Between localised constants and virtual ones
During Sanusi’s time, the parallel exchange market remained constant in its exchange rate. I travelled from Lagos to Maiduguri via Abuja and Yola with three different airlines – Aero, Air Nigeria and Arik with almost same rates and, I had commodities like soap and milk used in Maiduguri, coming from Cameroun, priced almost the same like the ones used in Lagos. I inquired from parallel market operators from Lagos via Abuja to Maiduguri why the dollar rate was the same all over, they told me that orders on how they operated came from Abuja and that it was meant to be obeyed by all to avoid being sent out of job.
In effect, the supply of dollar to the parallel market remained relatively adequate and constant to take care of the human beings estimated to be no fewer than 500,000 – both the main registered ones and their attachees.
Fundamentally, where the dollars came from ought not to bother the CBN managers as long as it did not make itself a “bad money”; that is, not laundered money. Note that it is different from seeing money as “Facilitating accounting and trade.”
Sanusi knew those who could torpedo his goal of keeping naira to remain the true measure of economic output in Nigeria as against those who could horde dollars, drive it out of circulation and deleverage the competitive strength of the naira. If USA that owns dollar makes deliberate attempts to render Nigeria’s only competitive item – oil, a commodity non-grata in the world commodity market, which Sanusi foresaw and had wanted Nigeria to diversify its reserve in both Chinese yuan and euro, why shouldn’t Emiefele-led CBN look the way of CFA which latches unto the aggregate 30% savings of its member-countries, as reserve in euro either towards strengthening the euro or lobbying for favourable trade interests in the CFA zones. In the seas, Nigeria’s oil is heavily under bunkering threat; on land, Nigeria’s goods are smuggled out for CFA; in the air, gas flaring is distorting carbon buy back enjoyed by its neighbours though accruable to Nigeria.
What is constant to the Nigerian economy is the ever leakages linked to neighbours and fellow African countries’ connivance, all in need of self-preservation the way Sanusi knew that the self-preservation of the bureaux de change and their attached personnel numbering no fewer than 500,000 mattered for the stability of the naira.
In Emefiele-led CBN that proclaims making macro-economics a useful tool for employment generation, manufacturing elite should matter and they must include empathic Francophone African manufacturing elite who work towards extending their profit to the benefit of Nigeria, bringing in all it takes to shore up the Naira. They could buy Nigerian products formally as against informal trading going on.
On Nigeria’s part, all the banned goods could be seen as banned only beyond the ECOWAS or even central Africa – CEMAO boundaries; original products of these countries must be allowed in Nigeria as they also buy Nigeria’s products. Hence, it is like allowing goods from those countries to serve as raw materials for Nigeria’s industries.
Surplus coffee and coca exist in Cote d’Ivoire, surplus cotton exists in Burkina Faso, Niger Republic has skin and hides in surplus, Benin Republic is a virgin land in all agricultural products for finished goods processing. Sao Tomé and Principe harbours special ocean shrubs and sea products convertible to herbal drugs and other finished goods, etc. Nigeria’s moneybags should wake up and explore all avenues to shore up the naira and as well create wealth for Nigeria. It is quite unfortunate that a country of 170 million people still lies below $1 trillion (One Trillion) GDP. (Re-based GDP in 2014 is $510 billion).
Assume 50 million people are expected to be active, it ought to translate to over $1000 per month for each individual. The available tax out of it could have been in position to run the government effectively. Workforce in Nigeria is still not leveraged to perform at full capacity. A government that cannot empower its people to generate enough resources and have excess to be ploughed back to the economy for effective fiscal management towards relative growth and expansion, is not worth keeping in place for long.
Available economic resources are meant to empower the people and, in turn the people create greater wealth out of it. Oil is available resource for Nigerians to use and create greater wealth. No amount of threat towards making it a commodity non-grata in the world market ought to deter the government from channeling it to other uses for the betterment of the economy. Hiking the price in Nigeria is absurd. It is supposed to be one of the constants to be kept ever stable in Nigeria like agricultural products are kept ever stable in developed countries.
CBN should learn effectively the matrix adaptable for Nigeria for sustainability of reserve and the fortification of the base that makes the reserve remains the apex of collective self-actualisation of the Nigerian people.
• Victor C. Ariole Ph.D, MBA is Professor of French and Francophone Studies, UNILAG