Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The presidency yesterday clarified that President Muhammadu Buhari has not banned or restricted food importation.
The presidency, in a letter to the Editor of Financial Times over its report titled “Muhammadu Buhari sparks dismay over policy shift on food imports,” said what the president did was to shut out food importers from accessing foreign exchange from official source.
Buhari had last Tuesday in Daura, Katsina State, directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop providing foreign exchange for importation of food.
But a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the president, Mallam Garba Shehu, yesterday faulted the interpretation of the Financial Times report over the issue.
Stressing that there was no ban or restriction on food imports, Shehu said importers of the food items were still free to source their forex from non-government financial institutions towards meeting their importations.
The president’s directive, he said, only has to do with forex from the CBN.
The letter reads: “Your article ‘Muhammadu Buhari sparks dismay over policy shift on food imports” (15 August) suggests the Nigerian Government is restricting the import of agricultural products into the country. This is simply incorrect. To be absolutely clear, there is no ban – or restriction – on the importation of food items whatsoever.
“President Buhari has consistently worked towards strengthening Nigeria’s own industrial and agricultural base. A recent decision sees the Central Bank maintain its reserves to put to use helping growth of domestic industry in 41 product sectors rather than provide forex for the import of those products from overseas.
“Should importers of these items wish to source their forex from non-government financial institutions (and pay customs duty on those imports – increasing tax-take, something the FT has berated Nigeria for not achieving on many occasions) they are freely able to do so.
“Diversification of forex provision towards the private sector and away from top-heavy government control, a diversification of Nigeria’s industrial base, and an increase in tax receipts – are all policies one might expect the Financial Times to support. Yet for reasons not quite clear, the author and this newspaper seem to believe the president’s administration seeks to control everything – and yet do so via policies that relinquish government control.”