The Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) over the weekend called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to review the foreign exchange restriction placed on 41 items imported into the country.
Mr. Olusola Teniola, president of ATCON, made the suggestion in an interview with Nigeria CommunicationsWeek during the Association’s annual general meeting held in Lagos.
He said that the review had become important, especially those items critical to the growth of the IT/telecoms sector of the economy.
Nigeria CommunicationsWeek recalls that the CBN had in July, 2015, restricted about 41 items, including IT/Telecoms equipment, among others, from access to foreign exchange from its official window.
Teniola, stated that the apex bank should, however, revisit the list of 41 items with a view to exempting a few, especially the IT/Telecoms items, considered critical to the sector.
The ATCON President, who was assessing the apex bank’s management of the forex crisis, said that the restrictions on a number of items has impacted expansions and other projects in the industry, thereby leading to poor quality of service (QoS).
He also the members have been discriminated against with regards the apex bank’s recent initiative that guarantees Small and medium enterprises window to $20,000 per quarter.
He said, “We realized that even though the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has made some albatross in a direction to ensure SMEs are able to access foreign exchange (Forex), we discovered that our members in that category are not able to benefit from that intervention which introduced $20,000 per quarter. We are really disappointed. This should not be discriminately against our members.
“The reason is that IT/telecoms equipments are still in the 41 items banned from accessing forex. So, we have a conflict actually because the initiative is supposed to help every SME, but our members can’t access their right to $20,000 per quarter. Honestly, it has direct impact on their ability to sustain operations and to acquire much needed ICT equipment to be effective in the market.
“Remember that in the market, the ICT sector, especially the telecoms segment, contributes 9% of our GDP. Also, Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) have dropped. So, the only other way government can have income flowing in is by our members’ ability to buy these equipments to improve their operations and ensure increased revenue with impact on the GDP”.
He said that the operators need this resolved immediately. “So, we would like the CBN Governor urgently grant us audience on this particular issue and the general issue of availability of forex to our members to acquire critical equipment to sustain and grow their operations,” Teniola said.