The Naira: Politics versus Policy

There is no doubt about the sincerity of purpose on the part of Professor Charles Soludo, Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, towards his now suspended re-denomination policy on Nigeria’s national currency, the Naira. The major contending issue is the method or the manner in which he presented the policy among others to the generality of Nigerians without, according to the government, a written authorization from President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

The news of the suspension order elicits dimensional feelings among Nigerians, depending on which side of the divide you are. For the pro-policy, it is a bad news, good news for pro-establishment and perhaps an uncertain news for the future of the Nigerian currency. However, after the pros and cons of the policy have been debated in the public arena since it was announced, there is need to look at the areas of conflict between the government’s stand against that of the head of the apex bank.

As it were, many pro-policy advocates were caught off-guard when the government officially announced that Soludo acted unilaterally without proper clearance from the seat of power, and therefore all actions on the proposed changes should be suspended. Whereas, supporters of proper and wider consultations with other stakeholders feel their position has been vindicated by the government’s order, proponents of policy change lick their wounds, but feel outraged, while some Nigerians call on Soludo to resign, saying that is the best and honorable thing for him to do in this situation.

The government’s main argument is the non-compliance of Soludo with the proper workings of government. To the government, the CBN governor suppose to pass his recommendations through the bureaucratic setup, and obtain ultimate approval of the Commander-in Chief before going public with any policy on behalf of Federal Republic of Nigeria. Not a few commentators agree with the government on this, as shown by various comments that have trailed the announcement last week, the CBN Act notwithstanding.

However, the main focus of the policy, which borders on how best to enhance the strength of the naira against the dollar in particular, and the need to bring about the much desired respect for the value of the currency in general, undoubtedly ought to be supported by all right thinking Nigerians. These two-fold desires are what prompted some Nigerians to quickly give kudos to Soludo on his bold move, without paying attention to the political implications of his action.

Since government’s policies consist of inputs and contributions from various quarters comprising the private and public sectors with members of recognized pressure groups, it is expected that consideration should be given to all these elements in policy decisions that affect Nigerians like the controversial re-denomination of the nation’s currency. Courtesy in this instance demands that every segment of the economy should be given the opportunity to have their say, while the economic experts will ultimately have their way.

It is a matter of understanding each other’s feelings on topical issues of national importance of this magnitude. However, if majority of Nigerians support Soludo on this issue, no amount of presidential order will stop the policy from implementation in future, even without Soludo.

To Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, your good intention to re-enforce the strength of the naira, and introduce measures towards achieving this is appreciated by majority of Nigerians. Nigeria and Nigerians need people like you in all facets of our national lives. But for now, and given the present circumstances, politics has somewhat sidelined policy.

Written by
Femi Sobowale
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