Bisi Onasanya, managing director, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, has called for further devaluation of Naira. He said that it is obvious the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) could not sustain the current value of the Naira, which is officially pegged at N196 to the dollar. “People do not believe the CBN has what it takes to sustain the exchange rate at the present level. You cannot peg the Naira at a level the whole world knows is unrealistic.”
According to Onasanya, the fear of further devaluation is driving the central bank’s policies and the current situation cannot be sustained. “We are in a situation where Nigerians are shopping for foreign exchange in the international market. We need to bite the bullet and move on or there will be repercussions over the long term.”
Signs that all is not well with the foreign exchange market emerged last Wednesday when the CBN enlarged the list of items not valid for foreign exchange in the Nigerian foreign exchange market with an additional 40 commodities. A circular issued by the Trade and Exchange Department, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said that in continuing effort to sustain the stability of the foreign exchange market and ensure the efficient utilization of foreign exchange and the derivation of optimum benefit from goods and services imported into the country, it has become imperative to exclude importers of some goods and services from accessing foreign exchange at the Nigerian foreign exchange markets in order to encourage local production of these items.
The additional items include rice, cement, margarine, palm kernel/palm oil products/vegetable oils, meat and processed meat products. Others are vegetables and processed vegetable products, poultry- chicken, eggs, turkey, private airplanes/jets, Indian incense and tinned fish in sauce. The list also includes cold rolled steel sheets, toothpicks, textiles and soap and cosmetics.
The central bank said that the implementation of the policy would help conserve foreign reserves as well as facilitate the resuscitation of domestic industries and improve employment generation. “For the avoidance of doubt, please note that the importation of these items are not banned. Thus importers desirous of importing these items should do so using their own funds without any recourse to the Nigerian foreign exchange markets. All authorized dealers are enjoined to ensure strict compliance,” the circular said.
By Dike Onwuamaeze