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Buhari Orders CBN To Stop Forex For Food Items, Fertiliser

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President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to provide forex for the importation of food items or fertilizer.

Speaking on Thursday at a meeting of the National Food Security Council at the State House in Abuja, the president urged private businesses bent on food importation to source their foreign exchange independently, saying “use your money to compete with our farmers, instead of using foreign reserves to bring in compromised food items to divest the efforts of our farmers”.

“We have a lot of able-bodied young people willing to work and agriculture is the answer. We have a lot to do to support our farmers,” a statement by Garba Shehu, a presidential spokesman, quoted Buhari to have said.

“From only three operating in the country, we have 33 fertilizer blending plants now working. We will not pay a kobo of our foreign reserves to import fertilizer. We will empower local producers.”

He also directed that blenders of fertilizer should convey products directly to State governments so as to skip the cartel of transporters undermining the efforts to successfully deliver the products to users at reasonable costs.

The President in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, advised private businesses bent on food importation to source their foreign exchange independently, saying ”use your money to compete with our farmers”, instead of using foreign reserves to bring in compromised food items to divest the efforts of our farmers.

”We have a lot of able-bodied young people willing to work and agriculture is the answer. We have a lot to do to support our farmers.”

The statement further noted that the meeting which was chaired by the President with other key members of the Council in attendance was briefed on the food security situation prevailing in the country.

Notably, the Vice Chairman of the council and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari and a Governor from each of the six geo-political zones – Jigawa, Plateau, Taraba, Ebonyi, Lagos and Kebbi, made presentations.

It said, “The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed, outlined measures introduced by the administration to tackle the unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation as contained in the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP).

“Among others, the Minister highlighted that the government will facilitate the cultivation of 20,000 to 100,000 hectares of new farmland in every State and support off-take of agro-processing to create millions of direct and indirect job opportunities.

“She also listed the creation of 774,000 direct jobs for a minimum of 1,000 young Nigerians in each local government, the construction of 300,000 homes every year to give a boost to jobs through the construction industry, as well as the connection of 25 million new users of electricity with the installation of Solar Home System (SHS) targeting 5 million households.

“Dr Ahmed also briefed on the joint investment with the World Bank to provide intervention fund to States to improve health infrastructure.

“She said to ease existing financial hardships among the people, the government is also coming up with low-interest loans for mechanics, tailors, artisans, petty traders and other informal business operators.

“The Minister added that the Federal Government will equally provide support to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to help them keep their employees and boost local manufacturing.

“Dr Ahmed explained that from the recently approved N2.3 trillion stimulus recommended by the NESP, there will be expansion of broadband connectivity to boost job opportunities in the digital economy, a planned expansion of the National Social Investment Programmes including increase in the number of beneficiaries such as the cash transfer beneficiaries, N-Power Volunteers, the Market Moni and Trader Moni schemes.”

In his presentation, the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono told the Council that the nation expects a bumper harvest of food items despite floods in the north and drought in the south.

He quoted the latest market surveys to show that the recent hike in the price of commodities is being reversed.

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Banks’ CEOs Hold Emergency Meeting Over BDCs’ Forex Ban 

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Bank Chief Executive Officers on Thursday, held an emergency meeting on how to ensure compliance with the new forex directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

After the meeting, they spoke during a webinar organised to give an update on the banks’ preparedness to be the main channel of forex distribution, following the recent discontinuity of forex supply to the BDC operators by the CBN.

The executives assured the public that banks would make forex available to customers in accordance with the CBN’s directives.

After the last Monetary Policy Committee meeting, the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had ordered all Deposit Money Banks to set up teller points at designated branches across the country to fulfil legitimate FX request for personal travel allowance, business travel allowance, tuition fees, medical payments and SMEs transactions, among others.

Speaking at the webinar, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe, said, “The banking industry as a whole was willing and ready to carry out this function. The banks have very strict compliance measures, in terms of verification and making sure that people who do apply are eligible.

“All Nigerian banks will be able to meet these requirements. If you look at all the branches nationwide, you will know that the banks have more than enough capacity to do this.”

He said if the banks saw any compliance issues, or people attempting to do things cunning, they would be reported to the CBN because the banks would ensure full compliance with the order.

The Group Chief Executive Officer, Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc, Mr Segun Agbaje, while speaking on the capacity of the banks to meet the customers demand, said, “It is not only the CBN that has the ability to fund the market; the banks also have the resources to meet the demand, and we have agreed collectively that it will start immediately.”

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NERC: Over 1m Electricity Consumers Have Received Prepaid Meters

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Labour Warns FG Against Electricity Tariff Hike 

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The Nigeria Labour Congress faulted plans to allegedly sell the Transmission Company of Nigeria, saying it will lead to an increase in electricity tariff.

The NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, said this in a statement titled, “This Kite will not Fly’’ on Friday.

Wabba explained that instead of allegedly planning to sell the transmission company, FG should focus on improving the electricity supply.

He described the attempt to hand over the TCN to a few ‘privileged’ Nigerians as self-serving, obtuse, odious, morally reprehensible and criminal.

The NLC president said, “The TCN is a strategic economic asset of immense national security implications. This is because the TCN traverses all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

“It will be wrong that our country will be deliberately exposed to an avoidable vulnerability and thus, provide an opportunity to others to restrain the Nigerian state.

“We apprehend that the planned sale of the TCN is only an attempt to further confound the people and concurrently raise electricity tariff. Unfortunately, this time around, Nigerians have had enough.

“The government cannot promise improved power supply to consumers by the planned sale of TCN. The under-the-table scheming as transparent privatisation cannot pass muster.

“It is an unsavoury narrative for our country, that even the privatised assets, which have survived the rapacity of the new owners, have been turned into unrealisable collaterals for unpayable loans.

“This constitutes a bone stuck in the throat of financial institutions and sundry creditors.”

Wabba explained that the plan would “fundamentally weaken the security of the nation and above all, deprive the people of their age-old investments in the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy”.

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