By KAYODE OGUNWALE
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said Nigeria has saved over $21 billion from its decision to bar importers of 41 items from accessing foreign exchange through the official window in the 57 months between January 2015 and October 2018.
According to Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the CBN, many entrepreneurs took advantage of the policy to venture into domestic production of the restricted items and have recorded remarkable successes, with great positive impact on employment generation within the period, resulting also in a dramatic drop in national import bill.
Expressing happiness with the accomplishment recorded so far, at the 2018 Annual Bankers’ Dinner, organized by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), in Lagos, Emefiele said “from $665.4 million in January 2015 to $160.4 million as at October 2018; a cumulative fall of 75.9 percent and an implied savings of over $21 billion on food imports alone over that period.
Most evident were the 97.3 percent cumulative reduction in monthly rice import bills, 99.6 percent in fish, 81.3 percent in milk, 63.7 percent in sugar, and 60.5 percent in wheat.”
He assured that the policy would continue with vigor until the underlying imbalances within the Nigerian economy have been fully resolved, he noted that recommendations “being made to the CBN that the list of 41 items be expanded to include other additional items that can be locally produced.”
Emefiele warned that “any attempt to reverse the course of this actions may have untold consequences on the growth trajectory of our economy particularly in our push to diversify and restructure our economy.
The CBN stressed that Nigeria’s overdependence on imports was to blame for the economic recession “triggered mainly by the drop in crude oil prices (which) only strengthened the case for the need to move from a nation wholly dependent on consumption, to a nation that produces a large proportion of what it needs, particularly in areas where the resources or inputs needed for production are widely available across the country.”
While some nay-sayers insist the policy has constrained productivity and growth in the Economy, the CBN Governor said research conducted at the apex bank shows the economic recovery “from the recession may have been much weaker or even negative, without the implementation of the restriction on 41 items.
“Our research supports the conclusion that the combination of the restriction on 41 items along with other measures imposed by the fiscal and monetary authorities has helped to promote the recovery,” he added.
As part of the its role as an agent of development finance aimed at ensuring self-sufficiency to reduce the country’s excessive dependence to reduce import dependence, Emefiele explained that the CBN has continues to support farmers, entrepreneurs as well as small and medium scale businesses. He listed some of the intervention programmes so far used to include: the Anchor Borrowers Program, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and the National Collateral Registry.
Another programme recently introduced, he added, is “the CBN recently introduced the Real Sector Support fund; a facility meant to provide cheap funding at no more than 9 percent to new projects in the Agric and Manufacturing sectors; aimed at boosting output and creating jobs.”
The Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP), he noted, for example, has ensured that Nigeria transformed “from being a net importer of rice to becoming a major producer of rice, supplying key markets in neighboring countries, as a result of which 862,069 farmers cultivating about 835,239 hectares, across 16 different commodities, have so far benefited, as at October 2018.”
In the process also, 2,502,675 jobs have been generated across the country, he stressed.