The restriction on foreign exchange (forex) for food imports is not in the interest of consumers. This was the view expressed by experts at the fourth edition of Regulatory Conversation which held in Lagos.
Discussing the theme, Foreign Exchange Restrictions on Food Imports and Implications for Regulating and Growing the Nation’s Economy, the experts also urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to explore wider stakeholder engagement in driving the policy.
Professor Pat Utomi, a political economist and founder, Centre for Values in Leadership, noted that the apex bank has stepped into fiscal policy territory with this forex restrictions strategy, which according to him is not sustainable. “We must try to understand the principles of trade. It just seems that the problem is that fiscal authorities have abdicated their duties and the CBN has taken over. What drives prosperity is production and not revenue. Revenues don’t create wealth, production does,” he said.
Also making a case for wider consultation and a graduation process for the implementation of the policy, Frank Aigbogun, Publisher of BusinessDay, noted: “People will need to do feasibility studies; they’ll need to look at the entire value chain so that they will position themselves; they will need to look at things around packaging; they will need to then raise capital. Surely, they haven’t been given time to do that.” He said the outcome of a wider consultation would reflect the wishes of consumers and other stakeholders.
Muda Yusuf, Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said the forex ban was causing a great disruption, adding that it was alarming that the apex bank was considering more items to be added to the list.
He said the regulators should rather address fundamental challenges in the nation’s business environment to make the nation globally competitive.
Also speaking at the event, Olusoji Apampa, the director and consultant for the Convention on Business Integrity, noted that the forex ban would lead to a situation where dairy companies would start regressing with their value chain, adding that the new policy would lead to “accentuated pain for the poor without palliative or remedy.”
The event was organized by the Integrity Organisation/Convention on Business Integrity in conjunction with Proshare Nigeria, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, BusinessDay, and ActionAid.