Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said on Monday that more items would come under the bank’s policy of restricting official foreign exchange for importation.
He also said the forex restriction to importers applied to food items that could be produced in Nigeria and not a total ban on all food items.
Emefiele stated that President Muhammadu Buhari was misrepresented when he made a reference to the issue last week in Katsina State.
According to Emefiele, who spoke with State House Correspondents, the same policy has been in place since 2016 and has not changed.
He made a reminder that 43 items had been on the import restriction list, adding that the President did not make any fresh pronouncements banning food importation into Nigeria.
He 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 its 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 scarce foreign exchange importing that item into the country, when it 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 a need for us to reinforce that, going forward.”
The governor further stated that more items would get on the list in due course, as long as they could be produced locally.
Emefiele said, “I will say that we will 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 will 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.”
Asked if the policy would be reviewed, he replied, “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 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 our course; we will even be more aggressive with this programme.”
He also disagreed that the import restriction would conflict with the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, noting that as a participant, Nigeria must be able to take a stand on how to operate within the system.
“The important thing is that Nigeria needs to take a stand as the largest economy in Africa and the largest populated country in Africa; we need to dictate the terms.
“What I am saying is that it is wrong, it is inappropriate that an item that can be produced in Nigeria should be imported into Nigeria.
“When we get into the AfCFTA issue, we will also look at the details of it, but at this time, we are saying we need to create jobs for our country, for the youths. We yearn for growth and the only way we can really accelerate growth in Nigeria between now and next four years is to see to it that items that can be produced in Nigeria are indeed produced in Nigeria rather than being imported into the country,” he stated.
On the $9bn judgment entered against Nigeria last week by a London court and the likely impact on the country’s foreign reserve, Emefiele said he was not scared because there was an opening for appeal.