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ATCON renews calls for removal of ICT equipments from 41 barred from forex window

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The president of Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Engineer Olusola Teniola has renewed calls on the federal government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in particular to reconsider its inclusion of Information and Communications technology (ICT) equipments in the list of 41 items barred from accessing forex from the bank.

In an interview with Business Hilights on Tuesday, during the opening ceremony of the International Workshop on Internet protocol version 6 (IPV6) in Lagos, he said “The 41 items which includes materials needed to drive telecoms network expansion are still under CBN’s forex window ban. It has not changed”.

“That means that the pronouncement made about two years ago delisting some 41 items from CBN forex window still remain.

The issue is that it does not mean that you cannot get dollars, but you are pushed to the costly parallel market.

“The surest way to deepen investment in the telecoms sector is to remove its equipments form the 41 items.

“A lot of our members are operating as SMEs and they are most hit in the forex crisis. We said it during the AGM and we are still saying it every day.

“However, CBN has intervened over the last three months by injecting a quantum of dollars into the wholesale market which has caused the interbank rate to lessen. That is a window on its own and there is a BTA rate which is about N360.

Now you have the banks at N315, there is CBN at N301, and then, you have the BDC alongside the parallel market.

“So what is happening is that through the forces of CBN’s interventions, which remain the most powerful supplier of dollars in the market, they have detected where the parallel market has gone. Otherwise, the oversupply of dollars has caused an appreciation of the naira.

“So inadvertently, when there was a statement made by the CBN after the EVC of NCC has intervened on the Etisalat issue, there was window for those who filled in form M from the CBN. Remember, once you have filled it, you can gain access from the BTA window. That’s still the case and it is not okay for the industry.

“It is not still okay for the industry because it comes with a caveat; That is, if it want honoured, you have to return and re-involve the NCC to enforce because the item is still on the 41 list.

So even if you think you can get at N360, you may not be given. I don’t think any investor in the telecoms sector will continue to be running this vicious circle.

“The industry is still uncertain the particular rate government is selling dollars to us and that has been frustrating the sector.

“However, what we are saying is that there has been an improvement across the board, but remember that a lot of companies annual budgets were done when the naira was about N160 to a dollar.

That currently becomes about 200 per cent jump. Therefore, there is need for government to understand that we are totally import dependent which means that we need access to a favourable rate.

“This will lift indigenous investors and boost further foreign direct investments in the sector. As we speak, investment in the sector has dropped since the forex crisis caved in. again, this is because the uncertainty cannot allow investors to bring in their money because you do not know what rate it will be tomorrow or even the window you will be facing; it is the N301, or N360 or N315.