Public policy analysts and experts have advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure industry stakeholders are properly engaged in its plan to restrict access to forex from its regulated window for the importation of milk and food.
The analysts who spoke in Lagos yesterday, at the fourth edition of Regulatory Conversation, with the theme: "Foreign Exchange Restrictions on Food Imports and Implications for Regulating and Growing the Nation's Economy," suggested that the central bank should consult widely with the stakeholders in order to find a way to achieve a positive outcome for the country.
The event was organised by the Integrity Organisation/Convention on Business Integrity in conjunction with Proshare, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, BusinessDay, and ActionAid Nigeria.
Speakers at the panel included the founder of Centre for Values in Leadership, Prof. Pat Utomi; Publisher of BusinessDay, Mr. Frank Aigbogun; Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Yusuf; member of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Oluwasegun Oshindipe; official of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mrs. Sussy Onwuka; and Founder of Proshare and moderator of the discussion, Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi.
Speaking on the planned policy, Aigbogun said there was need for the CBN to consult more with stakeholders and ensure that whatever comes out of the consultation reflect the wishes of the masses and the players.
"There should be a consensus that this policy is indeed the right one for Nigeria at this particular time. People should be given time to make the investment, because we are talking about private sector investment here," he said.
He added: "People will need to do feasibility studies; they need to look at the entire value chain so that they will position themselves; they will need to look at things around packaging; they will need to then raise capital.
"Surely, they haven't been given time to do that. Even if the goal of the objective can be understood, we are going about it in a very wrong way," he added.
In his contribution, Yusuf said: "We have a situation whereby the CBN has taken over matters of trade market. It is a major problem and it is causing a great disruption."
He noted that rather than address fundamental challenges in the nation's business environment to make the nation globally competitive, regulators were busy doing otherwise.
For Utomi, he argued that the forex restriction on milk imports would not benefit the masses.
According to him, "We must try to understand the principles of trade. It just seems that the problem is that fiscal authorities have abdicated their duties and the CBN has taken over.
"What drives prosperity is production and not revenue. Revenues don't create wealth, production does."
Also speaking, Awoyemi said: "With respect to policy on restriction, it should be about incentives, not restrictions. We should run an incentive-based economy, not one that is based on command."