Saturday, May 21, 2016

Who Raped The Naira?

By Comr Fred Doc Nwaozor
The last time I checked, the Nigerian curren­cy, the Naira suffered a seemingly unpredicted rape though the identity of the rapist in question was signifi­cantly unknown. This critique was informed by the compel­ling need for every Nigerian to comprehend fully the overall no­menclature of the masked rapist.
The worth of the naira per US dollar almost peaked at N400 in the parallel market within the week as against its official ex­change of N198. Though it isn’t only Nigeria that is confronting the US dollar that is present­ly ravaging her once respected currency, naira and local econ­omy – some other countries are obviously passing through sim­ilar fate, but it’s pertinent to ac­knowledge that the ongoing misfortune of the said currency didn’t abruptly emerge; suffice it to say that the above mentioned ‘rape’ was apparently a foreseen circumstance.

Going down memory lane, it would be recalled that from 1972 to 1985, the official worth of the naira per US dollar was be­tween N0.66 and N0.89 involv­ing a consistent slight fall and rise. From 1986 to 1992, it was worth between N2.02 and N9.91 involving a steady fall. Subse­quently, from 1993 to 1999, its worth was between N17.30 and N21.89 involving an onward ap­parent constant exchange rate af­ter an initial decrease. Similarly, from 2000 to 2009, it was be­tween N85.98 and N145, which involved an outrageous con­tinuous fall. Suffice to say that this was during the President Obasanjo-led administration.
Then, recently from 2010 to 2015, we witnessed a steady fall from N150 to N171. And pres­ently, barely from last year till date, it has declined to N198 per US dollar, witnessing a free fall. The bone of contention is that ab initio, excluding the ini­tial point when it was ostensibly steady, there has been a contin­uous fall of the value of the naira when compared to the US dollar.

Hence, having painstaking­ly perused the above compre­hensive chart, I have succeed­ed in disabusing our minds of the notion that the fall of the ex­change rate of the naira either at the official market or paral­lel market commenced only re­cently. Needless to say that naira had suffered an untold hardship from the genesis till this mo­ment.

But if you take a closer glance at the above analysis, you would observe that it is during the democratic era that the naira’s value fell outrageously, although the origin of its downward de­preciation could be traceable to 1986 or thereabouts. In view of this assertion, one may be chal­lenged to ascertain the reason for such anomaly. 

The answer is simple. Any democratic leadership, com­pared to military regime, is usually synonymous with loose principles or policies. This im­plies that the former often ends up overlooking the invariable lackadaisical attitudes of its cit­izenry which is definitely not a wholesome practice in any so­ciety that intends to grow eco­nomically. Most times, sustain­ing a certain policy requires a non-human face.

Looking beyond the histo­ry, currently, it’s obvious that the value of the nation’s currency is diminishing on a daily basis as if it’s being relentlessly and end­lessly pursued by a hidden mon­ster. The ongoing phenomenon, unarguably, is categorically not unconnected to the recent stiff measures taken by the nation’s apex bank – the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

It’s no longer news that only last year, foreign exchange for importation of various com­modities into the country was banned by the said bank. This se­vere approach warranted people, particularly importers, to divert their attention to only the var­ious illicit Bureaux De Change (BDCs) situated across the na­tion. Consequently, the CBN or­dered the closure of all the ex­isting branches of the BDCs in Nigeria, and thereafter stated that it could not continue sell­ing foreign currencies directly to them (the BDCs).

Owing to the above sanctions, the various seekers of foreign ex­change have shifted their entire attention to the parallel market thereby causing an alarming in­crease of the demand for forex at the market. This is no doubt the sole reason a US dollar is being unofficially sold at almost N400. But thank God Dr Ifeanyi Ubah intervened and the Naira is now about N250 to a dollar.

