The Senate yesterday mandated the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to set machinery in motion to recover over $30 billion waivers granted to rice importers by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki gave the mandate when top officials of the CBN led by its Governor, Godwin Emefiele visited him in Abuja.
Saraki who insisted that the money must be recovered and paid back to government coffers said the waivers were granted on taxes and duties to certain companies.
He said the country cannot succeed in attempts to build a buoyant economy when some people are enjoying unnecessary tax holidays.
The CBN governor, he said, should immediately collaborate with the NCS to ensure that the money is recovered and paid back into government coffers.
He said the Senate will, when it resume plenary, reconsider Customs Act especially relating to waivers, to strengthen it and plug loopholes.
On the issue of smuggling, he said no matter how good the policy on import substitution may be, if smuggling continued the way its going on now, the policy will not be successful.
He said government must find ways and means to stop big time smugglers that are well known.
Saraki said fiscal discipline has now become important more than ever before.
He urged the CBN to fish out government agencies that are used to not remitting accrued funds to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and force them to do the needful.
He said the diversification being underscored by President Muhammadu Buhari, should be pursued with vigour.
The CBN boss in his briefing said the efforts of President Buhari to block all leakages as well as the vigilance of the CBN on foreign exchange reserve had started yielding result.
According to him, the external reserve which declined from $37.3 billion in June last year to $29.1 billion at the end of June this year has risen to $31.89 billion as at July 7th, this year.
Emefiele described the trend of the increase as extremely gratifying.
He said given the understanding that a fall in oil prices is temporary, and that some speculative activities were ongoing in the foreign exchange market, the CBN took a number of proactive actions.
The actions, he said include further tightening of monetary policy, closure of the official foreign exchange window, review of operators’ net open position, placement of 72-hour limit on foreign exchange utilisation by customers, introduction of a two-way other based quota system, introduction of a bank-around CBN tentative rate and bank on selective items from assets to foreign exchange.
He said the policies have led to significant stabilisation in exchange rate and an improvement on the market segment, having earlier traded at as high as N206 to a dollar.
According to him, the naira to dollar exchange rate has appreciated and remained around N197 to a dollar in the interbank market in the last five months.
He insisted that the issues that currently confront the country is the need to diversify the structure of the economy from being import dependent to being an economy that produces what Nigerians should consume.
The CBN chief said liquidity consumption in the financial market remains relatively stable so far this year as growth money supply boomed as expected and capital and deposit as well above industry averages.
He said in view of this, the strategic demand of the country’s abandoned system remained remarkably good.
The CBN, he said, will continue to be vigilant in the market to ensure that there is no tolerance for speculators.
He said that Nigerian foreign reserve remained the country’s common wealth “and we must all strive to work together to protect this and prevent speculators and ruin seekers from plundering it.”