The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Tuesday said it would suspend account of any person, hiding under the ECOWAS Trade Liberation Scheme, to sabotage the Federal Government’s investment in reviving the palm oil sector.
The governor of the bank, Godwin Emefiele, said this at his goodwill speech during the plantation owners’ forum of Nigeria oil palm discourse in Benin City.
Emefiele also threatened that accounts of corporate entity including their cronies and supply chain enablers involved in smuggling palm oil and its products into Nigeria would also be suspended.
The apex bank governor, who said the Nigerian palm oil industry was at a crossroad, noted that the national economy continued to be threatened by inadequate local production and continued reliance on imports.
He said the CBN under its Oil Palm Development and Expansion Initiative had so far disbursed over N30 billion to the oil palm sector.
The disbursement is being monitored to ensure efficient utilisation and maximum output while oil majors and apex associations are being encouraged to adopt the Out-Grower Scheme to maximise inherent opportunities, he said.
He noted that if the strategic potentials of the agricultural sector and its value chain were well harnessed, it had the potentials for rural employment generation, ensuring food security and foreign exchange conservation through reduced imports into the country.
According to Emefiele, faced with this stark reality, the CBN decided to intervene with a view to changing the narrative and in line with the ambitious attempt to reposition agriculture as the mainstay of the Nigerian economy.
“Furthermore, in our bid to restore the country’s pre-eminent status as the third global net exporter of palm oil, the Central Bank of Nigeria on 23rd June 2015 included palm oil and palm oil products alongside other commodities in the exclusion list of items not valid for foreign exchange at the Nigerian Foreign Exchange window.
“As you may be aware, the journey to revive the oil palm sector began with the discovery that over $500 million of our scarce foreign exchange was being expended on the importation of palm oil to meet identified unmet demand gap of 1.25 million metric tons.
“The country’s total domestic palm oil demand and consumption stood at 2.5 million with local production capacity availing 1.25 million metric tons only,” he said.
He however explained that Nigeria was already reaping the positive benefits of the border closure in some commodities like rice, and assured that the government would make sure that the price was within the purchasing power of Nigerians.
In his welcome address, the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, noted that the principal goal of the state oil palm programme was to leverage on the CBN initiative.
Obaseki opined that the programme would trigger off oil palm production and serve as a stimulant to other sub regions.
He said under the programme, the state government had legislated and created access to about 120,000 hectares of land, which it had made available strictly for oil palm development.
“Edo diversification is of priority to us and I want to make sure that by the grace of God when I finish as governor of Edo state, you will not have to wait for federal proceeds to pay salaries in Edo State. And this program is one of the key drivers for our diversification planning.
“Successful implementation of this program will project that an average of 45 workers will be employed per hectare of oil palm production. Such that in the year 2030, all of these hectares would have been fully cultivated and create over 600,000 jobs alone from this programme.
“Of course, we cannot also ignore the financial implications because this program will cost us about $600m approximately N200bn and that money is available; we have the CBN to support us, investors and funding from outside of this country and we believe that it is not money that is out of our reach,” he said.
The governor added that the state would set up an implementation office that would include consultants across the state, agronomists, surveyors, community relations that would be trained to ensure that guidelines were strictly followed.