A TIMELY intervention by top diplomatic officials in the country has led to the exemption of specialised international agencies from the withdrawal and deposit limits policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
High-level sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told The Guardian at the weekend that the arrangement to exempt the foreign missions in the country was consistent with the nation’s new foreign policy thrust, which seeks not only to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country, but also create a “first order attractive domestic environment.”
Explaining further, the source said: “At a time when Nigeria is looking for friends and investors, trying to exit the double taxation conundrum, it was felt that making these missions here observe the policy no matter how desirable would not augur well for our overall objective of maintaining a friendly environment at the same time…”
Penultimate week, the CBN exempted all specialised international institutions from penalties on withdrawal and deposit limits under the cash-less policy, which has just been introduced.
A circular by the apex bank signed by the Acting Director, Banking and Payments System Department, Mr. Gaius Emokpae, listed the specialised international institutions as embassies, diplomatic missions, as well as multilateral and aid donor agencies.
A government’s explanatory note on the issue maintained that since Nigeria is a signatory to several treaties, which exempt institutions from all fees and charges in the host country and since as a matter of international practice, sovereign states do not impose financial penalties on other sovereign states, it therefore became necessary to extend the exemption on cash withdrawal and deposit to these institutions.
The nation’s apex bank had earlier waived penalties on the cash limit for primary mortgage institutions and microfinance banks, explaining that the waiver was due to “the nature of their business.”
In the new banking model, the CBN had also recently deferred the take-off date for the cashless banking initiative in other states apart from Lagos till January 1, 2013 while extending the implementation of the pilot scheme in Lagos State from March 31 to December 31, 2012. But the implementation of the newly approved processing charges by the banks in Lagos was scheduled to commence on April 1, 2012, with the charges being subject to review every six months.
Addressing departing Nigerian ambassadors-designate last month, Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru charged them to listen to the complaints and observations of compatriots in their host states, stressing that the missions in Nigeria were being assisted to enable them discharge their duties particularly in painting a favourable picture of the Nigerian domestic environment.
At an induction course for 87 envoys-designate on posting to Nigeria’s missions abroad, the minister also warned that in tandem with the new times, the country would not hesitate to sanction any head of mission who flouts extant regulations.
The presidential station charter for the envoys include a recognition of the urgent priorities of the economic diplomacy of the existing administration, what constitutes Nigeria’s vital interests and how best to actualise them in a competitive global arena.
The Guardian has since also learnt that the major re-organisation of Nigeria’s foreign service started by the Federal Government in December last year carries a provision for special exemptions, including security provisions for diplomatic missions accredited to Nigeria.
The re-organisation requires the empowerment of officers for a vigorous pursuit of the economic component of the newly defined foreign policy that is heavy on investment drive as well as the protection of Nigerians and Nigerian interests anywhere in the globe.