The presidential directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on food importation has continued to spark mixed reactions across the country.
Among those who faulted the order recently is a former deputy governor of the apex bank and development economist, Dr Obadiah Mailafia.
The economist who appeared as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily, believes the affairs of the CBN are being interfered with, rather than operating as an independent institution.
“There has been a capture of CBN politically; it has no autonomy anymore,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
Mailafia added, “It (CBN) has no independence anymore. It is just an appendage of some people who are using it for whatever purpose that they want.
“It’s like we’ve gone back to the military days where the military will literally bring trailers to the mint and order printing of fresh mints, load them into trailers and drive off with them.”
On Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the CBN to stop providing foreign exchange for importation of food into the country.
The President, who hosted the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors to Eid-el-Kabir lunch in Daura, had explained that the directive was important considering the “steady improvement” in agricultural production and attainment of “full food security” in Nigeria.
He stressed that the foreign reserve would be conserved and utilised strictly for diversification of the economy, and not for encouraging more dependence on foreign food import bills.
But the President’s directive to the apex bank had been criticised by economic experts and other Nigerians, including a former CBN deputy governor – Professor Kingsley Moghalu.
On his part, Mailafia aligned himself with the position of the critics of the presidential directive, saying he was disappointed.
He described the order as ‘thoughtless’, saying certain procedure must be followed before making critical decisions relating to a nation’s economy.
The former CBN governor also insisted that the country has yet to attain the level of food sufficiency that could warrant such an order.
“We can never be more primitive in riding an economy. It is not only primitive, it is backward, completely backward thinking and we are not self-sufficient in food; that is very wrong,” he said.
Mailafia added, “I wish there was any thinking here; there’s been no thinking whatsoever.
“It’s thoughtless thought; you don’t run policy on a web, you run policy based on a technical and scientific understanding of the situation at hand and then, you put together a technical paper working out the various scenarios for every alternative cause of action.”