The Federal Government is currently fine-tuning the list of 41 items, which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) banned last year from assessing the official foreign exchange window for their imports, New Telegraph has learnt.
A senior government official in the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in Abuja, disclosed this to our correspondent in Lagos.
He said that the Presidency, under the office of the vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has given the nod to fine-tuning of the banned items, especially those items, which have brought contractions in the foreign exchange policy and impaired the country’s real sector.
The source said high-level meetings have been holding and that government’s intention is to review the list downwards or even totally overhaul it in its bid to salvage the ailing economy.
The official said that government, through Dr. Enelamah, had been interfacing with manufacturers and the organised private sector (OPS) on the lingering 41 items ban.
According to the source, the Presidency wants to treat the 41 items as fiscal policy rather than the current monetary policy being overseen by the apex bank.
He said that government knows that the monetary policy introduced by CBN was meant to conserve foreign exchange accruing to the economy and save naira from further declining, but the need to fine-tune the policy is imperative based on inputs from industry stakeholders.
“There is a review currently on-going on the 41 goods on the CBN foreign exchange ban list.
They will decide to either cut down on the list or overhaul it, but it will be one of the two. “You know that the industry minister was in Lagos to hold high level meetings with stakeholders on some critical trade barrier issues facing their businesses.”
He said during the high level meetings of Committee on Ease of Doing Business in Abuja, the vice president admitted that the apex bank’s policy was meant to be short term, adding that government’s priority with the organised private sector is to look at ways to ease cost of doing business in the country.
Besides, the senior government officials explained that the controversy that trailed the pronouncement of the ban on the 41 items was also a key reason why the Presidency is fine-tuning the ban on these items.
According to him, the committee was aware that CBN has been under pressure, especially among manufacturers of goods in the country, on the need to review the policy.
Nigeria’s Central Bank had last year issued a directive banning 41 goods and services from the list of items valid for foreign exchange from the CBN dollar window.
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, in announcing the policy, had argued that most of those items, including rice, cement, margarine, palm kernel, palm oil products, vegetable oils, meat and processed meat products, vegetables and processed vegetable products, among others, can be manufactured locally, if the country sets its mind to it.
“Importers who still want to continue to import these items will have to source the dollars from their private sources,” Emefiele had insisted.
But there has been mounting pressure from the OPS, the international community, as well as analysts, for the Federal Government to review the policy, which CBN insists would help preserve the fast depleting foreign reserves and also save local manufacturing.
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said in April that it lost N230 billion in anticipated revenues in the last quarter of 2015 due to the CBN’s closure of the foreign exchange window to the 41 banned items.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ibrahim Ali, disclosed then that he had opened talks and made a request for a policy review to Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo.
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also raised the issue last April, during her official visit to Nigeria, warning that the restrictions on the 41 items was making an already bad situation worse in the foreign exchange market.
“We believe that a more flexible exchange rate will be more efficient than to have a list of products that are barred from being imported into the country,” she had said