Rice importation scares govt, threatens naira —CBN Gov •Nigeria will come out stronger —Senate •It will soon overcome economic challenges —Dogara

GOVERNOR of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr Godwin Emefiele, has said the nation’s economy is in bad shape.

He disclosed this to senators at a closed session on Tuesday.

Emefiele, while briefing the lawmakers at a closed session, said his leadership had tried all it could to defend the Naira and stabilise the economy.

Sources at the closed session told the Nigerian Tribune that the CBN governor declared that continuous barrages on the Naira by importers, especially those paying for school fees abroad and rice importers, was threatening the Naira, thus compelling the government to introduce control measures on the currency.

He said notwithstanding the stout defence of the currency by the CBN, huge demands for the dollar forced a change of decision which allowed designated banks to sell the currency.

He said the nation’s foreign currency inflow had dropped from $3.4 billion per month to $400 million, adding that requests for forex to import rice as well as to pay school  fees abroad threatened the Naira the most.

He said at a point, request for school fees stood at $2 billion, while request for rice importation, which rose to $14 billion, scared the government.

He also said as a result of the huge demand for forex to import rice, the government decided to support local production of rice which President Muhammadu Buhari launched in Kebbi State recently.

Emefiele was, however, quoted as saying that Nigeria was lucky to have the current level of foreign reserves which could last six months of importation, adding that global practice is for countries to have foreign reserves that would last three months.

However, the leadership of the Senate, in a statement on Tuesday, said the economy was on its way to recovery, through the policies introduced by the CBN.

After two hours of interaction with Emefiele, the Senate said it acknowledged the state of the economy and the difficult times being faced by Nigerians.

In a statement issued by the leadership of the Senate, after the closed door session with the CBN governor, it admitted that these were indeed difficult times in Nigeria and all over the world, going by information made available to them.

According to the statement, “following an exhaustive response by the CBN governor and his team, the Senate acknowledged that these are indeed difficult times all over the world and not just Nigeria.

“The Senate also acknowledged the pains that many Nigerians may be facing at this time, especially in the light of increase in price of electricity and fuels.”

The Senate raised issues concerning the banking system, the slippage in economic growth for the first quarter of 2016, the gradual rise in inflation, fall in foreign exchange reserves and policy coordination between the fiscal and monetary authorities.

It, however, expressed strong conviction that going by policies already put in place by the CBN, the nation’s ailing economy would eventually come out of the woods.

Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, is to take her turn before the senators today.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, has assured Nigerians that the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari was doing everything possible to address the present economic challenges facing the country,saying that it would soon be history.

Dogara, who gave the assurance in Abuja, at the Chattered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) Abuja Tax week on “the dilemma of improving tax revenue in tough economic times,” declared that the government was resolute and determined to bring succour to millions of Nigerians.

He noted that survey of the Economists on growth rate for the West African region was put at 5.4 per cent while that of Sub-Saharan Africa was 4.6 per cent.

He further stated that the consensus in the fact that diversification of the economy was no longer a politically expedient tool but an urgent economic renaissance, which must occur for Nigeria’s continued survival and sustenance.

According to Dogara, “midway into fiscal year 2016, the challenges of meeting yearning expectations is still as daunting as ever but the government is as resolute as it remains dedicated to bringing succour to the plight of the average Nigerian.

“To do this, the government deliberately tinkered with the federal budget in order to ensure that it delivers a 70:30 recurrent to capital spending per total budget expenditure, in order to boost capital formation in the economy.”

He called on Nigerians to pay their taxes as patriotic and law abiding citizens, while he also asked well-meaning Nigerians and foreign business owners to declare their incomes and pay their taxes to the Nigerian government.