Not a few Nigerians are worried over the depreciating value of the naira against the dollar. They fear the trend, if not arrested, may erase millions of jobs this year.
Though the Federal Government pegs the official exchange rate at N197.5 to the dollar, it exchanged at N391 to the dollar at the parallel market yesterday.
On January 11, the Central Bank announced exclusion of Bureau de Change (BDC) operators in its sale of foreign exchange (forex) as part of steps to arrest the slide.
CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, who made the announcement, urged the BDC operators to get forex from the autonomous sources.
He also announced the immediate relaxation of some of the apex bank’s foreign currency controls with the lifting of the ban on foreign currency cash deposits in commercial banks.
Since the introduction of the new forex policy by the CBN chief, the naira, which exchanged for N277 has continued to depreciate, hitting an all-time low of N391 to the dollar as at the close of business last night.
The CBN move was triggered by pressure from economic analysts, small businesses, manufacturers, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and politicians, including Senate President Bukola Saraki to tinker with the forex policy.
Not a few Nigerians, who expressed concern over the trend, yesterday, called on the Federal Government Worried to arrest the drift.
Millions of jobs on the line
They include members of the Yoruba Unity Forum(YUF), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and a former Foreign Affairs Minister, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
The YUF warned that millions of jobs may be lost to the steady free-fall of the naira and the attendant rising inflation. It urged the authorities to act fast.
Noting that this year will particularly be challenging to the country and its citizens, the group urged President Muhammadu Buhari and other managers of the nation’s economy to put measures in place to arrest the situation and also restore investors’ confidence.
It’s new Chairman, Rev. Emmanuel Gbonigi, said in a remark at YUF’s general meeting at Efunyela Hall, at the Ogun State home of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in Ikenne, urged the government to diversify the economy by giving prime attention to agriculture.
The cleric also suggested the establishment of agro-allied industries to add value to farm produce.
Besides, he canvassed the development of the nation’s solid mineral sector and the resuscitation of ailing industries, particularly the textile industries to absorb millions of unemployed youths.
According to him, the textile industries, if revived, could, besides restoring lost jobs, also add tens of billions of naira to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Gbonigi said: “Year 2016 will certainly be very challenging for our country (Nigeria) and indeed for us (citizens). With the United States U.S. dollars exchanging in the parallel market for over N300 and foreign exchange difficult to obtain at the official rate by manufacturers, it is clear that the economy if not given the desired attention may begin to shrink and lead to massive job losses.
“Also very disturbing is the declining revenue accruing to all tiers of governments, and in particular, the states and local government areas as a result of the fall in the price of crude oil.
“Even with the bailout, many states are still unable to pay salaries as at when due, leading to the states owing their employees’ salaries for several months.
“Equally threatening to go spiral is the rising rate of inflation resulting from steady but unofficial devaluation of the naira.
“I therefore called on the managers of the Nigerian economy to act decisively by putting in place necessary measures to restore investors’ confidence in the economy and save the millions of jobs currently under threat.
“In this regard, the Forum recommends that the programme to diversify the economy of the nation should give prime position to agriculture and establishment of agro – allied industries to add value to our farm products.
“In addition, solid mineral development and the revamping of our ailing industries should also receive increased attention.
“I wish to single out the textile industry as an example of an industry which has the capacity of not only restoring in less than one year tens of thousands of jobs lost earlier in the century, but also add tens of billions of naira to the National Gross Domestic Product(GDP).”
At the general meeting which was the first to be held since the demise of YUF’s Chairman, Chief Hannah Idowu Dideolu(HID) Awolowo, members observed a minute silence each in memory of Mama HID and late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, who until his death, was the Patron of the body.
Gbonigi was confirmed through an unanimous voice votes as the group’s substantive chairman to replace the late HID Awolowo.
Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu emerged his deputy and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi was named the Patron to replace the late Ooni, Oba Okunade Sijuwade.
In a communique read at the end of the meeting by YUF’s Secretary-General, Senator Anthony Adefuye, the group deplored rising youth unemployment and insecurity across the land.
The communiqué urged the government to reduce the size and cost of governance in the country, implement the 2014 recommendations of the National Confab as well as restrict import of non-essential items.
The body pushed for the patronage of made-in-Nigeria products, use of local engineers and artisans for construction works among others as path of ways of creating employment opportunities.
At the meeting are: Gbonigi, Adefuye, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele and Dr Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu among others.
Time to act is now
Also in Jos, the Plateau State capital yesterday, NBA President Augustine Alegeh, (SAN), challenged the federal government to take necessary steps towards preventing the continuous depreciation of naira against the dollars in capital market.
Alegeh was welcoming participants to the NBA National Executive Council (NEC), holding at Crest Hotel in Jos.
