A Requiem For The Naira?

By Dr. Dons Eze

We would be singing a requiem for our beloved currency, the Naira, the once beautiful, pride and glory of the nation. The Naira which used to be a powerful medium of exchange has now been reduced to almost a worthless piece of paper. The Naira is so weakened that the respect and confidence people used to have for it has been grossly eroded.

The Naira which took its name from the Nigerian nation, also in a very serious state of regress, has been badly bastardized, battered, buffeted and perhaps, awaiting its eventual death and final burial.

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When the Naira and Kobo was first introduced on January 1, 1973, based on the universal metric system, with one hundred kobo making one naira as the highest denomination, it replaced the former pounds, shillings and pence that was modelled after the British currency. The aim was to make the Naira currency compete on equal terms with other major currencies of the world. By that time, one naira exchanged for two British pounds, while the American dollar was fifty-five kobo to one naira.

Up till 1985, the Naira was still very strong and virtually under firm control, with one naira exchanging for one British pound, twenty pence; or eighty United States cents, that is to say, one naira at that time, was more than the value of one United States dollar. But now, everything has changed, the Naira has become the weeping baby of almost all the other currencies in the world.

In 1986, they told us that our Naira was overvalued, that we should devalue it. They equally told us that we should borrow money from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to strengthen our economy. We agreed with these suggestions.

In order to keep us busy while serving their masters’ interests, they told us to start debating as to whether or not Nigeria should take loan from the IMF. You can imagine those of us who know next to nothing about economics, motor park touts, market women, etc., splitting hairs in endless arguments, debating as to why the government should, or should not take the foreign loan.

Whether the government actually took the loan or not, we do not know, but what we later saw was our Naira being displayed in the open market as an article of trade, while the auctioneer held his hammer, waiting for whatever price any bidder was willing to offer. That was how they succeeded in killing our Naira and in making a very big mess of it, during their weekly theatricals, called Second tier Foreign Exchange Market (SFEM). Our Naira then nosedived, crashed to a free-for-all.

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Again, since it is the level of production of a country that helps to determine the value of its currency, and since most Nigerians were no longer productive due to the fact that most companies in the country had closed shop, as they were finding it difficult to access basic raw materials, the value of the Naira became adversely affected.

In those days, we used to have up to eleven or more vehicle assembly plants in the country. Among them were the Peugeot Automobile of Nigeria in Kaduna, the Nissan Motors, Honda Motors, ANAMMCO Vehicle Manufacturing Company in Enugu, Volkswagen of Nigeria in Lagos, Hyundai Motor Company, Ford Motor Company, GIC Motor Companies Ltd, JAC Motors and Kia Motors. But where are these motor Assembly plants now? Most of them have packed up, closed shop.

In the same vein, we no longer hear about the Okuibokun Newsprint Manufacturing Company, the Jebba or Oshogbo Paper Mills, the Dunlop Tyre Manufacturing Company, and so many other manufacturing companies scattered across the length and breadth of the country.

In effect, Nigeria has completely turned its back from productive to become a consumer nation, and a dumping ground for substandard goods from Asia, Europe and America. These equally affected the value of our Naira.

Today, the only industry that is flourishing in Nigeria is CORRUPTION, presided over, controlled and directed by our able and hard-working politicians. No other business works in the country.

When the present administration was canvassing for votes, they gave us the hope that they would rescue the sinking Naira and prevent it from its impending doom. They promised to make the Naira at par with the United States dollar. That was in 2014. By that time, the Naira was exchanging N170 to one United States dollar. A lot of people believed them and voted for them.

But since they came to power in 2015, the Naira has been on a steady summersault. It has fallen from N170 per dollar in 2014 to N460 per dollar today. What a great fall!

Our fear is that with the rate things are currently going – everyday borrowing from foreign countries, not encouraging production, corruption in high places, etc., it is very likely that before the end of this administration in 2023, the Naira would have plumetted to N1,000 per one United States dollar!

When they told us that they have signed off our sovereignty, who would still be in doubt? May be they are thinking of when they will physically carry Nigeria to China or to any of her other creditors.

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