Rev. Nicodemus Odolo (Trustee, Shippers Association of Lagos State)
Really this government did not take our advice. They did not give us listening ears. They are not doing what they are supposed to do. For shippers, it’s a welcome idea now that they can access forex through the official window. Before now, the shippers were sourcing dollars in the black market to import. So that makes a high demand for dollars. That is why the dollar rate is going up. So now that you can source forex through the official window, the demand from the black market will be less, so the Naira will be strengthened. That is the wisdom there. However, I will advise Nigeria that we need to look inward on most of these importations. Some of these things we can produce locally do not need to be imported, so that we do not unnecessarily demand for dollars. If we say our one Naira is equivalent to 1 dollar, who is going to arrest us? So the Central Bank is supposed to be gradually adding value to the Naira and not making noise on demand and supply. We should also be able to make a policy where we spend only Naira and not people demanding for dollars. Some other countries like Russia and South Africa are not trading in dollars and that is the only way your currency can pick up.
Dr. Segun Musa (Deputy National President, Air and Logistics, NAGAFF)
It is not unfortunate that we live in a country where the government is not consistent in policy. I wonder, where it is done around the world where a government will prohibit 43 items and kill businesses that have been producing and generating revenue for the government and their companies through those items. After those companies have sold their products another government will now say we are lifting the ban on those items. It is ridiculous. It has turned the country into a laughing stock. It has turned the country into a country where we don’t even know what we are doing at all. Lifting the ban at a time that the whole economy is bad, where is the forex to be used to import those items? Where is the foreign value used to import them now? It is just a gamble. It makes no sense. At what cost? At what landing cost? What value is there to start talking about a colourful development and advancement? As far as I am concerned, listening or not listening makes no sense. I think we just have to keep our fingers crossed. Let’s see if there could be any meaningful policy that would be a position for the economy to advance. As far as we are concerned, lifting the ban on the 43 paper items is just a comedy. It makes no sense because there is no forex to import.
Innocent Elum (BoT Secretary, AREFFN)
Some of the items are household items that have been made very unreachable for the poor as a result of their removal from the official foreign exchange. Rice now is N60,000. In some places in Nigeria it is N80,000. In the east it is N75,000 while in Lagos here it is between N60,000 to N58,000. So, is it not obvious that the removal of those items is a critical part of the reason why Nigerians are the way they are now. They are hungry and angry. Yes, it is a good step in the right direction. I as a person have always believed that what is important to me is a national political leadership that will make me feed my family without going through the pains I am going through now to do that. So, I am not interested in who is sitting in Abuja or who is not sitting there. What is important to me is the policies that will help me and help the Nigerian masses. I am very happy that those items have been removed from the forex restriction.
So, yes, it is a very good development if only it can be implemented with a human face. This is because we have seen programmes and statements of government that never actually satisfied the expectations of the people. I am happy that those items are not there. But let us see how the policy can impact the masses.
Humphrey Okwuosa (Apapa Chapter Secretary, NCMDLCA)
It is a very welcome development, because it was not banned. It was restricted for foreign exchange allocation from CBN officially but it was not banned. But what it has done now is that it has opened a very good door for the government to increase their revenue earnings. Because what people do before now is that people will bring cargo in and call it a different thing and with Customs assistance, the thing will be cleared and you still get it in the market. Now they would officially allow it to come in and source the forex or the money through the official window. It will increase the government revenue and make it more official. So no matter what people say, I don’t think it will affect any local industry because it has been coming in before. But the local industry is looking for monopoly in order to dominate the market. It will help the local industry to buckle up because they have competitors. It is a welcome process because it is now official.
Clinton Okoro (APFFLON PRO, Tin Can Chapter)
The items were coming in before, so why did they restrict them to Forex in the first place? The idea is to reintroduce it so that people will jump and rejoice that the government is working. Anyway, that is what it look like to some people. But to some of us, the government is just looking for a way to make more money from the industry looking at the business going on in the maritime industry and seeing a way they can boom the business. So I think that is why they brought it up. Even at that, almost everything is being hiked up, talking about duty and other charges. So where do you see money to source and clear them? I see it as making more money for the government. But lets see how it works.
Stanley Ezenga (General Secretary, Western Zone NAGAFF)
Well, before now there were forex restrictions but the goods were not banned. But the implication is it’s technically banned, because by the time you cannot get products from the bank to import them, which means it’s banned. But that means equally, if you can source your forex from other sources, you can bring them in. But the current status now is that they are not legitimately unbanned. That is more business for some of us. This is because if importers of those things were able to access forex, that means they can bring them in legally. That is good business for us.
But then, at this time, where there is inflation, you can imagine today $1 is about N1,200 or thereabout and with this that has been unbanned, that means too many commodities will be sourcing for this dollar. What could be the end result? It is as good as you can know. So, it is a good work or development, but at the same time, it will put too much strain on the dollar because what we will have been advocating more is to export. I know some of those things that were unbanned can be produced locally and that was the reason for banning them, or rather shutting the forex on them in the first place. So, I think that tempo should have been sustained in order for Nigeria to become self-sufficient in those areas and even export to other countries.
Taiwo Fatomilola (National PRO AREFFN)
Well, I would have said it is a welcome development. But let me be very frank. Tinubu has nothing good for this nation. So, whatever he says is just political gimmicks on television. That declaration is good but has there been any move towards that? Are there any statistics from the government or Customs? Have they come out with the breakdown of the lifting of the ban? How can you be issuing foreign exchange for a country whose currency is still struggling? So to me it’s a political gimmick.
Rev. Jonathan Nicole (Former President, SALS)
Well, it’s as good as not releasing them, because where’s the money to buy the foreign exchange? That’s a short cut to the answer. As for this money, you know they are now operating on a free market now. But for this money, the dollar is N1,100. So how much are you going to source for? To buy bulk consignment, ship it and clear them and make a profit will be very difficult. It’s as good as not releasing them. That’s the way we look at it. Although the motive is right, the possibilities are very remote.