The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has commended the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele for introducing a list of restricted items for foreign exchange transactions in the country.
According to the minister, Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves would have crashed to as low as $2 billion if the CBN had not enforced the restriction.
According to him, the release of the items on the foreign exchange restriction list by CBN has contributed in shoring up the country’s reserves to about $40 billion.
Ogbeh revealed this in his address at an event organised by Guinness Nigeria Limited to honour farmers in Abuja on Tuesday.
Recalling his conversation with the CBN Governor, Ogbeh said that the government was pleased that the apex bank was resolute in its decision on the forex restriction list, despite the barrage of attacks.
Ogbeh said: “I was with the (CBN) governor on Friday last week and I said to him you remember I met you at Frankfurt airport in early 2015. We were on our way to the United States and I saw him and said, ‘how are you’, and he said, ‘fine, but I’m being bashed around at home because I stopped 41 items on the forex restriction list.’
“He (Emefiele) came under a barrage of attacks and I said to him that I am on his side because the bank should have done this 20 years ago not now. So, I told him that when I get back from the trip, I will call a press conference to defend him. And I did. Because I saw the logic in what he was doing.
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“On Friday, he (Emefiele) said to me that even those that criticised him, including non-Nigerians, now say to him that they love what he did on that issue. So, if he had been weak and had succumbed to the bashing, by today, we would have $2bn as foreign reserves, but right we now have about $40bn.”
Ogbeh also noted that it would be foolish to devalue the local currency as a result of its fall against the United States dollar, adding that it was better to cut down on imports.
The minister said the massive importation of various commodities almost crippled the domestic economy, as the country’s forex reserves were heavily depleted, especially when crude prices started to nosedive.