Uche Usim, Abuja
In preparation for the full reopening of the economy after a COVID-19-induced lockdown, the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has called for the cooperation of the industrial conglomerates operating in the country towards growing the Nigerian economy and returning it to its glory days.
Speaking at the weekend during a virtual meeting with Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of conglomerates in Nigeria, Mr. Emefiele said the CBN, in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire, was determined to return the Nigerian economy to the period when the manufacturing and agricultural sectors formed the base of the economy.
The Governor, while acknowledging the challenge of low crude oil prices to major economies of the world, expressed confidence that the price of crude will not remain at low levels for a long period. While also emphasizing that the low crude oil prices were surmountable, he declared that Nigeria’s foreign reserves of about $37 billion remained robust to support the economy.
He, therefore, enjoined the conglomerates to key into the current administration’s drive of diversifying the base of the Nigerian economy by taking advantage of its large population to market their products, which he insisted could be produced in Nigeria and exported to the rest of the world.
The Governor also warned that the CBN will not support the importation of items that can be produced in Nigeria because the apex bank would not spend its scarce foreign exchange reserves on what would not boost the economy and generate jobs for Nigerians.
He pledged the Bank’s willingness to provide foreign exchange to companies that required such for raw materials and machinery that could not be obtained in Nigeria.
With the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) now billed to commence in January 2021, Mr. Emefiele said Nigeria provided the companies with immense opportunities to produce their items and make huge profits through the Nigerian market, which he noted was large enough to support their respective businesses.
Emphasizing the need to prioritise the Nigerian market, the CBN Governor assured the companies that the Bank will collaborate with the relevant government agencies to help nip smuggling in the bud, while also promising to protect their businesses to ensure they succeed in Nigeria.
Similarly, he assured the CEOs of the Bank’s willingness to collaborate with other fiscal authorities to improve on their ease of doing business in Nigeria, with a view to simplifying their import and export processes.
On the issue of Direct Foreign Investments (FDIs), Mr. Emefiele said the Bank was not opposed to the conglomerates seeking alternative but legitimate sources of foreign exchange to boost their businesses, just as he said the CBN would not hinder the companies from repatriating their dividends.