ON June 23, the Central Bank of Nigeria released a circular titled: “Inclusion of Some Imported Goods and Services on the List of Items Not Valid for Foreign Exchange in the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Markets,” and listed 41 items that can no longer be imported with foreign exchange sourced from the apex bank, deposit money banks, bureaux de change and other authorised sources.
They include rice, cement, margarine, palm kernel/palm oil products/vegetable oils, meat and processed meat products, toothpicks, glass and glassware, kitchen utensils, tableware, vitrified and ceramic tiles and textiles among other items. The CBN clarifies that they are not banned, just that importers of these items can no longer access foreign exchange from the Bank and the industry it regulates.
The CBN cited as its reason the need to “encourage local production of these items”, adding that “implementation of the policy will help conserve foreign reserves as well as facilitate the resuscitation of domestic industries and improve employment generation.”
Governor of the Central Bank, Mr Godwin Emefiele, defended the Bank’s latest action at a press conference in Abuja, saying Nigeria can no longer import just about everything, and time has come to stop making the country a dumping ground for all sorts of imported junk from all over the world.
We agree with Mr Emefiele on this. Indeed, why should Nigeria import toothpicks? With all our arable land, why should we continue to import rice, tomato, fruits, and other consumables? If we look around us, we will see the remains of the companies that used to produce many of these items. We now import plywood. What happened to our wood industry? What did we do to our paper mills at Oku-Iboku and Iwopin? What have we done to Ajaokuta Steel industry, and the aluminium smelting plant at Ikot-Abasi?
We allowed these companies to die and the vision behind their founding was derailed. Today we are importing what we should be producing at home and generating mass unemployment.
It is now time to pick up the gauntlet, revive the industries, establish more, and create jobs for our population.
We should also get more proactive about what we export. Increasing domestic production and export will remove Nigeria from the nightmare of a mono-economy and guarantee stability and prosperity for the nation.
At this juncture of reorganising our economy, we expect the CBN and the Federal Government to sustain every measure that will increase local production, generate employment and diversify the economy. Even if we allow such luxury imported items as champagne and apples to be imported into this country they must be appropriately taxed and the proceeds channelled to the benefit of the general population.