Last Tuesday, members of the economic and business community converged on the prestigious Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos, for what looked like a town hall meeting, organised by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in partnership with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group to rub minds on the state of the Nigerian financial sector.
Addressing participants at the meeting, CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele harped on the need to check incessant importation of commodities for which local substitute can be obtained into the country.
He said, “We cannot compare the naira with Japanese Yen. Japan is an export-based economy. I think it is also an opportunity for us to talk to ourselves. How do we diversify the revenue base of the economy? How do we start to export and why should we be importing ridiculous things we don’t actually need.
“By 2020, the population of this country will be 210 million. Can we afford to be importing milk for 210 million people? Where are you going to get the foreign exchange from? Milk has always been imported into this country before all of us here were born. I believe CBN should go out and find out areas of major demand for foreign exchange. Nigerians should be encouraged to go into the production of those things so that the pressure on dollar could stop.”
Business mogul and Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote in his contribution cautioned the public against undue panic over the state of the economy.
Dangote recalled that at a point, Nigeria had only $10million as foreign reserves, saying however that things have changed as “it is like everybody wants to wake up and see reserves go up to $38billion. It is not going to happen overnight.
He said, “Revenue has come down by about 55 percent. Some of us are doing things that will bring the desired change. I can assure you that in the next four years, the CBN will not give money for sugar importation.
“We should all support the economy by making sure that we do things that will be exported. By this, we won’t need to panic. By the grace of God, we will be the highest foreign exchange seller by the first quarter of 2018.”
Founder of Diamond Bank, Paschal Dozie, said it would be in the interest of the nation to seize the current situation to restructure the economy.
“In a challenging environment, panic is the worst thing one can do. This is the best time to invest in the country. If we are interested in this economy, this is the best time for restructuring but if we miss this opportunity to restructure the economy, it won’t augur well.
“The CBN governor needs to speak to other members of the business and economic community. The CBN governor owes us the responsibility of ensuring that those in charge of the fiscal economy are carried along in this crusade,” Dozie stated.
On his part, Chairman, Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), Foluso Phillips said it decided to partner with the CBN as a rescue measure given the effects of recent economic developments on businesses.
He noted that Nigeria has a lot to contend with in recent times, saying election is coming up and there is so much battle on who takes control of government after the February general elections.
“One of our major concerns is the issue of foreign exchange because it affects the way we do business and it affects so many other things.
“Just like a presentation made by the coordinating minister of the economy to the National Economic Summit Group recently, the message today is that we should not panic because there is no need for us to panic.
“We need to ask what are those things we need to do in order to maintain a level of stability and sanity. This is why the governor of the Central Bank has decided to come and have interaction with members of the business community,” he said.
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