The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) on Wednesday, warned that there would be unprecedented smuggling of food products because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the CBN to withdraw foreign exchange for food importation.
The Director-General of NECA, Mr Timothy Olawale, while reacting to the directive, told reporters in Lagos that although the directive might be well intended, it left much to be desired in the absence of a buffer time for adjustment.
According to Olawale, Nigeria currently lacks the capacity to meet its local food demand and the demand that will be created as a result of the directive will be through smuggling.
He said that given the fact that Nigeria recently signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) intended to open up the borders, smuggling would become the order of the day.
”With the recently signed AfCFTA, Nigeria will further create a thriving market for other countries and will remain a dumping ground for imported goods.”
He said the implication of a ‘knee-jack’ action, was that “a wholesale immediate withdrawal of FOREX without giving a buffer period for businesses to adjust and source for alternatives would boost smuggling activities.
”This will have serious consequences for the economy.
“But we commend the president and indeed, the Federal Government for the numerous efforts at ensuring food sufficiency in the country and protecting local farmers.
The director-general said that the withdrawal of forex would decapitate businesses leading to loss of jobs and relocation of some businesses to neighbouring countries where they could without hindrance, bring the products to Nigeria under the cover of AfCFTA.
He said that the timing of the policy called for concern and that with consistent support and policy stability, local food production might meet demands and also provide foreign exchange through exports.
According to him, the reality is that Nigeria currently lacks the capacity for sufficient food production to meet local demand.
The NECA chief said that conserving foreign exchange through the withdrawal or ban of FOREX for food importation was not tenable.
Olawale said that if Nigeria was desirous of conserving foreign exchange, government would do well to stop the allocation of FOREX for the importation of petroleum products and ban medical tourism to aid investment in Nigerian hospitals.
He said that the government should also withdraw FOREX for payment of tuition in foreign universities to enable the resuscitation of the perpetually under-funded Nigerian universities, among others.
“The reality of lack of capacity to embrace these other wholesome reforms is true of the situation with insufficient capacity presently for food production,” he said.
The NECA boss argued that “rather than withdrawal of FOREX on food importation and indeed, milk importation, a gradual withdrawal with a buffer period of not less than five years should be given.”
He said that this would ensure proper and strategic implementation of government’s agricultural promotion policy that was established less than five years ago.
Olawale said that government should also resolve the myriad of challenges facing the food production value-chain, including the distribution system for fresh foods, post-harvest losses due to a lack of storage system as well as the security challenges and the menace of herdsmen. (NAN)
NANTA Records $500m Revenue Loss in 2022
The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) on Friday said it recorded a loss of 500 million as revenue in 2022, due to drop in ticket sales.
Mrs Susan Akporiaye, NANTA’s National President, disclosed this during a media briefing held in Lagos on Friday.
Akporiaye said that there had been an appreciable decrease in ticket sales among its members as Nigerian travellers groan over exorbitant ticket fares.
She said foreign airlines operating in Nigeria had blocked all low ticket inventories on their websites and had continued to sell the highest inventories as passengers find it difficult to buy affordable tickets.
According to her, airfares has risen to over 400 per cent to all international destinations and this is as a result of the $550million trapped funds.
“The situation at hand has made Nigerian travellers to patronise agents in other African countries.
“Only less than 30 per cent tickets sold in Nigeria were done by local agents, with this, the Nigerian government is losing a lot of tax.
“To reduce the amount of money that would be trapped in Nigeria, the foreign airlines have also stopped local travel agents from issuing tickets emanating from other countries into Nigeria,” she said.
Akporiaye noted that the association was pained, anxious, and worried, considering the consequences of the job losses recorded.
She said the security risks to Nigerians travelling across borders to connect cheaper flghts was also worrisome.
“Also, the shame of a parallel dollar monetary policy in the travel sector
against established national naira monetary policy.
” We are also worried that none of our poitical parties have deemed it necessary to look at aviation economics, particularly, its homogeneous socio-economic and security opportunities.
“We advise the new government to followup keenly on Bilateral Air services Agreement (BASA) and other extant aviation laws which will open our economy to serious local and foreign investors, we are also remain available for consultation,” she said.
Earlier, Mr Yinka Olapade, NANTA’s National Auditor said that developments in the travel sector had gone so bad that over 720,000 job losses had also been recorded due to the irregularities in the system.