He said: “It is a worrisome trend to NBA that the value rate of the Naira continued to fall against the dollars almost on daily bases, as at yesterday, we were told it was N300.00 against a dollar, the next day it could be N320,000 per dollar, some said it has even risen to N380.00 to the dollar.
“With the way the rate is going, there is the general fear that, if nothing is done to check it, very soon it will be N1000.00 to a dollar.
“This trend is extremely dangerous to national economy. Something must be done to check it. NBA is therefore calling on the federal government to rise up to the challenge and stop further depreciation of the nation’s currency against the dollars. This trend cannot be allowed to continued, something must be done by the federal government to stop it.”
On treasury looters and the anti-corruption stance of the President Buhari-led administration, the senior advocate said, “NBA President will stand solidly behind the Federal Government to fight suspected treasury looter and instill financial discipline in the government spending.
“NBA has zero tolerance for corruption, we are ready to cooperate with federal agency in the anti-corruption fight to kill corruption before corruption kills the country. We will only insist that the anti-corruption fight be done on the premise of rule of law.
“The rights of corruption suspects must be respected on the bases that such suspect is presumed guilty until the end of trial. Government should try as much as possible not to condemn any suspect guilty before he is tried.
“NBA believes strongly that the anti-corruption war can be won on the premises of law, anything contrary to that will not be in the interest of justice and the nation. There should be fair trial for all suspects.”
The NBA president however warned lawyers defending corruption suspects standing trial not to make up cases for accused.
He said: “As a lawyer, you are expected to defend the case of your client based on the available facts presented by the prosecuting council.”
“If NBA discovered involvement of any of its members in such deal, the association will not hesitate to subject such member to disciplinary action”
Alege also unfolded a plan by the association to organise a workshop specifically to enable the NBA take a critical review of the role of its members in the election petition tribunal so far.
He assured that the workshop will enhance effective dispensation of election matters in subsequent polls.
On the role of the judiciary at the election petition tribunal across the country, the NBA chief applauded the efforts of the judiciary for their role but expresses deep regret over the situation where the courts gave conflicting rulings.
His words: “The judiciary has indeed lived up to expectation in spite of the conflicting judgments in few cases, the NBA therefore recommend thorough investigation into such case and whoever is found to be involved in such judicial error should be sanctioned accordingly.”
Alege promised participants electronic system of voting will be used during the body’s next national election, billed for the third quarter of the year.
“We are not going to close down the courts as a result of going to a particular point to cast your votes. This time around we are going to cast our votes from the comfort of our homes and offices,” he said.
Alege urged members to stay within internet network area to be able to cast their ballot during the exercise.
Nigeria at socio-economic, financial crossroads
To Prof Gambari, Nigeria is stalled at socio-economic and financial crossroads.
The former envoy, who spoke in Abuja at a public lecture delivered by Mrs. Patricia Scotland, the Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC and the Commonwealth Secretary-General Designate, blamed the current situation on many years of mismanagement of the common patrimony.
The lecture was organised by the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development in collaboration with the Foreign Affairs ministry.
Gambari noted that the pressure on the country was as a result of dwindling forex earnings, which itself was a result of falling crude oil receipts.
He called for a concrete action on diversifying the economy; issue successive administrations have paid lips service to.
The former envoy stressed that that time to swing into action in diversifying the economy was now.
Gambari said: “We now have no other option but to go along a different path. Indeed, all major stakeholders must be brought together as a matter of urgency to foster better economic management, while spreading grassroots development, especially in the light of new global economic realities and power configuration.”
According to him, there was no gainsaying that poor governance in the recent past contributed to (and continue to) engender insecurity, injustice, corruption and fuel insurgency, violent extremism, unemployment and underdevelopment among other vices.
He called for strong support of the Commonwealth and the international community for President Buhari’s efforts to chart a new course for the country.
Prof Gambari said: “A course that will put this country back to the path of peace and progress. In this regard, President Buhari deserves commendation for the courageous actions taken so far in making sure that those who have corruptly enriched themselves and mismanaged our common patrimony are called to account.”
Stressing the need to promote positive engagement between Nigeria and the Commonwealth, the ambassador noted that “there is strength in building together”.
The theme of the lecture was “Nigeria and the Commonwealth of Nations: Collaborative efforts to combating violent extremism, the fight against corruption and financial crimes and recovery of stolen monies in Foreign Banks”.
In her remarks, Environment Minister, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, challenged the Commonwealth Secretary-General designate to help redefine the role of commonwealth, particularly by helping to refocus the youth.
Mrs. Mohammed said restated President Buhari’s genuine commitment to the security of Nigeria, the West African sub-region, Africa and the globe.
The Minister said that insecurity in the Northeast was exacerbated by climate change, especially the receding Lake Chad.
She urged the Commonwealth to look at that direction and address the challenge
Mohammed also called on the organisation to also help in the successful the implementation of SDGs.