#TheEmefieleJournal.

Is Emefiele responsible for the weak naira?

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Age has not affected my love for biscuits. So, yesterday I went to buy Parle G and asked for two. I gave the seller N100 and turned to leave. "Oga, na two hundred, e remain hundred naira." He said. I was shocked. When I asked why the biscuit was this expensive, he simply said, "Na Emefiele cause am."

A friend of mine who is an economist in his final year at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University told me that the Naira is like a man with a weak erection, that it would be near impossible for him to impregnate his wife, and that is how a weak currency cannot impregnate the country to give birth to the stable cost and a green future for the nation. So, I have been wondering, how has Emefiele caused the impotence—near impotency, sounds better—of our currency? Worse than the inability of the currency to impregnate the country with hope, is that the city of the naira is like Troy and there are different soldiers in the Trojan Horse that are destroying the city.

What has Emefiele got to do with this? How does Emefiele contribute to the weak erection of the country's currency? With these questions, I decided to dig further, and thank God for the internet, I did not need to go to a pundit of economics to school me on the idea, and the more I learned, the simpler the Naira problem becomes. But, it is not simple, as much as the theory of it is because of some game players in masturbating the Naira for their personal pleasure. The complex simplicity of the Nigerian problem is the paradox that keeps ordinary Nigerians in the dark while grandiloquent(s) and pundits (forgive the repetition of this word) move about speaking oyibo.

In my finding, I discovered that Emefiele is being used as the proverbial scapegoat to hang the blame on and take away the eyes of Nigerians from the perpetrators of the problem with our currency, our economy, and our lives. So, if Emefiele is the scapegoat, who are the priests offering him to be eaten by Nigerians while they go about committing their sins?

Understanding the Dynamics for Value of Naira

I must explain this in simple and plain terms. Most of us still remember the laws of demand and supply that we learned in secondary school. Well, that is how it works with currency in the global market. To remind us, when there is a demand for a commodity, its price increases, and when there is no demand, the price decreases. From the creation of the Naira in 1973, the Naira was "stronger" than the US Dollar up until 1985 when the price of the Naira to the US Dollar went from its initial ₦0.658/$1 to ₦2.02/$1. So, how did we get to the point that a dollar is now equal to 415.58 Naira? It is because there is less and less demand for the Naira as time progresses. If the demand for the Dollar is high, the price of the Dollar will increase. If the demand for the Dollar is low, the price of the Dollar will reduce. If the supply of the Dollar is low, the price of the Dollar will increase, and if the supply of the Dollar is high, the price of the Dollar will reduce. This shows that there is no demand for Naira.

Why Is There No Demand for Naira—and, Who Are Those Responsible?

When we compare the glorious 70s and 80s with the contemporary times and the difference between the Naira to a Dollar, we must understand that there was a demand for our currency then. Presently, Nigeria demands approximately $54.71 billion per annum, while in the 80s, the demand was $16 billion 1980s because we did not need so many imported goods then. Now we import goods ranging from agricultural produce, cars, clothes, electronics, FMCG, and objects as common as a toothpick. We import varieties of everything we make locally and import the many other things we do not either know how to make locally or have the capacity to make.

For starters, you reading this piece, is the cloth you are wearing made in Nigeria? Most of the alcoholic drinks we take at nightclubs, since they are imported, we create demand for the dollar while our Naira is alone romancing itself. The "dorime" we do at nightclubs is a dirge for the naira. Nigeria imports (legally) alcohol, beverages and spirits worth $168.4 Million on average per year. We are besties with brands like Hennessy, Bacardi, Smirnoff, Absolut, Jack Daniels, Malibu, the list goes on and on. I have personally seen a shelf filled with Salvatore's Legacy at a bar once. One bottle of that drink costs a minimum of $8,316! And this is just one example of how expensive lifestyles create this garish gap in the exchange rate. Nigerians do not buy private planes in Naira. They do in Dollars. They buy yachts in Dollars, build megastructures by paying foreign companies in Dollars, and transact cryptocurrency in Dollars. If not for the ban placed on converting straight from crypto to Naira, we would have been in a much larger mess. So, how is Emefiele responsible for this?

At a point in our lives, we go to the farm and get different produce, go through to the market to sell the produce, and after getting our wants and needs, we save some Naira. When we had an issue, we danced through the same circle of getting items from our farms to bring us money. There was a means of getting goods, and even goods that are valued in dollars, but our farm products act as exchange term. That way, we were being fed with our food, and we were making more money that we could save. It is the grand sum that we saved that functions as our foreign reserve. But, peer through the train of time into today: we are no longer feeding from the farm, therefore, the sum that we have saved, is what is spent. Picture this into a frame of a singular family where the mother is the only one earning from selling tomatoes, and after she stops earning because she no gets tomato from her farm, they have to break their saving box to be able to feed. Also, this leaves her family at the cost-mercy of the people still in business.

Another factor that has denied our weak naira a time to even try and mate with the country's hope of growing its currency is crude oil theft. In Nigerian parlance, this is what we would refer to as "double wahala for dead body". If you understand the dynamics of the Nigerian economic system, you would grasp why I call this double wahala. Unlike in the 70s and 80s when we were not only exporting crude, the Nigerian economy is largely dependent on crude in this era. This means that is the only source of exporting, yet over time there has been drastic crude theft. While the leaders will want to cover our eyes, there is a shady business being done here, and that is the NNPC's unwillingness to tell us what is really happening. It is reported that $ 3.27 billion dollars have been lost to "thieves" in 14 months. IPPG records that 82% of our production went missing in February, it must be noted that every other month, we lose about 80% of our production to vandalism. Haba! We have not seen anything that is vandalized, and that leaves us with one question, who is vandalizing our oil—our only source of income—and by implication vandalizing the Naira?

