By Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr. Frank Udemba Jacobs has commended the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emiefele, for steps he took to improve the foreign exchange requirement for manufacturers to source for raw materials overseas.
Jacobs, who said in a telephone conversation with THISDAY in Abuja, said: “At present, the CBN is making every effort to satisfy our foreign exchange requirement, though we don’t get exactly what we want, but they have tried to allocate some forex to our members.”
Jacobs explained: “At the first quarter, when we met them (CBN) that manufacturers will close shops due to non-availability of raw materials arising from lack of forex, the CBN governor invited me for an meeting.
“At the end of that meeting, MAN and CBN, agreed that there was need to ensure that manufacturers are given their foreign exchange even if it is not 100 percent.
He applauded the efforts of the CBN governor, noting that although what the manufacturers are receiving are not exactly what they asked for, “they have been getting something to keep the factories afloat.”
Jacobs admitted that his members were aware of the difficulties government was facing on its external reserve.
He said: “We understand the difficulties the government is having with the depletion of the external reserves, so that is what is going on now.
“As far as we know CBN is being transparent, we cannot accuse them of any corruption in the allocation procedure to our members, but we cannot say same on the parts of the commercial banks. The CBN have been very transparent in the allocation of forex.”
On the prospect for manufacturers with the economic hardship, he expressed optimism that with the implementation of the budget, things will begin to take good shape.
“I believe that when they begin to implement the budget we will now have a direction in terms of policy thrust as MAN members have been able to key in.
“I’m very hopeful that manufacturing will prosper because the N350 billion that will be released into the system for capital expenditure is going to help empower the populace in terms of buying power and they will be able to patronise the manufacturing sector as they produce and this will get better in this second quarter.” he said.
He said MAN is happy about the recent petrol pump price modulation and partial deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector, stating it was what MAN had been clamouring for.
Jacobs added: “This is what we have been advocating for along that the subsidy should be removed because, if that is done the prices will come down though in the short-run it might be high but on the long and as time goes on the law of demand and supply will bring prices down.
“Because, it happened with automotive gas oil (diesel). Look at the prices of diesel and today we are enjoying more stable prices on diesel and if we do same on petroleum, the perennial problem of PMS scarcity, black market or hording and all other vices will stop.”
According to the MAN boss, “Already the current prices of petrol across the country is even more than N145, it is only in Abuja and Lagos that you get it at the controlled price.
“Even at that controlled price, you cannot even get it now. In other parts of the country people have been buying at N150 per liter and above.
“I don’t agree with that argument that it will drive prices up, if it was going to drive prices up, it would have done that a long time ago when we were buying fuel at about N180 to N200 per litre.
He said MAN is exploring avenues to ensure it resolves its pending court case with the with the electricity distribution companies and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
The court case, he said, arose as a result of non-adherence to due process in tariff adjustment and therefore MAN had to approach the court to obtain injunction banning the DISCOS from implementing the new tariff.
“We are trying to negotiate to find a common ground and see if we can resolve the matter out of court. We know what is happening in terms of the low generation of power and distribute.”