CBN mulls forex restriction on hand sanitisers importation

CBN blocks bank accounts of rice, textile smugglers

Godwin Emefiele

 

Hand sanitisers and other anti-viral protective and hygiene products may soon be included in the list of items the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has banned from accessing foreign exchange for their importation.

CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, announced on Wednesday in Abuja that this was part of decisions being contemplated by the bank to conserve foreign exchange and support local production of the products.

The announcement followed an observation by the founder of Emzor Pharmaceuticals Industries, Stella Okolie, during the Consultative Roundtable on the economy organised by the CBN in Abuja.

Okolie had lamented the low patronage of her company’s products by government agencies, which prefer to spend huge foreign exchange importing products, at the detriment of locally manufactured ones.

She said “I was shocked to see hand sanitisers from China being used here. But Emzor Pharmaceuticals has been manufacturing hand sanitisers for nearly 40 years without any order from the CBN, or any inquiry from the Federal Ministry of Health. We have a lot of sanitisers in stock, part of which were used during the breakout of Ebola disease.

“Local industries must not be neglected. We should find out who is doing what and who can do what and patronise them. We should look inwards. We have what it takes to build this nation. That is the way to grow the economy,” she said.

Okolie was contributing to the discussion on how to support government in its efforts to diversify the economy in the wake of the current global economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

In his response, the CBN governor apologised for the bank not using the hand sanitisers made in Nigeria.

“Let me apologise to Mrs Stella Okolie for the CBN using Chinese-made hand sanitisers. I am going to give the order that CBN will no longer buy foreign made sanitisers, since we now know that EMZOR Pharmaceuticals produces Nigerian-made sanitisers.

“Let it serve as an example to all other Nigerians. That is the only way EMZOR can continue to do well and contribute to the growth of the economy. We will pay in Naira to buy the sanitisers rather than using dollar to import sanitisers from China. Very soon, sanitisers will be included among the list of items that will be banned from accessing foreign exchange for importation,” Emefiele said.

Earlier, the Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola, urged Nigerians to turn the current coronavirus challenge into the country’s advantage.

“This country is blessed with all the ingredients used in manufacturing the hand sanitisers and other products we waste foreign exchange to import. This is the opportunity to say henceforth, no foreign hand sanitisers should be allowed to come into the country.

“With that, we will be giving our local manufacturers the opportunity to benefit from the challenge, and the economy will benefit from it,” he said.