The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has faulted the recent directive by the Central Bank of Nigeria to commercial bank over access to foreign exchange for certain categories of importation.
In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday, and signed by its Head of General Policy Group; Barrister Fred Akokhia, NAGAFF expressed worries that the CBN may have overacted on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari concerning availability of forex for importation of milk and food items.
In the statement, the association said it was “worried that it appears that the good intentions of Mr. President are being misinterpreted and/or misdirected in the implementation of various Executive Orders”.
It specifically accused the apex bank of misrepresenting the President’s directive, even as it noted that it was wrong of the CBN to have given the impression that, importers who are able to source their foreign exchange outside the CBN and the commercial banks are also prohibited from importing such items.
NAGAFF argued that it was erroneous, “for the CBN to have given the impression to the public that good that don’t have to source FOREX from the banks are banned and as such commercial banks should not open Form M for those items that the government says should access FOREX”.
“It would have been more expedient for the CBN to instruct the Commercial banks to open Form M for such goods with a caveat that such Form M should not be valid for FOREX since those who have foreign currency can bring in their goods with their own money once they can justify the source of such FOREX”, it added.
Speaking specifically on the items that have been banned, NAGAFF expressed shock that the CBN could give an outright instruction to the commercial banks not to register importation of food items for Form M, knowing full well that importation policy states that, all importation must have a registered form M.
“It is therefore very surprising that the CBN stopped the Commercial banks from registering Form M for such products. This is against the extant regulation of
imports into Nigeria which stipulates that all products imported into Nigeria must have a registered Form M excluding personal effects”, it stated.
Acknowledging that the President’s directive may be aimed at boosting agriculture and encouraging food sufficiency, it cautioned that this should not be to the detriment of Nigerians and corporate organisations who can source forex outside of the banks.
It consequently advised “that Mr. President should direct CBN to open up the window of out-sourcing of foreign exchange by the traders”, even as it observed that allowing such “is an avenue for foreign investment into Nigeria. This definitely will add value wherein Nigerians can repatriate money outside Nigeria and indeed will enhance job opportunities in our country”.
“When a product is barred from enjoying FOREX incentives, it does not mean that such product has been banned from importation into Nigeria. The action of the government is limited to FOREX facilities not to be enjoyed by the concerned traders. And to the contrary, the traders still have the opportunity to import such products provided he/she can show genuine source of foreign exchange to import such goods on its own”, NAGAFF pointed out.
It alleged that the current disposition is unduly favouring some sectors of the economy, to the detriment of the informal sector.
“The government should pay more attention to the informal sector groups which we all know are the drivers of the economy”, it advised.
It requested that “the CBN should lift the ban on Form M registration at the Commercial banks for all goods delisted from enjoying FOREX facilities”.