Again, I am pondering how Emefiele is responsible for the weak Naira because Nigerians are spending more dollars on acquiring education abroad and going for health care abroad, which is creating more demand for dollars while the Naira is undervalued. We are part of the soldiers in the trojan horse, and through our actions and inactions, we have contributed to the problem. For instance, the rush for education abroad has drastically grown from a near negligible figure in the 70s and 80s to over 71,000 in 2015 (according to UNESCO). By 2018, this number had risen to 96,702 students, according to the World Bank. For a student to travel and school abroad, their admission fees, accommodation fees, club levies, tuition, and living expenses must be paid in foreign currency. No country would accept to have foreign citizens pay for education in their country in a currency with lesser value than theirs. As we spend on education, we are also spending on medical trips abroad. It is recorded in our Balance of Payment (BoP) report that from 2010 to 2020, Nigerians spent a total of $39.66 billion on studies abroad and healthcare services abroad. While we spent $28.65 billion on studies, $11.01 billion went to medical services. The total money spent on just these two items alone is almost equivalent to the country's foreign reserve of $39.51 billion as of March. What does this tell us? How can our currency have any worth when even we almost do not have any use for it?

Do we have to blame Emefiele for the grave dug by different administrations and regimes of governments to let our country be in a space where we all do not need to run abroad to study or have hospitals where we can proudly go and be certain that it is not a death trap? While we blame the scapegoat that has been offered to us, we are not seeing the soldiers pushing the trojan horse into the city of Naira and Nigeria.

Another group responsible for the weakness of the Naira are the BDC operators. This cartel works in collaboration with their Western allies, who despite independence do not want to take the chains of slavery off our necks; they still want to keep exploiting us economically. Besides that they have failed in their legal roles to be acting as middlemen between the retail sales of dollars but are now selling even in wholesale, they engage in some dubious acts that are adversely affecting our currency. For instance, their foreign collaborators supply them with the excess dollar that they sell. And for the extra charges of N150 to N200 added on top of each of their Dollar, they enrich the owners of the foreign currency. And this will keep happening because they have cut some profit percentage gain agreement with their foreign sponsors, and because they seem more "at reach", we flock to them, rather than the official commercial banks. To make matters worse, these BDC exchangers have fully minted Dollar notes in their millions in their possession. When you get to Zone 4 in Abuja, you can almost perceive dollars oozing out of the pores of every object. One particular BDC exchanger who operates in Area 1 [name withheld for obvious reasons], told me that he receives $1 Million in Dollar notes every week, and by the end of the week, he is left with barely $8,000 on average. Even throughout the several eras the CBN has officially banned BDC exchanges, they remain in business, and they do so because there is a chain of corruption that they follow, and we cannot even deny that some commercial banks trade with these people. Emefiele, of course, has been doing his bits by going as far as fining some banks that did not comply with the CBN regulations, but he is a single man, like Hector raising his sword against Achilles, Odysseus, and the entire Trojan soldiers.

How Do We Burn the Trojan Horse: A Way to Raise the Naira?

As Chinua Achebe said in one of his essays, "we need to know where the rain began to beat us." And, it is that day that we wholly began to depend on foreign products for our use. Once upon a time, there was a Peugeot plant in Nigeria after the proposal Automobile Peugeot France scaled through on May 7, 1971. This meant that Nigerians did not need dollars to get a car. So, it is the failure of the system that has gotten Naira to the moribund state that it is today.

In light of this, the CBN is working towards revamping the export sector so that we can make Naira a currency in demand. This means that we do not have to sell our wool cheaply and buy clothes for which we will have to pay in dollar. In 2019 Nigeria banned 43 agricultural import items. Well, like me before I set out on the quest to know more about the state of things in Nigeria, you would ask, how does that take us out of this quagmire? Yes. The plan was to boost local production by giving Nigerians no other choice but to go back to the farms and mechanize their agriculture. If we grow the agricultural sector, we would not need dollars to pay for our food.

The resounding success of this is evidenced in our current statistics of rice production. Using Thailand (where we used to import 80% of our rice) as an example, in 2014, we imported 1,239,810 metric tonnes of rice from them, paying them in foreign currency, and hurting the strength of our Naira. That same year, our local production was 3,782,000. In 2021, we imported only 2,169 metric tonnes of rice from Thailand, and our local production was 5,000,000 metric tonnes. This is self-sufficiency in clear figures. Reason enough to celebrate. But did we celebrate? No. We lambasted and twisted narratives, and missed the picture. And this done through agents that benefit from the instability of the naira, so, overnight the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele became an enemy—the scapegoat on our altar. This is an effort to boost the Naira over the Dollar. And there have been so many similar efforts like this undertaken by the Emefiele we all love to slander and pin to the cross.

I wonder why Emefiele is the name lurking on our tongue whenever we think of the weak Naira. What about the Minister of Finance? Why are there advisers to the President on financial and economic matters? Over time, we have seen the CBN Governor talking for our Naira, but because of the policies of the CBN that have deprived some cartels of making profits from our national squalor, and how much they have dented his name, we close our eyes to his struggle. The IMF, which according to Niyi Osundare is the doctor that heals its patient by killing it, has been everywhere saying we should float the Naira, and of course, it is so that they can have free access to our market. So, I have been wondering, how is Emefiele responsible for the week naira; now that we know that our actions and inactions of patronizing foreign instead of homemade products, how do we intend to cover this gap; how do we intend to hold our government accountable so that we can have schools that are fit for every man's children and we would not have to spend so much to "japa" and what of the dollars going into the health system, and the rogue roles of eating our crude, and the last question that owns the question, is Emefiele responsible for the weak erection of our Naira? Certainly, NO.

Hassan Garba, a public affairs analyst, writes in from Abuja.

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