He said that the travel sector contributed over 3.6 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation in 2021 but this dropped drastically in 2022.
He however, urged the federal government to look into the problems in the industry to guide against monumental effect.
“This industry should be taken seriously, it is a goldmine that is capable of repositioning the nation in different capacities,” he said. (NAN)
Progressives Govs Meet Buhari Seek Another Extension for Naira Swap
By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has met with the Progressives Governors Forum of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as they pleaded for the review of the redesigned currency notes to run concurrently with the old notes and gradually phased out due to the scarcity of cash in the country.
The President also urged citizens to give him seven days to resolve the cash crunch that has become a problem across the country from the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria to change high value Naira notes with new ones.
Buhari in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said the currency re-design will give a boost to the economy and provide long-term benefits while expressing doubts about the commitment of banks in particular to the success of the policy.
According to the Progressive Governors, the cash crunch was threatening the good records of the administration in transforming the economy.
The President also indicted some bank Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) on the scarcity of the naira notes in circulation, accusing them of selfishness and inefficiency.
“Some banks are inefficient and only concerned about themselves. Even if a year is added, problems associated with selfishness and greed won’t go away,” the President said.
He said he had seen television reports about cash shortages and hardship to local businesses and ordinary people and gave assurances that the balance of seven of the 10-day extension will be used to crackdown on whatever stood in the way of successful implementation.
“I will revert to the CBN and the Minting Company. There will be a decision one way or the other in the remaining seven days of the 10-day extension,” Buhari assured.
The Governors told the President that, while they agreed that his decision on the renewal of currency was good and they are fully in support, its execution had been botched and their constituents were becoming increasingly upset.
They told the President that, as leaders of the government and party in their different states, they were becoming anxious about a slump in the economy and the series of elections that are coming. They requested the President to use his powers to direct the concurrent flourish of the new and old notes till the end of the year.
The President said when he considered giving the approval to the policy, he demanded an undertaking from the CBN that no new notes will be printed in a foreign country and they in turn gave him assurances that there was enough capacity, manpower, and equipment to print the currency for local needs. He said he needed to go back to find out what was happening.
President Buhari told the Governors that, being closer to the people, he had heard their cries and will act in a way that there will be a solution.
An unconfirmed report has it that some bank CEOs had taken a huge chunk of the new naira notes to the house of some politicians.
It was gathered that the APC Governors had expected to get a direct response from the President to allow both the old and new naira notes to circulate concurrently to ease the suffering of Nigerians.
The Governors met with President Buhari over the hardship Nigerians are facing as a result of the naira swap introduced by the CBN.
Briefing some journalists in the Hausa language, Governor Nasir el-Rufai, of Kaduna State, alleged that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, mopped up over N2 trillion of the old note but printed only N300 billion, which he said was not enough and has contributed to the hardship the masses are facing.
el-Rufai, flanked by his Kano State counterpart, Abdullahi Ganduje, said even if the CBN had wanted to implement the cashless policy, they should have printed at least half of what they mopped up, which is N1 trillion.
The governor said the Progressive governors had informed President Buhari that the masses are suffering and traders are losing their goods due to lack of patronage.
He gave the example of a tomato seller that travelled to Lagos with their goods but all got wasted because people have no money to buy, so they appealed to the president to reconsider his stance.
He said, “We the governors of the All Progressives Congress under the aegis of Progressive Governors Forum have met with the President and informed him about the issue that is bothering us and the problems the people are going through because of the currency redesign policy.
“The President explained to us what they have told him and we have seen that the Central Bank Governor (CBN) and the Minting and Printing did not tell Mr. President the truth about the things that are happening in the country.
“What’s the truth? Firstly, we are told that they have mopped up over N2 trillion of the old notes and printed only N300 billion of the new notes. Why will you retrieve such an amount of money and then print only N300 billion? That is why there are problems, the money is not enough.
“If you also look at some state and local governments that don’t have banks and the problems they are facing from POS. People don’t have money to buy things in the market, but they can’t go shopping, tomatoes sellers took their products to Lagos and could not sale till they spoiled.
“We have narrated all these issues to Mr. President and he said he will meet with CBN, other stakeholders, and even the deposit money banks. He will see what they will tell him before he takes a decision. But he didn’t indicate to us that this issue has ended, there will be no extension and he did not tell us that he will extend it.
