‘Toothpick, Palm Oil Importation Is A Shame’

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•Godwin Emefiele

The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, yesterday, said that importers of rice, cement and other products will no longer access Foreign Exchange from CBN, banks and bureaux de change for such importation. The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, who disclosed this at a news conference in Abuja, said the measure would prevent further depletion of the country’s foreign reserve.

Speaking to journalists in Abuja, Emefiele said the CBN’s analyses of the nation’s economic situation “compelled us to believe that we needed to aggressively begin the process of feeding ourselves by ourselves and producing much of what we need in this country.”

He said: “Importers who may want to continue importing these goods would have to sort their foreign exchange from their own private sources. The CBN will continue to be vigilant around this policy, keep reviewing the list of items as it becomes comfortable that these items can be produced locally if we apply ourselves sufficiently.”

•Godwin Emefiele
•Godwin Emefiele

He noted that the nation was wasting huge amounts of money importing things that could be produced locally, a situation, he said, had become a drain on the nation’s Foreign Exchange Reserves. Some of the products include margarine, palm kernel, palm oil products, meat and processed meat products, vegetables, private airplanes and jets, Indian incense, tinned fish, galvanized steel sheet, roofing sheet and furniture.

According to him: “most of you are aware of the often-quoted number of N1.3 trillion, which is what we spend on average importing rice, fish, sugar, and wheat every year.

“I am saying it is shameful that we have to import toothpick. I am saying that it is shameful for us to import fish in sauce canned, fish in sauce and sardine. I am saying it is shameful. Before I was born palm kernel was taken out of Nigeria and taken to another country and today we go to that country and import palm oil. It is shameful.”

“It is shameful that items that we used to produce in this country we now begin to import them. It is shameful and we need to stop them. That is what we are saying.

He disclosed that there was already a glut in paddy rice in parts of the country, especially Kebbi State where the government had spent huge sums of money to buy off 200,000 tons from the farmers, yet they had another 800,000 tons unpurchased.

“Aside from that, Kebbi State farmers have unpurchased paddy rice close to 800,000 tons. And yet we patronise imported rice. For our benefits, those rice imported to the country are those that have spent at least seven years in their stores and yet we have rice that is produced today in Nigeria and we are running away from them.”

“The only way we can encourage people who are producing rice to go back to the farms is to do what we have done today. How can we keep complaining about the depreciation of the naira when all we do as a people is to import everything from ordinary Geisha and toothpicks to even eggs? These are some of the fundamental reasons behind the bank’s recent announcement,” he lamented.

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