Strong indications emerged at the weekend that some ministers in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet are plotting the sack of Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, over his refusal to lift ban on 41 items prohibited from access to the Official Foreign Exchange Market.
It was learnt that the ministers are asking for Emefiele’s head after all efforts to force him rescind the policy failed.
In the event they fail to get him sacked, it was learnt that their Plan B is to work towards whittling down his powers “in the interest of their pockets and masters”
A Presidency source which disclosed that the pressure to unban the 41 items was not only unpatriotic, self-serving but also a calculated attempt to reverse the economic gains recorded by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration fingered the Ministers of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, Trade and Investments, Dr. Okechukwu Elenemah, Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali and some powerful traditional rulers as the arrow-heads of the plot.
“Unfortunately for them, President Buhari cannot be fooled. He knows that the policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria is to help the nation’s economy grow.
“Even though much pressure came from key government officials on Buhari to direct Emefiele unban the items, the President is unyielding and in full support of the CBN governor on this issue,” the source said.
Bar and Bench Watch reports that the controversial 41 items banned from benefitting from foreign exchange at the Nigeria foreign exchange window are:
- Palm kernel/Palm oil products/vegetables oils
- Meat and processed meat products
- Vegetables and processed vegetable products
- Poultry chicken, eggs, turkey
- Private airplanes/jets
- Indian incense
- Tinned fish in sauce(Geisha)/sardines
- Cold rolled steel sheets
- Galvanized steel sheets
- Roofing sheets
- Head pans
- Metal boxes and containers
- Steel drums
- Steel pipes
- Wire rods (deformed and not deformed)
- Iron rods and reinforcing bard
- Wire mesh
- Steel nails
- Security and razor wine
- Wood particle boards and panels
- Wood Fibre Boards and Panels
- Plywood boards and panels
- Wooden doors
- Glass and Glassware
- Kitchen utensils
- Tiles-vitrified and ceramic
- Woven fabrics
- Plastic and rubber products, polypropylene granules, cellophane wrappers
- Soap and cosmetics
- Tomatoes/tomato pastes
- Eurobond/foreign currency bond/ share purchases.
The Central Bank of Nigeria had, at all times, maintained that the ban on the items would help conserve foreign reserves as well as facilitate the resuscitation of domestic industries and improve employment generation.
But, in pushing for the unbanning of the 41 items from benefitting from Forex, the Ministers and Customs CG, Ali, are said to be citing the present economic hardship on the masses as reasons why they want the items unbanned by the apex bank.
“Their argument is that since Nigerians are facing difficult times now, these 41 items should be removed from the prohibited list. They are embarking on campaign of blackmail to convince Mr. President to compel Mr. Emefiele to rescind the ban order.
“They are employing every means to achieve their selfish aims but I can tell you that the president would not agree to this temporary relief measure.
“The president strongly supports the CBN anchor borrowing program designed to grow the agricultural sector and we are having positive results.
“Kebbi and Lagos are growing rice. Other states are following suite.
“And from statistics available, Thai rice Farmers were only able to import about 58,000 metric tons of rice to Nigeria in 2016 because we are gradually becoming self sufficient in rice production.
“This is the direction we should be looking and not going back to unban the 41 items that we can produce locally,” the source said.
The source who lamented the roles of the three Buhari appointees in undermining the president’s economic recovery programme, said “It is sad that Adeosun, Enelama, Ali and these unnamed traditional rulers are calling for this reversal.
“Who are they really working for? For the Nigerian people or for a few cabals serving their interests? This is the tragedy of our country.
“I can’t imagine a minister or any political appointee of this government calling for the unbanning of the 41 items under the prohibition list? This is really sad.”
The source also argued that should Emefiele bow to pressure and lift the ban on the 41 items, the farmers and stakeholders in the small and medium scale sector who had borrowed money to invest and are gradually finding their feet in the country would be unable to function thus fast-tracking the nation’s journey to total economic collapse.