The Oasis Reporters
August 15, 2019
The directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop providing foreign exchange for food importation by President Muhammadu Buhari, which on the surface seems patriotic, is nothing other than playing to the gallery, or at best not a well thought out plan.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, the president said he had asked the CBN to stop issuing foreign exchange for food importation so as to stimulate the growth of agriculture and to ensure food security.
The reality is that today, taste buds have completely been altered and matter of diet and consumption is now globalized. As bad as it may have seemed then, Nigerians heard former Agriculture Minister, Audu Ogbeh get angry that some Nigerians were importing fresh pizza from London to consume in Lagos. But then, it’s their money. The ideal thing is to prepare pizzas in Lagos that would rival the one from London, and change the demographics of the pizza business, not by an outright ban.
Be that as it may, it must be recalled that many Nigerians export yams, Garri, pepper, etc, that are mainly Nigerian food products because many in foreign destinations want them. So why can’t foreign foods equally be imported into the country for fair and unselfish trade purposes ?
Besides lifestyle changes, it is known that for health reasons, doctors recommend certain foods for certain categories of citizens that cannot be sufficiently grown in Nigeria. For instance, Nigeria cannot grow enough wheat, because it is a temperate crop that can best be grown in countries like Canada, USA, several European countries, etc. Nigerian climate is tropical. So should those who consume food items grown in temperate climates for health reasons go extinct because of this ban ?
Many Nigerians are facing food shortages. The food basket Middle belt region has been so destabilized by the incursion of rifle wielding foreign Fulani herdsmen, such that farmers have had their homes and farms destroyed, and many of them now live in refugee camps, far from their homeland. Therefore where is the food production going to emanate from ?
The same scenario is playing out in the South West, and many other parts of the country. Nigerians are hungry and they feel insecure, unable to venture into the bushes where foreign and domestic kidnappers and bandits now occupy. Since security cannot be guaranteed by the government, the next peaceful option is to allow for food imports until the government can man up and clear the troublesome bandits that have been allowed to fester in Nigeria’s bushes are expelled.
Or else, the country may risk food riots whose outcome might be difficult to predict. Just like the bread riots in the history of the French monarchy under Louis XVI brought about a revolution that consumed it, and changed France forever.
Oby Ezekwesili, former minister of education, has described President Muhammadu Buhari as a “completely out-of-touch leader. He is cocooned away in the grandeur of@AsoRock where they serve him delicatessen and praise-sing to him: ‘ranka dede sir’, your agriculture policy is working wonderfully. All farmers in Nigeria are now billionaires & exporting to the US,” she said ” aboutthis new policy
, just as some Nigerians have criticised the president’s directive.
Kingsley Moghalu, former deputy governor of CBN, said such an economic policy should not be imposed on the CBN by a political authority, and that the bank has lost its independence.
“Nigeria’s entire economy appears to have been sub-contracted to our central bank, including industrial and trade policy”, because in the process, the economy has fared poorly and the Bank has lost its independence. This is sad,” he said.
Meanwhile, the CBN said it will proceed with the president’s directive and that the implementation of the forex ban on food import would be in phases.
It will be recalled that early in the life of the Buhari government in 2015, foreign exchange regime was severely restricted, discarding all the free flowing relaxed policies of former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. It sounded populist, but obviously I’ll thought out, and that singular move plunged Nigeria into a recession they hadnt seen in 30 years, with FDI drying up. The Vice president, Yemi Osinbajo eventually reversed the order when he acted as president, to stabilize the economy.
Meanwhile, government critic, Reno Omokri has tweeted to tug at Buhari’s conscience, who got enough foreign exchange for his medicals abroad, for months on end, yet denies it for food imports.
To the best of my knowledge, no Nigerian has consumed forex from CBN for PERSONAL reasons, like General @MBuhari. He accessed forex to educate his kids in UK and for his regular lengthy UK medical trips. But he doesn't want forex for the masses food#FreeLeahSharibu #RenosDarts pic.twitter.com/2Qt5UAxxmE
— Reno Omokri (@renoomokri) August 15, 2019
The effects of this food import ban may trigger another reversal once again, after the damage would have been done.
Additional reporting: The Cable