The Special Adviser to the President on Economic Affairs, Tope Fasua, on Tuesday, urged the Central Bank of Nigeria to reduce the number of bureau de change operators in Nigeria from over 5,000 to about 200.

Fasua, a leading economist and chief executive officer of Global Analytics Consulting, spoke at an economic policy event organised by the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with the theme, ‘Unification of foreign exchange and the effect of fuel subsidy removal on the business community’.

The event presented an opportunity for stakeholders and agencies from various sectors to discuss the potential impact, challenges, and opportunities in the unification of forex and subsidy removal, according to the Director of Policy Advocacy Centre, ACCI, Chidiebere Owumere.

He also said that Nigeria spent over $45bn annually importing refined petroleum products, milk, chemicals, and fish, among others.

He said, “I hear things like scarcity of forex. What is scarcity of forex, as if the world owes us any forex. The world does not owe us any forex. The forex you get depends on the trade that you do.

“And if you look at Nigeria’s import and export profile, over 20 items that we import in Nigeria are in the billions of dollar range. Our biggest import, of course, till today, except maybe Dangote kicks in, is fuel including petrol, diesel, etc, which takes about $25bn to $30bn every year.

“Then we have things like cars, which is about $4bn every year; sugar, about $1bn; fish, $1bn; milk, $1bn; wheat, $4bn; chemicals, $3bn; pharmaceuticals, $2bn; and I could continue to reel it down for you.”

Speaking on the way out of the foreign exchange crisis in Nigeria, Fasua stated that it was time to restructure the forex market and its operators.

He said, “We need to do some structural reforms. For example, I believe we should reform the BDCs’ sector, make them stronger. You can’t manage over 5,000 BDCs selling money on the streets, it is not normal.

“If we can do the structural reforms in the BDCs sector and the banks and supervise them well, the CBN with the reserves that we have can incentivise that sector, allowing people to get the money much quicker. And you have to define the illegal market and by then, we will be able to find stability.”

Buttressing his points, while speaking on the sidelines of the event, the presidential adviser said, “We cannot manage 5,000 BDCs, maybe we should be looking at 100 or 200. In the United Kingdom as a tourism destination, they have 145 BDCs the last time I checked. In the UAE they have 130.

“So what are we doing with 5,000 BDCs? You will never be able to supervise them. How many staff would you need to look at their returns and check them? Therefore, you need large and well-established BDCs, as well as banks, to be able to fulfill the needs of the people. And then the government can be able to incentivise that market.”

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