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OPS sings discordant tune over forex ban on food imports

By Naomi Uzor

There seems to be some measure of discordant tunes amongst Members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) over the recent presidential order on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to restrict foreign exchange (forex) for importation of food items into the country.

CBN, forex ban
CBN

While listing the adverse implication of the order they have, however, called for more details and clarifications for proper analysis of its possible impact on the economy. But a major section of the OPS have also said the presidential directive was in order.

President Muhammadu Buhari, earlier in the week, issued a directive to CBN to stop forex sales at official exchange rate to importers of food items.

In his reaction, Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr Muda Yusuf, called for more details and clarifications on what exactly constitutes food items in the context of the Presidential directive.

He stated: “The HS codes of the items affected need to be indicated.  This is essential for proper analysis of the possible impact on investment, welfare of citizens and the economy.

“CBN before now had placed many food items on the forex exclusion list.   It will be interesting to see what additional food items are being contemplated as additions to the list.   In all of these, we need to worry about the implications of policy pronouncements for investors’ confidence and the general sentiments of investors.

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“If policy and regulatory risks continue to escalate as we are currently experiencing, the chances of stimulating investment, whether domestic or foreign, would remain dim.  Current forex policy conceptualization and management are adversely impacting investment.  Rigorous impact study should precede major policy changes, supported by empirical data.  This is necessary to minimize shocks and dislocations in the investment environment.   This is also imperative to stem the increasing cases of job losses.”

On his part, Director-General, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Segun Ajayi-Kadir, told Vanguard that the objective is noble, being  aimed at consolidating the progress made towards food sufficiency,  conserving forex and encouraging consumption of locally produced food.

“I think the directive is broad and would have to be both specific and targeted and strategically implemented to achieve the purpose intended by government.

“So though laudable, clarity is needed and we have to be deliberate and strategic in pursuing such a far reaching monetary measure,” he stated.

However, President of  the  Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Hajiya Saratu Iya Aliyu, told Vanguard that the restriction was  a welcome decision.

She said: “A lot of people including our unemployed graduates have really gone into agriculture and trying their best. There are a lot of bumper harvests everywhere. Why then do we need to import what we already have in abundance? I would advice that forex should be used to import farm implements and new technologies to help our farmers to grow more with less hardship.”

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