However, the question re­mains: Who raped Naira? Un­equivocally, naira was dastard­ly raped by some unscrupulous elements in Nigeria as a result of their selfish interests. This signifies that the present piti­able physiognomy of naira was occasioned by the fact that she was gang-raped. One of the rap­ists is the inability of Nigeria to export, at least, a finished prod­uct to other nations, not even the oil and gas which are in abun­dance in the country. How can a country be importing a prod­uct that is being generated from its land? Doesn’t it sound ridic­ulous? Undoubtedly, the rela­tive steady rate of the foreign exchange in Nigeria during the early years such as between `72 and `85 or thereabouts might not be unconnected to the ob­vious fact that Nigerian refiner­ies – in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna – were functional dur­ing the said era.

It doesn’t end at the fact that we are importing virtually ev­erything including toothpick; our education and health sectors are also fundamental plights to our forex. It’s obvious that due to inadequacy in spite of the uncountable number of tertia­ry institutions situated across the federation, millions of our children are currently study­ing abroad even in such educa­tionally less-privileged countries as Kenya and Niger Republic, thereby warranting the export of billions of naira on a daily ba­sis. Same nauseous practice is applicable to the health sector; none of our prominent citizens receives medical treatment in Nigeria, especially in issues re­lating to surgery. Every pregnant Nigerian woman wishes to deliv­er her baby in the US.

Inter alia, the country’s sci­ence sector that was relative­ly alive and viable has abruptly become soured. All the coun­try’s technical colleges are cur­rently moribund thereby pos­ing a deterrent to our teeming young ones in terms of produc­tion of scientific gadgets con­trary to what was formerly wit­nessed among them. In the same vein, none of the government-owned industries is functional at the moment. Frankly, everything has completely gone wrong, thus requires a total turnaround.

The demand for foreign cur­rencies, dollar in particular, which remains a global com­mercial currency, is presently astronomically high in Nigeria for the fact that virtually, noth­ing is seemingly happening in the country. Nigerians want to get everything done outside Ni­geria or by foreigners. Almost every contract is being award­ed to foreign firms as if ours aren’t equal to the tasks. An av­erage Nigerian would prefer em­barking on a trip to England for a football match between Chel­sea FC and Manchester United FC to travelling to Owerri for a match between Heartland FC and Enyimba FC. A two-day re­laxation period or a honeymoon would be spent abroad as if our hotels are mere hatches. In a nut­shell, we are currently enjoying foreign services in all our day-to-day activities. This is why the country is being hit by soar­ing inflation. Without mincing words, our past leaders assisted in raping naira because they had the immunity to address all these anomalies but they never cared.

To restore normalcy, first we need to start by believing in our­selves which would enable us to at all times encourage our local­ly made products as well as our indigenous services. In other words, the ban on forex against most goods and services ought to be strengthened headlong; this implies that our various borders need to be holistical­ly checkmated at all cost. In the same spirit, the ban needs to be extended to other activities to in­clude travelling abroad for triv­ial issues. Similarly, all the illic­it forex dealers must be captured and thereafter brought to book without much ado; the saboteurs don’t deserve any mercy. Hence, the Money Laundering Bill that was recently sent to the Nation­al Assembly by the Presidency must be considered seriously.

Most importantly, we must revive most of our essential sec­tors such as the aforementioned ones. In addition, the power sec­tor ought not to be left out; it’s imperative to note that several countries not unlike the USA that can’t invariably boast of up to 15 degree Celsius are cur­rently sourcing their electricity from the solar energy let alone a country like ours that constantly boasts of 40 degree Celsius that lasts for a long period of time. Indeed, this proposed measure is meant to be handled with an utmost political will.

Surely, devaluing naira as being agitated in some quar­ters isn’t the required avenue towards bringing to book the group of monstrous rapists that are on the run. Hence, we needn’t a soothsayer to notify us that we’re expected to drastical­ly do the needful to return the naira to her initial resplendent countenance that has suffered a colossal rape. Think about it.
*Nwaozor, a Public Affairs an­alyst wrote in from Owerri.

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