By Andy Esiet, Calabar
A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Chief Asuquo Ekpenyong (snr) has said that for Nigeria to get out of its current economic quagmire, it needs a honest leadership with focus on practical implementation of policies.
Ekpenyong who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Davandy Group, in an interview with The Guardian in Calabar, acknowledged that the federal government has been talking about Nigerians consuming what is produced in Nigeria but “the policy should go beyond lip service. Government functionaries should be seen consuming and patronizing made in Nigeria”.
He said that, “the challenge to address the economic problems rests on having an honest leadership that can communicate the policies of the government in pragmatic ways to the citizens”.
Ekpenyong commended the efforts of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in tackling the Country’s economic challenges but he insisted that only an increase in local production can ease pressure on the nation’s currency as “the insatiable appetite of Nigerians for foreign goods as a factor that is not helping government policies on the economy should be discouraged.
“People go out and buy those things that are banned from outside; they find a way to bring them into the country and once they succeed to bring anyone inside, they sell it at a high price and make a high profit. As soon as they do that, they will want to go back and continue to make their profit to the detriment of the nation’s economy.
“They will get the dollar at a price that is higher than normal. If a dollar is for example N500 pay dollar, they are ready to pay N550 a dollar knowing the profit they make in the foreign goods they bring in”.
He said, “that is a huge challenge but we need a very honest government to turn around Nigeria’s economy because the challenges are systemic and endemic.
“Take the instance of subsidy removal; everyone seems to agree that it is necessary to do that but endemic challenges will rear its head and the government will shy away from doing what is right because they don’t want to be unpopular.
“They can’t implement a policy because they don’t want to be unpopular. They rather postponed the implementation to the next 18 months for the next government to carry out. The fact is the same challenge will still show up and government will only have to take the bull by the horn”.
The business mogul noted that, “there are ways to handle challenges such as training workshops and seminars to explain and educate different sectors including the labour, the media, and a couple of others about the policy to be implemented. Definitely, the government will have to spend money to get people to buy into the new policies”.
On the aspect of foreign exchange management, he noted that, many are looking for foreign exchange to pay for goods that are to be brought in; channels of distribution of foreign exchange are limited. It used to include bureau de change but because those in charge prefer to deal with few banks; they took it away from bureau de change and gave it only to banks.
“That has created more scarcity because people who want to pay for school fees abroad will have to go to banks and these money deposit banks are few; less than 30 in number and that is not enough. Whereas, the bureau de change works elsewhere. Why cant Bureau de Change not work here? There are reports that money deposit banks are also doing things that the Bureau de Change was accused of. They are not selling forex at the approved rate but because those who need the foreign exchange have no other source they are bound to use the few banks”.