• Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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Leaders aiding naira devaluation by converting allocation to dollar – Idimogu


Jude Idimogu is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former lawmaker, representing Oshodi/Isolo Constituency 2 in the Lagos State House of Assembly from 2015 to 2023. In this interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he spoke on the state of the nation, saying that the rush for dollar was a loss of faith in the local currency, among several other issues.

Things are getting harder in Nigeria and people are looking forward to the government to come to their aid on the issue of the economy, what do you think the government can do urgently to arrest the situation?

The major thing is the supply of foreign exchange to the economy and we are not meeting our quota to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). We are losing money to the stealing of our oil and foreign exchange happens to be the major source of importing items into the country.

Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has a backlog of outstanding payments to some foreign companies and other interest groups in Nigeria.

Definitely, the little they are earning are being used to pay the backlog of our debts as a country.

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The money we owe the more we will lose the confidence of foreign investors because they believe that when they do transactions with us the money would not come and they have not even repatriated the ones they have done.

It’s a challenge and the only way is how do we increase the supply of foreign exchange in the country? Also, there is a habit Nigerians have formed, what you are seeing in the parallel market is being contributed by Nigerians as they have lost faith in their currency.

Most Nigerians want to buy dollars in particular and save them, they don’t go for Euros and pounds sterlings. They no longer save naira, everybody is trying to outsmart each other in the parallel market and mop-up the money in the market.

You cannot get dollars from the official market as there are no sufficient dollars for them to disburse to the people, whose transactions have been approved.

The only way is for the people to go to the parallel market and overprice whatever they can get. The more they can buy the better they think it is and they stockpile the money. Some of these Nigerians that are buying dollars do not have immediate use for them, they are not importing, some of them just see it as a store of value and it is putting pressure on the foreign exchange market.

Another thing the CBN needs to do is to tell Nigerians to have faith in their currency. Why must you buy dollars and save instead of naira.

Even when you don’t have need for dollars, why are you buying them. Moreso, in January and February of every year, there is rush for payment of school fees in foreign countries.

You will see that parents that can afford it discovered that the official market cannot give them what they want in time, so they would move to the parallel market and buy as many as they can buy there, so the pressure is there. The more you have money the more you can outsmart others.

A customer can come and price ‘x’ naira for whatever he can get in the parallel market and another customer would price ‘x’ plus one naira, the higher you price, the better for you to get.

That is why you see the currency in the parallel market change every now and then. It changes every two or three hours once a customer with bigger naira comes and out-price whoever is buying at a lower price.

Another thing the government has to change is that every end of the month, after the government has given monetary allocations to states and local governments, you will see that there would be excess naira in the system.

With the removal of fuel subsidy more volumes of naira are being shared by the federal, states and local governments and some of these monies are changed to dollars at the parallel market. A week to when they want to share money, note the price of dollar at that time and after collection you will see that it will increase because they would have more naira and they would use it to buy dollars. We Nigerians are not helping the system.

Read also: Naira devaluation pain is great gain of N400bn for FG, States, LGs

Is this not a failure on the part of the political and ruling class? If the money being given to states and local governments has increased, the results should be development, more infrastructure, schools and others for the people, what are they using the dollars for?

I don’t know, but they are diverting the money. Some of them believe that having dollars is the best way they can save their money because it appreciates, while naira depreciates. Most of them now use dollars as a store of value against naira, so, it’s a challenge.

It is wrong for them to do that. Foreign currency aids corruption because it is easy to carry than naira. $10,000 is about N15 million. You can put $10,000 in your pocket, but can you carry 15 million naira in your pocket, the answer is no because people would know.

So, we need a lot of discipline on the part of the government. Who are the watchdogs in the federal, states and local governments? Who are the auditors? What roles are they playing, how are they monitoring leakages in the system? It is collusion, these people that ought to be watchdogs or keep the money for the masses are not helping matters.

It’s not only the Federal Government, the states and local governments are involved. We lack patriotism in Nigeria, it is about what the people can gain, not what the country is losing.

Let us have the interest of the masses at heart, but we don’t consider that, it’s a general thing. Our debt profile is very high, it is almost N80 trillion. I would have said that we should meet countries that are rich in foreign currency like Saudi Arabia.

The country is very rich, they have dollars in quantum, if we can negotiate with a country like that and take a soft loan for a period of time.

We can borrow about $30 billion and bring it into the market to pay our debts and meet the requirements of Nigerians that need the money, I think it would be better. But if we take that kind of money, what of the interest and the outstanding debts that we owe.

We just have to encourage the current CBN Governor and see how the monetary policies they are bringing can work. Like I said, we need to increase the foreign exchange in the market because the demand is more than the supply.

People are being kidnapped or killed in the north, Abuja, in the South West and in other parts of the country. Your party was passionate about state police, restructuring and others, and we can see what is happening now; what do you think is the way out?

President Bola Tinubu is barely nine months in office and all these things have been there before. Insecurity has always been in Nigeria. It reduced initially, when President Tinubu got into power, and I am also suspecting fight back from some disgruntled elements, who want to fight the present government.

The truth is that individuals cannot be more powerful than the government, especially those cabals that lost out in terms of oil subsidy removal. Some of these things are being sponsored. As at November 2023, things were okay, but by December, 2023, terrorism and kidnapping increased in Abuja and in other parts of the north. You now wonder, what caused the sudden increase. I know that we will overcome it with time. Government would definitely see how it can be solved and I want to encourage the security agents to work better. It’s not funny and if you watch, terrorism has subsided, but banditry and kidnapping have increased and it is gradually coming to the South West.

The President has ordered that the agencies must act to check the spate of insecurity in Nigeria now.

It’s not only the security agencies that will do the work, it’s affecting everybody; so, Nigerians can give information to security agents and make reports when necessary. It’s a general problem that we will need to solve together.