“He only told us that until he gets certain about what is going on. We have told him about things that are happening in our states and the trouble people are encountering.
“Our fear is that, if there is no solution to this, it may cause a crisis and affect the general elections and the election may not even hold completely. The President said he will look into it.”
Asked what precisely the APC governors want the president to do, he said, “What we the governors want is to give an extension on this policy so that everyone can exchange his money. Because of N300 billion, there is no how it will be equal to N2 trillion. N1 trillion should be printed not N300 billion. The money is not enough that is the problem.
“Our advice is that both the old and new notes should be used until the old notes are gradually faced out. They should print new notes that will be enough, for now, they are not enough for circulation. Those who say the printed new notes are enough are telling lies to the President.”
Further asked on what he will tell those accusing him of looking for a godfather that is why he is criticizing the President, he said, “I don’t criticize President Buhari. I have never criticized President Buhari, it’s only those working with him who are telling him lies, they don’t tell him the truth, and they don’t tell him what the people are going through on these policies or decisions that are taken.
“What President Buhari brought, we support it. We know the reason he wants to do something but this thing they are not doing it right and they don’t tell him the right thing. We the true followers of Buhari are not using him to get money for shopping, we are mandated to tell him the truth, and that’s what we’ve done.
“President Buhari himself knows me, he knows how we have been together. All these allegations I’m used to hearing them. Which godfather am I looking for?
“Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is our Presidential Candidate we want him to win the election. I have told Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu ten times I don’t want government work, I don’t want to work with him. He is the one saying he wants to work with them at all costs. I swear, I’m bigger than saying he is my godfather, I’m not seeking work, I’m not seeking shopping money, what I am seeking is from God and not man.”
el-Rufai said the president did not tell them yes or no, adding that the chairman of Progressive Governors Forum, and governor of Kebbi state, Atiku Bagudu, had gone back to meet the President privately with the hope to convince him.
However, the Kebbi state governor did not brief members of the State House Press Corps that had waited for him on the outcome of his meeting with the President.
Customs Seizes $6m Fake US Dollars, Arrest Four along Seme Border
The Nigeria Customs Service, Seme Area command, has seized $6 million fake United States dollars amongst other prohibited items.
The Area Controller of the command, Comptroller Dera Nnadi, made this known to journalists during a briefing in Seme, yesterday in Lagos.
He also said that four suspected members of cross border criminal syndicate were arrested.
Nnadi said that the command had recorded milestones in the last 13 days in its anti-smuggling operations.
“Some of the anti-smuggling landmarks by the command include the seizure of fake $6m equivalent of N2.763 billion and the arrest of two suspects conveying the fake currency from Nigeria to the Republic of Benin.
“Two male suspects were arrested in connection with the crime and are currently in our custody pending prosecution.
“The arrest was made at Gbaji checkpoint along the Seme corridor on Jan.31, 2023.
“Also, on the same day, at a about 05:30 a.m., our men on patrol along Gbethrome base intercepted six Maltese International Passports with the same picture of a lady but bearing different names,” he said.
He added that Senegalese, Togolese, Republic of Benin and Niger International Passports were also recovered alongside 1O international driving licence of various countries from two male suspects currently in custody for further investigation.
Nnadi said that the command also seized 1,300 by 30 litres Jerry can of petroleum equivalent to 39,000 litres with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N9, 366,350.
According to the controller, the products were seized along the creeks.
“Other items seized include 55 sacks containing 550 pieces of donkey skin with DPV of N11, 371,511 only.
“The significant of the seizure is that it shows how much our endanger speices are being eroded by unpatriotic elements.
“These achievements so far, were not made on a platter of gold, it took the painstaking efforts of the officers who spend hours on patrol and surveillance to record the seizures,” he said.
He, however, said that the major source of revenue of the command which is import and export had not been enhanced since the opening of the land borders as directed by the Federal Government.
Nnadi said that some traders were still bracing with the challenges of having been out of business for over two years.
He said the command would continue to engage and sensitise the public on socio-economic implication of smuggling as well as performing statutory function of enforcing compliance in line with government fiscal policies.
The controller commended the collaborative efforts of other sister agencies in the fight against smuggling and appealed for sustained support. (NAN)
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