and a stagnant economy amidst mounting insecurity.  The high Inflation may be worse in the months ahead    as many as many Companies have parked up due to high cost of production necessitated by the COVID 19. The activities of the armed herdsmen harassing farmers in different parts of the country may not have helped matters.

eMefiele: CBN, Governor, Supports Government Anti-People Monetary Policies

  What had people out as a way of the high Inflation  in the country was the move towards  a digital economy for transactions. But the  Nigerian President   may have killed  the dream on the advice of Emefiefele the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. It was not surprising why, he had barred the banks and Financial Institutions from dealings or facilitating  transactions in crypto currencies such as Bitcoin, BTC  in Nigeria because he has the backing of the  retired army General.

Recall that the CBN and the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, had said that that they took the decision  because of the inherent risk  within  the digital asset sector  but that was how they could go. Thy may have banned the use of the bitcoin and other crypto currencies for international transactions at a time when most   local Industries, importers and suppliers are getting involved  with  the cryptocurrency, particular, the BTC, as a means of transactions. One BTC, according to an informed source equals N21 238,044.90, as at March 16 and 17, 2021.

Bitcoin Crypto currency,Symbolises A Digital Economy

Yemi Ossinbajo, a Professor of Law and the country’s Vice President may have known the implication of the ban on Crypto Currencies exchange rate that he had urged the apex bank Authorities and  the Security and Exchange Commission, SEC,  to find  out other ways  to regulate the Crypto currencies   rather than prohibiting the use in the country. The Vice President who may not have been in support of the CBN action to ban the use of the digital currency exchange rate in international transactions  had urged them  ‘’to come up with a regime  that would support  growth and Innovation’’.

In spite of the fact that the Nigerian government is running away from the crypto currencies digital asset  for transactions ,which the North American country of the United States, China, US, United Kingdom, UK, Japan , Germany  had embraced to grow their economy and other countries have adopted including some African countries, JP Morgan, a world Class bank had revealed that the BTC,  retail investors  have picked  up the slack   amid current decline in Institutional inflows in the first of 2021.

Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, who is a JP Morgan  Strategist, had said that  that BTC retail investors purchased  over 187,oooBTC in the first quarter of this year compared to  roughly 172,684 by Institutional investors.For the first time in the crypto currencies transactions,  the BTC, was said to have surpassed $50,000 this week.Anthony Pompliano, co-founder  and Partner at Morgan  Creek digital assets, had said that  BTC, alone,  could hit $500,000 by the end of the decade and eventually go on  to reach $1million per Coin. Financial strategists had warned that a major risk in the crypto currencies transactions could be retail inflows into BTC, drying up as economies reopen.

 With the different  countries   embracing the crypto currency digital asset, There are indications that global  Central  banks  have been easing  their Monetary  policy  such as lowering  interest rate and buying assets  through the quantitative easing programme  in order to help cushion  the blow to their economies hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Take for instance in the US, trillions of dollars,  were said to have been printed  and injected into the economy  and everyone from Individuals to financial Institutions and Corporations   are running around  for the best way to protect  their purchasing power, which is the BTC.

But Emefiele , the Nigerian CBN,  governor , who would not want to be drawn into any discussion on the use of the BTC, to protect the naira, had told Okonjo-Iweala, the WTO, Director General,  that Nigeria  has ‘’enough resources and opportunities  to exit the recession that has hit the country’’. 

While Nigerians and Manufacturing Companies are crying out over harsh economic situation, Emefiele, the CBN,  governor  who may be acting out a script of looking out for avenues  for generating income for the government  to provide basic infrastructural facilities in the country and run the government  was said to have imposed about N7.00 service charge on Nigerians for all USSD transactions , which it was said to have started deducting on Tuesday, Marh16, 2021. That much was confirmed in a message jointly signed by the bank and the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.  

Informed sources told The Magazine that the deal was part of the agreement  reached  with the banks  following  a disagreement  between the Commercial banks, Financial Institutions and the Telecommunication Companies over USSD  and text message transaction requests. The Financial Regulator had said that  the new USS sevice c Charge per transaction by Nigerians abroad were part of  of the agreements  reached on Monday, March 15, 2021, after the banks and the Telecommunication Companies met  to discuss the N42 billio  debt owed the Mobile operators by the banks.

The Mobile Operators may have arm-twisted  the CBN Authorities to impose the N6.98, USSD service Charge per transaction which has the backing of Buhari , the Nigerian President, because  the Mobile Operators had planned  to suspend  all USSD services  in the country   over the debt  owed by the banks. By imposing the USS service Charge to help the Telecommunication Companies recover their N42billion debt may have encouraged the CBN, on the orders of the Nigerian  President to order  the Mobile Operators ‘’to put on hold  their impending  suspension  of USSD services, a directive that was said to have been carried out by the Operators.

Emefiele may think that he  has won the heart of Nigerians by asking the banks  not to impose  additional Charges  for the CBN of the USSD channel but got it wrong. This is because Nigerians have lost faith I him as a bad economic Manager as the country’s unemployment rate had risen to 33.3%, from the 27.1% in the last quarter of 2020.

Additional Reports By Elizabeth Chukwuma  

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