Financial experts yesterday backed the Federal Government’s move to stop foreign exchange on food importation, saying it would boost the nation’s foreign reserve and local production of food items.
They told newsmen in Lagos that the policy, if properly implemented, would curb importation as well as protect value of the naira.
A professor of Economics, Olabisi Onabanjo University Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella, said that one of the ways to protect the value of the naira was to curb importation.
“This is a difficult time for the external sector of our economy and government must act to protect serious downward slide in the value of the naira.
“Oil price is going down again and the foreign reserve has started declining due to Central Bank of NIgeria (CBN) intervention in the forex market.
“One of the ways to protect the value of the naira is to curb importation. So the President was right in taking that decision,’’ Tella said.
He said that the policy would encourage and assure farmers that “if they increase their outputs, they can always find customers, which are good for the economy.
“Nigeria should have no business importing food in the 21st century if we had modernised agriculture in the last one or two decades, but we still see farmers carry cutlass and hoes to farm to produce food.
“Farmers in all areas, crops, animal husbandry, livestock, and even agro-allied industries should take advantage of this policy to unleash their potential and modernise their operations,’’ Tella said.
He, however, said that consumers would suffer in the immediate term because prices of food items would increase.
“But in the medium to long term, if the tempo of production activities to be generated is sustained, everyone will be better off.
“At least, we can be forced to consume what we produce,’’ Tella added
A chartered stockbroker and Chief Executive Officer, Sofunix Investment and Communications, Mr Sola Oni, said that philosophy of stopping food importation was to revolutionise agriculture, Nigeria’s hitherto economic life wire.
Oni, however, said that it requires a strong political will to implement such a policy.
He said that adequate infrastructure and incentives must be provided to encourage local production of such food items.
“The economics of the policy is to create employment opportunities locally and earn foreign exchange through exportation of such food items in the final analysis.
“The big elephant in the house is the usual issue of implementation. Nigeria has never lacked good policies but the strength of character to ensure implementation.
“It is hoped that policy will not be circumvented by rent seeking Nigerians who always have their way through top-level political network,’’ he said.
Oni said that he was in support as long as it would not cause extreme hardship.
He noted that the benefits of the policy outweigh challenges in the medium and long run if properly handled.
“Why must we import what we can produce, thereby depleting our external reserves,’’ he asked.
According to him, government should be sure that Nigeria has achieved food security.
“The policy can be done in phases to ease possible tension. It could be done in three to five years before full implementation,’’ Oni said.
President Buhari had, last Tuesday, directed the CBN to stop providing foreign exchange for importation of food into the country.
According to him, the directive is to achieve steady improvement in agricultural production, and attainment of full food security.
COVID-19: PH Residents Urge Church Leaders To Distribute Food Evenly
Some residents of Port Harcourt and its environs have called on church leaders in Rivers State to ensure that the alleged distribution of food items by some churches is not limited to their members alone.
The call is coming on the heels of reports that some churches like the Winners Chapel, have begun to distribute food items to their members alone, as a way of cushioning the effect of COVID-19 hardship.
Reacting to this report, a resident of Choba community, Frank Ichendu, told The Tide that church leaders should realise that there are other residents of the state that equally need such support like their members.
According to him, this is the time the church should care for both their members and non-members, and show the love of Christ at this time of general hardship.
Also reacting to the matter on a separate phone chat, Felix Worlu, who resides within the Ada-George road axis, said that this was the time churches, especially big churches, should complement government’s efforts by using the tithes and offering to support the less privileged.
Worlu noted that government cannot carry everything alone, and therefore, called on church leaders to show love and care to the needy who might not be their members for the sake of humanity.
Agreeing with the position of Worlu, a widow residing in Rumuosi community of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, Nlemchi Michael, lamented that the closure of markets had brought serious hardship on the citizenry, calling on churches and philanthropists to come to people’s aid at this trying period.
She also called on the state government to do whatever they intend to do faster to cushion the hardship of the market closure and restriction.
Meanwhile, The Tide reliably gathered that the Omega Power Ministry (OPM) has started to distribute food stuff to members of the public at Rukpokwu in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state, irrespective of religion or denomination.
By: Corlins Walter
NUPENG Threatens Strike Over Sack Of Refinery Workers
The Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas, (NUPENG), has given the Federal Government and management of the Port Harcourt Refinery Company (PHRC) 72 hours to reverse March 29th sack of over 175 contract workers or face the shutdown of supply of petroleum products across the Port Harcourt Zone.
National Treasurer, NUPENG, Alex Agwanwor, at the declaration of the ultimatum in Port Harcourt, yesterday, said the development was tilted to a nationwide industrial action with consequences certain to compound prevailing hardship posed to the Nigerian populace by Coronavirus as the union members in refineries in Kaduna and Warri Zones were equally affected by job layoff.
Narrating the situation, Zonal Chairman, NUPENG, Port Harcourt Zone, Mina Samuel, said apart from acting in defiance of extant labour laws and best practices in the sudden sack of the contractor workers, the timing underscored insensitivity on part of the PHRC.
Samuel described as disheartening, “The disengagement of union members by management of PHRC on whose instruction its contractors acted to terminate jobs at this very point the entire world is being ravaged by Covid-19.
“It is the height of insensitivity that whereas the whole world is providing for citizens, putting in place palliatives, economic stimulus and protection of workers right, PHRC, a government agency is terminating jobs and deliberately infusing more hardship on workers
“Consequently, NUPENG gives PHRC 72hours from April 2 to direct its contractors to withdraw all job termination letters issued all NUPENG members in their employ. We advise the refinery management to engage the union once normalcy is restored, if need be.
“PHRC management leaves the NUPENG with no other option than calling all members within Port Harcourt Zone including petroleum tanker drivers, petrol station workers currently risking their lives to render essential services to the nation in the face of Covid-19, to halt the supply of petroleum products in solidarity with affected members”
The union further lamented that, “fuel tankers drivers and others on essential duties are currently not allowed to move freely in Rivers as a result of the lockdown by the state government. We appeal to the government to address this challenge in line with Mr President/State Governor’s directive on exemption of those on essential duty.”
NITPs Hails RSG’s Measures Against Covid-19, Suspends Institute’s Activities
The Nigerian Institute of Town Planners(NITPs), Rivers State Chapter, has commended the Rivers State Government for the proactive steps it took to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the State.
Chairman of the institute, Emmanuel Ikechukwu, who gave the commendation shortly after an extraordinary emergency meeting of the State Executive Committee of the institute in Port Harcourt, said the government’s measure was in the interest of public health and safety.
Ikechukwu advised members of the institute and the general public to “adhere strictly to the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to contain this pandemic by maintaining personal hygiene, washing of hands regularly with soap and water, the use of hand sanitiser, social distancing and self-isolation when necessary”.
He noted that the inconveniences and hardships created by the restrictions following the pandemic were “temporal thus the need for all citizens to be resilient, patriotic and united with government at all levels in the fight to curb the spread of the pandemic”.
The NITPs boss enjoined the state government to put palliative measures in place to cushion the adverse impact of restrictions on the populace.
Ikechukwu also notified NITPs members that following the directives of NCDC and the Rivers State Government to ban all forms of social and public gatherings, the chapter’s monthly general meeting has been temporarily suspended till further notice.
He said further that the earlier scheduled inauguration ceremony of the newly elected state executives expected to hold on April16, 2020 has been postponed, adding that the chapter’s secretariat shall remain shut until April 20, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, all correspondence and enquiries during this period should be channelled through the e-mails and contact phone numbers already provided by the principal executives of the institute.
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