Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, on Monday said more items will soon be denied foreign exchange from government institutions and Nigeria banking industry.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the retreat for ministers-designate in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, he also said that the bank will not go back on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari on food importation into the country.
Buhari had last Tuesday in Daura, Katsina State, disclosed that he had directed the apex bank to stop providing foreign exchange for importation of food into the country.
When quizzed on how far he has gone on the President’s directive, 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 scarce 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.”
Asked if the President’s directive won’t affect the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement Nigeria just subscribed to, he said, “It will not affect the content of the AfCFTA, in any case the AfCFTA is an agreement that is ongoing, the terms of engagement are still being discussed and negotiated.
“The important thing is that Nigeria needs to stand as the largest economy in Africa and the largest populated countries in Africa, we need to stand and dictate the terms under which we want to be in it and this is what we are staying. But 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 issues 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 and we need to create jobs, we yearn for growth and the only way we can really accelerate growth in a 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.”
On the $9 billion judgement debt owed the Process and Industrial Development (P&ID), Emefiele said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is investigating the approval of the gas processing deal that led to the imbroglio.
A British court had given P&ID the go-ahead to seize Nigerian assets worth $9 billion over the government’s inability to meet its side of an agreement to build a gas processing plant in Calabar, Cross River.
Emefiele assured that the CBN will move strongly to defend the country’s reserves as the judgement would have some impact on monetary policy.
“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,” he said.