In national interest – The Nation

  • CBN may have to review its new rules on export processes

Just as the saying goes, that “he who wears the shoes knows best where it pinches”; so it appears that the latest rules governing export processes introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) appear to be proving a cog in the wheel of export business in Nigeria.

Describing the electronic Nigeria Export Proceed Form required by the apex bank as plagued by “enormous bottlenecks”, the body of exporters, under the aegis of Network of Practicing Non-oil Exporters of Nigeria (NPNEN), says that the new procedures have so many layers of activities that often lead to delays and loss of income on the part of the exporters. According to NPNEN President, Ahmed Rabiu, “the reality on the field shows that the process is causing undue delays and consequently, encouraging corruption”.

To begin with, NPNEN’s observations, and, by extension, its engagement with the apex bank on the matter would ordinarily be in order. As a major stakeholder, their views on the subject deserve to be factored into the making of the policy. Now, the body is referencing a report in which a whopping N868billion worth of export-bound goods are said to have been caught up in the new procedures. The claim should not be passed off without scrutiny.

Unfortunately, in this case as in many other cases involving the government and business, the exporters would appear to be their own worst enemies. We say this because nothing of the new rules could be said to be either spurious or arbitrary. Rather, they were tailored precisely to curb specific and well documented abuses by the practitioners whose stock-in-trade consists in gaming the system. These abuses are what the apex bank had sought to curb with limited success.

We recall that the apex bank had, times without number, sought to ensure that exporters not only live up to the obligation of ensuring that export proceeds are duly repatriated, but also shun such mechanisms through which they manipulate the system. A good example was in August, last year, when the CBN not only abolished the third-party Form M payment under which some exporters were said to have diverted foreign exchange via so-called buying companies or agents; it directed all banks to furnish it with the names, addresses and the Bank Verification Number (BVN) of exporters said to have defaulted in repatriating their export proceeds for sanctions. That exercise, which marked the height of its frustration, unfortunately, is what culminated in the new regulations which they now complain about.

It is noteworthy that NPNEN does not deny the basis of the new regulation, which is the need for a system that protects the nation’s interest, particularly one that ensures that export proceeds are promptly repatriated as expected under the law. Given the situation, only in one singular respect – that of a more streamlined procedure, one that cuts frustrating paper works and needless red tapes, which are, admittedly prone to corruption – could the merit of the NPNEN’s argument be sustained. The call in that respect, should be one of ensuring that the nation’s interest is not sacrificed on the altar of the convenience of a group of unscrupulous operators.

We urge the CBN to take a second look at the regulation and where necessary, make adjustments/corrections. There may well be layers of the activities, particularly by the different agencies of government involved in the documentation, that could be merged or eliminated to save the exporters time and needless costs. After all, the rules are not about killing the export trade but ensuring fair-play. None of the adjustments however should obscure the primary goal, which is to balance the interest of genuine importers with the nation’s foremost interest of getting its rightful due.

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