No ban or restrictions on food imports – Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday said there was no truth to a story in the Financial Times of London that his government has placed a ban on the importation of food items into the country.

The president also said that his recent directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to provide foreign exchange (FX) to food importers did not amount to food restriction.

In a statement, the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said in Abuja that any importers of food items that wished to source their forex from non-government financial institutions and pay customs duty on those imports, thereby increasing the government’s tax-take were free to do so.

The president’s statement was responding to a story in the Financial Times of London, titled Muhammadu Buhari sparks dismay over policy shift on food imports” on August 14, 2019.

In the report on FT, the editor Neil Munshi, said that Buhari was coming under fire for calling on the Central Bank to stop providing foreign currency for importers of food items as part of the government’s effort to stimulate local agricultural production and attain “full food security”. The article went on to say that economists and analysts have questioned a policy that risks pushing the prices of food items higher and also questioned the independence of the Central Bank. The article also questioned Nigeria’s commitment to a landmark continent-wide trade agreement, which it signed last month after more than a year of delay.

In the president’s response, presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said the article suggests the Nigerian Government is restricting the import of agricultural products into the country.

”This is simply incorrect. To be absolutely clear, there is no ban – or restriction – on the importation of food items whatsoever.

”President Buhari has consistently worked towards strengthening Nigeria’s own industrial and agricultural base. A recent decision sees the Central Bank maintain its reserves to put to use helping growth of the domestic industry in 41 product sectors rather than provide forex for the import of those products from overseas.

“Should importers of these items wish to source their forex from non-government financial institutions (and pay customs duty on those imports – increasing tax-take, something the FT has berated Nigeria for not achieving on many occasions) they are freely able to do so.

“Diversification of forex provision towards the private sector and away from top-heavy government control, a diversification of Nigeria’s industrial base, and an increase in tax receipts – are all policies one might expect the Financial Times to support.

“Yet for reasons not quite clear, the author and this newspaper seem to believe the president’s administration seeks to control everything – and yet do so via policies that relinquish government control.

”We look forward to the next installment of Mr. Munshi’s bizarre and puzzling article series.”

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