08 January 2016, Abuja — Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on Thursday advised the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to relax what he described as its strict foreign exchange policy, saying it is doing more harm to the economy than good.
A statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, recalled that Saraki at a meeting with the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, Christine Lagarde, said small businesses were being made to suffer unnecessarily.
Consequently, he called on the apex bank to introduce a more flexible foreign exchange regime and reduce the current restrictions on the autonomous market.
According to him, these restrictions do not allow business men to bring in foreign exchange or utilise what they have in their accounts.
The statement also said Saraki had canvassed a similar view at a private meeting with the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, during which he implored him to consider the effects of the current forex regime on small businesses that are dying as a result of evaporating crude oil revenue.
The statement quoted Saraki as telling Lagarde that “the IMF should support our CBN to bring in low interest loans to SMEs. We need to encourage entrepreneurs and make most of our new graduate job creators rather than job seekers. This is an area where we need the financial support and technical assistance of the IMF.”
He explained that his office had received numerous complaints from owners of small businesses complaining about threats to their businesses by the huge bottlenecks involved in doing business in Nigeria now.
“As legislators, we play an important role in making our people understand IMF’s advice, policy trade-offs, consultations and other engagements so that ownership, transparency and accountability are brought to bear on economic policy choices.
“The Nigerian legislature strongly believes that having a collaborative working relationship with the executive branch of government brings development closer to the people.
“Since the advent of the new administration, we have worked closely to stabilise the economy and steady the fiscal environment. This, we have indeed demonstrated by the speedy passage of Medium Term Expenditure Frame Work (MTEF) and recently in the postponement of our recess in order to receive President Muhammadu Buhari to present the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
“The purpose of our legislative agenda is to enable us focus our lawmaking in areas that will help create jobs, expand our infrastructure base and make our economy work for the benefit and happiness of the majority of our people.
“Pivotal to the attainment of this over-reaching objective is the state of the Nigerian business environment. In collaboration with major stakeholders, the eight Senate is presently signing a memorandum of understanding on Enhancing Nigerian Advocacy for Better Business Environment Project, a National Assembly business and investment roundtable initiative, with developmental organisation,”Saraki was further quoted.
Saraki also advised the CBN governor to resist the temptations to devalue the Naira just for the sake of devaluation.
*Omololu Ogunmade – Thisday