CBN defends Buhari’s directive halting FOREX issuance on food imports

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, has defended President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the apex bank to halt issuance of Foreign Exchange (FOREX) for food imports, saying that more items will be affected as the nation bids to conserve resources for the diversification of the economy.

Speaking to State House correspondents in Abuja on Monday, he said the directive announced by the president last Tuesday in Daura, Katsina State, was already in the logic of the CBN.

Asked how far the bank would go in implementing it, Emefiele said:  “Let me say this, Mr President’s comment on the issuing of forex to people who import food items into the country, is in the logic of CBN’s management foreign exchange policies that we started since 2016.

“If you recall, we started with about 41 items (food and non-food items), because we believe that those items can be produced in the country. As we stand today, there are about 43 items on that list and I will say substantially most of them are food items.

“We are basically saying, if we have a food item that can be produced in the country, why should we waste scare foreign exchange importing those items into the country, when those can be produced in the country.

“It is important for me to say that, the attempt to misrepresent the comments of Mr President is very unfair and unfortunate. But, what we will say from the CBN is that Mr President has made this comment purely to strengthen the position of the CBN, to say that he believes in what the CBN has been doing since 2016 and there is need for us to reinforce that going forward.

“I will say that to be honest, we would aggressively go more into the list of items that are being imported into the country, items that can be produced in Nigeria. I will like to stress that we would ensure that more of these items will get on the list of items that are going to be restricted from accessing foreign exchange in Nigerian banking industry not just from the CBN source.

“Because, I have heard some comments that maybe it’s about the CBN’s source, it is not the CBN’s source, we are saying you will not be able to access foreign exchange from the Nigerian banking industry because it is important for us to produce these items in Nigeria and we will follow through on them.”

Emefiele affirmed that there would be alterations in the plan to restrict FOREX issuance, saying:  “There will never be an amendment because the issue is this, why should we be exporting jobs to other countries? Today we are complaining that there is a high rate of unemployment, leading to some extent the level of insecurity in the country, why should we allow people to import food that can be produced in the country?

“We need to improve wealth in our rural communities, and I am saying we will not change course, we will even be more aggressive on this programme.”

Also responding to a question on the ruling by a British court to seize Nigeria’s assets worth $9billion in favour of an engineering and project management company, Process and Industrial Developments Ltd, for breach of contract, the CBN governor revealed that Nigeria will move to get a stay of action.

The ruling by Justice Butcher bordered on a 2010 contract Nigeria signed with P&ID, to the intent that the latter would build a state-of-the-art gas processing plant to refine natural gas (“wet gas”) into “lean gas” that Nigeria would receive free of charge to power its national electric grid.

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Emefiele added: “I am not scared at all and I think it is also important that this question has come up. Since the news about the judgement broke out late on Friday, we have been discussing with our counsels, and they have advised that there are sufficient and strong grounds on the basis of which we could file a stay of execution and also an appeal against that judgement.

“There are certain anomalies in the process leading to the award of that contract which is currently being looked into by the EFCC and I believe that the EFCC themselves have their own investigation reports about that.

“So, we will follow through and aggressively too on ensuring that the execution of that judgement is stayed and that the appeal succeeds at every level both within Nigeria and abroad.

“It is important for me to use this opportunity to assure our friends, local and foreign investors who called to expressed solidarity with us, not to express concern but to say that there is no need for anybody to worry. We know that the implication of that judgement has some impact on monetary policy and that is why the CBN is going to step forward and very strongly too to ensure that we defend the country and defend the reserves of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

 

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