By Uche Chris
Indications have emerged that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, was actually behind the push to close Nigeria’s border since August 20, 2019. The apex bank defended the closure as necessary, insisting that government could not be indifferent to the damage being done to the economy by the nefarious activities of a few people.
Nigerians have been struggling with increase in prices of stable food items such as rice, and its substitutes since the borders were shut, which has led to a spike in the rate of inflation. Figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, last week put inflation rate at 11.67, up from 11.23 percent in the second quarter.
Speaking in Channel Television interview yesterday, CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said that Nigerians should be grateful to the government for finding the courage to save the economy which was endangered by the collusion of our neighbours with international rice syndicates. He said that to allow the situation to continue would have been irresponsible of any government given the huge investments government has made over the years particularly on agriculture.
“Government has done enough to make Nigeria sufficient in food production but the effort is being undermined by the activities of smugglers. The farmers and millers are complaining that they would not be able to repay the loans we have been giving them because they are not selling due to the influx of imported substandard rice. So we had to do something.
“We felt the country would be losing doubly from both investments and imports were this to continue. In 2017 we raised import duty on rice to 70 percent to reduce the dumping but some of our neighbours crashed their rates from 10 percent to zero. It was premeditated to keep this country down. Rice producers were calling me to lament how bad the situation was as they were facing bankruptcy.”
According to the governor, Nigeria needed to prepare for Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, ACFTA, before signing but we were stampeded to rush into it. Nigeria, he said, would be destroying its economy if it continued with it without improving its local industry.
“ACFTA is good and necessary but we have to prepare for it. We cannot enter it without getting our industries back in operation. We have to create jobs for our people and ensure we stop being a dumping ground. This is the task before us and closing the borders was necessary to achieve this,” he said.
He said the bank was motivated to recommend it because as an institution for policy making we must do something to improve the economy.
“It is unfair to say that we are going out of our remit to intervene in the economy or request the border closure, because our objective is to improve the economy and whatever it takes to do so should be done without minding who is doing it as long as it is positive for the country. We have a bad situation in our hands of no growth and no jobs,” he said, adding that the closure will continue until the situation improves.