Buhari vows to ease CBN forex restriction on imports

The federal government on Wednesday announced that it was in the process of reviewing the recent Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy which banned 41 items from sourcing foreign exchange from the interbank forex market.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, at the 43rd Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN) in Lagos, explained that the CBN forex policy was introduced to boost local production and protect the nation’s manufacturing sector.

He, however, noted that there could be the need to rejig the policy towards ensuring that all the associated grey areas are properly looked at and any aspect of the policy that requires amendment resolved.

According to Osinbajo, “We are going to have negotiations with the operators of the manufacturing sector to seek ways on how foreign exchange control can be eased to enable the items that are not eligible for foreign exchange to be covered,” he said.

The vice-president added that efforts were on top gear to boost power supply in the country, stressing that by the middle of 2016, power supply in the country will shoot up to about 5,000 megawatts.

“We have already carried out a survey of some transmission assets in the country and we believe that when these assets are completed, Nigeria will experience increased power supply. We are discussing extensively on power supply on a daily basis because we believe that the manufacturing sector is critical for economic growth and job and wealth creation,” he stated.

Also speaking at the event, the former President, Republic of South Africa, Dr. Thabo Mbeki, said the continent loses at least $50 billion every year through trade ‘mis-pricing’ which would make an important and positive contribution to the continent’s development efforts including industrialisation.

“As we indicated, regarding the need for national cooperation in developing the Industrial Revolution Plan, so do we need similar cooperation to defeat the scourge of illicit financial outflows. I am therefore suggesting that MAN and the rest of the corporate sector should take it as one of their tasks in the context of the industrialisation of Nigeria to join hands with the government and civil society to fight against the illicit financial outflows,” he said.

He said Africa, together with the African Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) has a difficult struggle ahead to ensure that the global economy is restructured in a manner which fully recognises and seeks to correct the inequities of the international economic order and the continued absence of a level-playing field.

The vice-president in his remarks, said Nigeria, being the largest economy in Africa, must strategise to become key player with other regions, saying the reason the continent is loosing out on international trade is the weak position from where it negotiates.

He also urged Nigerians to be patient with the current administration, maintaining that most of the socio-economic challenges currently faced in the country are short-term.

“We are creating an enabling environment for things to fall in shape. We believe the manufacturing sector is key to attaining our set objectives as government to create job opportunities for our youths. There is no way we can achieve economic growth without diversifying our economy through agriculture value chain, mining, oil and gas and the likes, but the missing link is the manufacturing sector,” he said.

The president of MAN, Dr. Frank Jacobs, in his speech, said the Nigerian economy, despite government’s efforts in the past to diversify it remains largely a mono-product economy, pointing out that the manufacturing sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Q4, 2014 of 9.11 per cent is still low compared with those of some more advanced economies.

He added that for the Nigerian economy to remain the largest economy in Africa and assume the position of one of the leading 20 global economies by 2020, its economic structure must be diversified.

“Encouraging the development and growth of the manufacturing sector is the surest way to diversify the economy as the sector is essential to job creation, sustained growth and development of other key sectors such as agriculture, solid minerals among others,” he added.

Jacobs expressed the concern of MAN on the pending issue of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and the West Africa, saying the agreement will be very disadvantageous to the Nigerian economy.

He said if signed in its present form, it would not only retard and destroy the fledging industrialisation of Nigeria, but also orchestrate serious social challenges as a result of job losses and also worsen unemployment situation. 

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