The other sides of the state of the Naira

by Anthony A. Kila

The last time I checked the value of the of the naira, it was very saddening to discover that it was being sold at 274 to buy 1 GBP and 165 to buy 1 USD. We all knew things could be bad, but this bad? Just last year, whilst working on an internationalization project for Nigeria, we were working on what was deemed as a very conservative estimation of 250 naira to 1 GBP.

We are now at an all time low for another thing Nigerian. Elsewhere, such fact would have irked the feeling and sense of patriotism, passion and pride that people have for their country; people would have being feeling challenged and dreading to be defeated by the trend of stronger currencies. Interestingly, some will say disappointedly, that side of Nigerians is yet to surface.

Even if we admit but not concede that passion and pride for Nigeria are not amongst the common feelings Nigerians have for their country, one would still expect them to be rather sensitive to the direction of the naira. Lest we forget, Nigeria is a country that imports practically everything from perfume to petrol and wherein the average citizen readily accepts that only foreign made products are durable. By the way, that includes those charged with and handsomely paid for managing, defending and promoting the image and content of their country. It is a place where everyone that can afford it goes overseas for serious and trivial medical treatment, they send their children abroad to study and parents make it a point to come to Europe and the USA for summer holidays.

All these exotic expenses are of course carried out in dollars and other foreign currencies they have to buy in Naira and naturally, Nigerians are seriously feeling the pain the downtrend of the naira is causing their pockets but all they do is sheepishly lament amongst friends. Classists and trade unionists are very wrong if they assume that only those that travel or buy luxurious goods will feel the plight inflicted by a weak naira. They need to remember that parts used to maintain and repair commercial buses used by the very poor are generally imported too and that even those that cannot dream of going abroad for treatment are being treated at home with equipments imported and bought in foreign currencies. Nigerians in Diaspora show a shocking level of misjudgment and quite a simplistic attitude when they feel lucky because they can remit home less foreign currency for more naira. Any perceived advantage they gain rapidly evaporates due to the general increase in prices that a weak naira will generate back home because of the country’s dependence on foreign paid goods and services.

The state of the naira is a financial issue with national implications and anything with national implications should concern the president of Nigeria. We are yet to discover exactly what this president is doing about the exchange rate of his currency. Even though he is neither an economist nor a banker, he still has the task of doing something and the duty of being seen as acting on such matters. He is after all the one with the highest level of national and political responsibility to the country or holder of the most important office as they say in Nigerian parlance. Dear Mr. President, you need to come out with a clear position on the state of the naira. Let us know what you think about this weak naira, tell us what you are doing or intend to do to sustain your position.

Though he has no political responsibility to Nigerians, the task of defending or steering the naira towards a charted course is more specifically that of the Imam, pardon I mean Governor of the Central bank of Nigeria. Mallam Sanusi Lamido has so far gained a lot of attention for his ability to sanitize, castigate, consolidate, revoke licenses and even cause outrage. It is now time to do some serious banking. On behalf of Nigerian taxpayers and people of goodwill across the world, we have a clear challenge for you Mallam: appraise the state of the naira, set and declare your target about its value and achieve such target. This is real banking Mr. Governor, do it and we shall support you.

Whilst the executive president has the duty of taking the lead in setting the agenda and solving national issues, members of the parliament in the senate and in the house of assembly should be representing our views and interests. Rarely in the history of democracy has a parliament shown to be so out of touch with the population like when the last time the Governor of the CBN went to the house. They missed an excellent opportunity to truly represent their constituencies by failing to ask him questions about the state of the naira. Luckily, they can still invite him back to discuss the state of the naira.

My own immediate constituency cannot be speared in all this. Where are our Professors of economics and other intellectuals? The state of the naira should be generating their interventions, debates and seminars in the media and across universities.

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