President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to provide forex for the importation of food items or fertilizer. The president spoke on Thursday at a meeting of the National Food Security Council at the State House in Abuja. This is the second time the president will make such a statement, the first being in August 2019. Buhari advised private businesses bent on food importation to source their foreign exchange independently, saying “use your money to compete with our farmers, instead of using foreign reserves to bring in compromised food items to divest the efforts of our farmers”. “We have a lot of able-bodied young people willing to work and agriculture is the answer. We have a lot to do to support our farmers,” a statement by presidential spokesman Garba Shehu quoted Buhari as saying. “From only three operating in the country, we have 33 fertilizer blending plants now working. We will not pay a kobo of our foreign reserves to import fertilizer. We will empower local producers,” the statement added.
Three Nigerian bank CEOs, Kennedy Uzoka of UBA; Adesola Adeduntan of First Bank, and Abubakar Suleiman of Sterling Bank plc, who are also directors of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, were Wednesday asked by a senior officer of the Central Bank of Nigeria to discontinue their membership of the board of NESG, immediately. The three officers who said they were threatened by the CBN official, had a separate encounter regarding the directive, which if not heeded to might make their respective banks denied access to foreign exchange by the regulator. According to one of the CEOs, he was told if he did not want his bank to face severe consequences, he must resign from the board of the NESG. This is probably connected with the criticism the NESG has directed at the CBN over its handling of the economy, accusing some of its policies concerning forex transactions, loan disbursements, intervention funds of lacking clarity.
The Azura Power Project is at risk of default, due to an inability to access foreign exchange from the CBN. The CBN continues to restrict access to foreign exchange in its ongoing effort to support the Naira. Azura, currently a 460MW capacity power plant in Edo, is a 1,500MW, $866 million IPP effort by 15 lenders. Siemens and Julius Berger were the joint EPC contractors on the project. It has been held up as a model for addressing projects of this magnitude in the country. A default due to its inability to make dollar payments – not lack of liquidity – could prevent similar projects from going live in the short and medium-term.
Gunmen raided Tunga Maji, a suburb of Abuja, early Thursday, abducting an unspecified number of residents. One resident said at least 20 people were kidnapped after prolonged shooting in the community that lies near Zuba. An eyewitness said heavy shooting started in the community at about 0015 hours and lasted more than an hour. He said members of the local vigilante group were overwhelmed. The attack comes only days after reports suggested that members of the extremist group, Boko Haram had infiltrated the federal capital.