The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to lift the foreign exchange restrictions it placed on 41 items. Director-General of LCCI, Muda Yusuf said thatany product that is not on the official import prohibition list of the Federal Government should have access to the autonomous foreign exchange market.
The restriction, he noted, has caused considerable loss of jobs, warning that “many more jobs are at risk as many firms run out of stock of their critical inputs for production.”
He agreed that import prohibition is a vital trade policy matter which should be undertaken in an integrated manner with inputs from other government agencies, including the Ministry of Finance, National Planning and the Nigeria Customs Service. He, however, cautioned that the consequences of import prohibition are far reaching and go beyond the narrow perspective of conserving foreign exchange.
Yusuf argued that “the dimensions of inter sectoral linkages, employment implications, Customs revenue implications, breaches of regional and other international trade treaties should have been taken into account.”
He stressed that the normalisation of the foreign exchange market is very crucial at this time to stem the current slide in the economy, factory closures, job loses, escalating prices, the waning Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and weakening investor’ confidence. According to him, the impact of the restrictions is being felt across all levels of investments, including large companies, medium enterprises, small business, micro enterprises and the informal sector.
The LCCI boss called for a proper understanding of the significance of the foreign exchange policy in the Nigerian economy, given the fact that the economy is not only highly import dependent, but also the fact that it is assuming greater integration with the global economy. In this regard, he called for transparency, and the need to ensure that there is adequate liquidity and stability in the administration of the foreign exchange market.
The CBN had in July, 2015, restricted about 41 items, including vegetable oil, poultry products, cosmetics as well as plastic and rubber products among others from access to foreign exchange from its official window, arguing that the country has the capacity to produce those items locally.
By Dike Onwuamaeze