The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, arrived Abuja on Monday to begin a four-day visit to Nigeria.
The visit is part of a two-nation West African region tour to engage policy makers and top officials of Nigeria and Cameroon on economic developments affecting both countries and the West African sub-region.
Prior to Ms Lagarde’s arrival, the IMF had explained that the visit would underline the Fund’s strong relationship with its African member countries.
“The visit to Nigeria will provide an opportunity to strengthen the Fund’s partnership with the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa,” the statement said.
While in Abuja, Ms. Lagarde would meet with President Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and Central Bank, CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, along with members of the National Assembly, top business leaders, and civil society representatives.
“Nigeria is working hard to improve its business environment, promote opportunities for growth in the private sector, and strengthen social cohesion, all areas where the government has an important role to play,” the IMF boss said.
She said discussions with President Buhari would focus on various economic issues, particularly the impact of the declining crude oil prices on the country’s economy.
The IMF has been one of the international finance organisations that have been critical of some policies by the Buhari administration, particularly the CBN’s monetary policy on restriction of access to foreign exchange to strengthen the Naira and stabilize the Nigerian economy.
The CBN had removed 41 items from accessing its foreign exchange window on grounds that they could easily be produced in Nigeria rather than spend the country’s reserves on importing them.
But the Fund’s Director, African Department, Antoinette Sayer, had said that measures put in place by the CBN was detrimental to the country’s economy, as it was exerting undue pressure on the national currency, rather than stabilize it.
Mr. Sayer said the introduction of the administrative measures to limit access by some items to foreign exchange and ban certain imports as a way of restricting the demand for foreign exchange was hindering private sector investment in the economy.
“It is not something we think is sustainable or advisable,” he said. “We hope that there will be an opportunity to review those restrictions and permit the exchange rate to continue to adjust,” he added.
Although the agenda of Ms. Lagarde’s meeting with President Buhari during the visit was not made public on Monday, close watchers said that, apart from the impact of the drop in global crude oil price, the review of the CBN policy was likely going to be one of the key issues to be discussed.