Igbo traders have described recent government directives restricting Basic Traveling Allowance to $5,000 as well as the decision to make Kano State a clearing house for all imported goods as a calculated attempt to cripple their businesses.
The traders, who spoke in separate interviews, also faulted the ban on importation of certain commodities like shoes and other agricultural products. They said efforts should have been made to encourage local producers instead of banning them without warning.
One of the traders, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, said that although it was good for the government to ban the importation of furniture, toothpicks and rice, among others, the policy should have been carried out in phases to enable local producers come to terms with the situation.
“It is an insult to import textiles into this country while our textile industries are not flourishing. But the current government policies are targeted at suppressing Ndigbo as a race. Such policies include the current clamp-down on foreign exchange and making Kano the clearing ground for imported goods. How can one leave Port Harcourt or Lagos and travel to the extreme north to clear his goods? These are wrong policies because they will discourage local and foreign investments.
In his contribution, Chief Gilbert Bravo Obi, chairman, Nigerian Importers Association, Anambra State branch said, “We heard that President Buhari wants to transfer the clearing house for all imported goods to Kano. Since he assumed office, traders have not been finding things easy. There is no more importation business in Nigeria, and you know, that majority of importers are Ndigbo.
“The economic policies of the present administration have affected me personally; as a businessman, who trades on textile materials and pharmaceutical products. The administration introduced the policy of $5,000 as BTA. That means that you can only travel outside Nigeria with only $5,000. Tell me how a trader, who imports from overseas, can survive with such amount of money. It is not possible for a trader to survive with that amount, after paying over N200, 000 for air ticket.
Rob Emeka Eze, a small-scale industrialist and movie producer also spoke on the issue. He said, “The economic policy of the present administration has succeeded in crippling the economy. I do not know how they came up with some of these economic policies. Sometimes, I do wonder the type of economic advisers the present administration has. They are misleading the government. President Buhari should listen to the yearning of the masses and reverse some of these economic policies that are killing the economy. They are crippling the economy; we are not doing anything these days.
“We believe that they are experimenting with these economic policies with the hope of dropping some of the ones that are not working, like the $5,000 BTA. They have crippled our businesses with that policy and it is affecting everybody I hope they will review it.”
Alphonsus Eze Okete, who trades on kernel also criticised the present economic policies which he said had “locked down the country for six months now, saying that people were now being arrested for swallowing foreign currencies at airports instead of drugs because of the harsh economic policies of the Federal Government”.
“The whole thing was meant to cripple the Igbo. That is why people have now resorted to smuggling the dollar and other currencies instead of hard drugs. It is like cutting your nose to spite your face. We have taken ourselves back by 50 years and this is ridiculous.