Ever since the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) initiated some monetary measures at repositioning the economy, a bizarre drama has been unfolding. Worrisome to every patriotic Nigerian is the unabated attack on the CBN as an institution. The apex bank promised Nigeria and Nigerians to expand its energies on building a resilient financial system that can serve growth and development needs. Every keen watcher of the economy will agree that, in spite of the troubled economy as a result of the slump in the crude oil price, the Bank has been resolute in fulfilling its promise.
However, the apex bank has over the years remained the whipping child of all manner of both so-called economic pundits and novice alike. Particularly, since the Bank announced the exemption of about 41 items from the forex window to encourage local production of these items that Nigeria has the capacity to produce, and thus galvanize the economy and preserve the nation’s reserves, the Bank has not had peace. It has been attacked and abused.
The CBN as an institution has been visited with barrage of criticism, simply because, policies rolled out were geared towards enhancing local capacity, create employment and wealth. The question Nigerians should ask is ‘why did it take so long’ to have such policy? Instead of CBN to be commended for this laudable initiative and patriotism, the fifth columnists in the economy with their foreign cronies are hell bent on rubbishing every policy it rolls out to deliver Nigeria from the satanic bondage of the so called foreign investors and to ensure the dream of Nigeria becoming one of the best 20 economies of the world by 2020.
The nation is almost down and out simply because of the precarious situation we found ourselves as a monolithic economy. This was not the case before the discovery of oil. Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the old Western region developed his region as Premier with proceeds from cocoa. He built the first television station in Africa, the first stadium – Liberty Stadium, the first 25-storey Cocoa House building in Africa, among others.
Ahmadu Bello of the then Northern region developed the region with proceeds from groundnut, and many of us who witnessed the groundnut pyramid that earned the region huge revenue through which he was able to achieve the feats recorded in history about him will marvel, and ask, how did things go wrong? Late Chief Michael Okpara of blessed memory performed unrivalled feat with palm oil in the old Eastern region, and with proceeds from this product the region earned the envy of Malaysia which came to Nigeria to beg for the seed. Today, Malaysia is the biggest exporter of palm oil in the world; while Nigeria disappointingly became an importer of the same product from which it once earned huge revenue.
Should we not be ashamed as a nation? Should the CBN not be commended, though the institution may have been late to come up with this initiative? At least, the country has woken up from her deep sleep as reality dawned on us that no one will help us, but ourselves. That the CBN decided to protect the nation’s currency, our pride, should not be seen as an unthought-of policy. That Emefiele came out strong against currency peddlers and speculators is not unpatriotic, nor an attempt to send some people out of job. That the Naira is the only means of transaction in Nigeria, and not the dollar is a statement of fact. Can any Nigerian transact business on the street of London, United States of America or any other country with Naira?
It is thus an assault on our nation with the recent edition of Monday 16th August, 2015 of the Financial Times of London entitled: ‘Nigeria Adopts Unorthodox Measures to Defend the Naira’, written by one Maggie Fick. She wrote: “The Nigerian government has resorted to chopping down trees lining the streets of its capital to thwart black market money changers, one of a range of unorthodox measures it is deploying to defend its weakening currency”. This is not to talk about the scathing report in The Economist of London’s edition of July 15th, 2015 entitled: Tooth Pick Alert, and the uncomplimentary verdict of Standards and Poors, a rating agency on the Nigerian economy, and her monetary policy initiatives.
My concern is on the assault by Maggie Fick on our national heritage. Every economy is unique, and what works in one may not be so in other climes. What exactly is the interest of the so-called investors, foreign or their domestic cronies in our economic development? Imperatively, they are necessary evils, but not indispensable. That the CBN Governor decision to rescue the Nigeria economy from the aprons of the neo-colonialists cum investors we all know will not go down without a fight. It is therefore not a surprise, that, they are using all sorts of medium to disparage our institution and insults managers of the economy, simply because they have resolved to say, enough is enough.
We welcome foreign investors into our shores, but we cannot mortgage our national economic interest to the whims and caprices of theirs, whose motives are not in any way supportive of our march to economic growth and self-reliance.
In the 1980s, they came into Africa with Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), disguised to help in rejuvenating the economy, but ended up pauperizing the continent and wiped away all economic gains the continent recorded. And what did they do, they abandoned us and ran away. Their ploy is to make a return to the pre-SAP era where we are expected to come back with caps in hand begging for help. Nigeria says NO to neo-colonialism.
The foreign investors’ quarrel with CBN’s policy cannot supersede Nigeria’s interest by resolving to make us a perpetual appendage of their economy – providing jobs for their people. Monetary policies are usually short term holding measures fashioned for long term economic policy initiatives. The forex policy regime can be likened to international economic warfare any nation employs as strategy to close its flank when endangered. The latest forex policy initiative which the Financial Times just ridiculed has as element, measures of fiscal authority to protect local investors, create employment and wealth for its citizens.
Foreign investors in my view are ‘fair-weather’ friends with motive to subjugate other economies. The CBN cannot be held responsible for the fate of Naira, it is part of the vicissitude of life, and the Nigerian government is not sleeping, but instituting strong economic measures just like the Asians, particularly China when she faced similar challenge, introduced ‘Autarky’, and closed her economy to external trade for a rebirth. Costly then, but they achieved their objective and later opened up her economy. Today, China is a bigger economy the world cannot ignore.
The crux of the CBN forex policy in my view is for Nigerians to look inward, enhance our capacity, protect our currency and grow national reserves to make us economically viable, and less dependent on foreign economies. Nigeria’s autarky is disallowing open hawking of the dollar on our streets by any means that suits us, and removing some items we have capacity to produce from the forex window which currency speculators have been feeding fat on. Their ploy in engaging the services of ‘attack dogs’ on every policy of our national heritage will not work, though not without the connivance of enemies within, I urge the CBN management to forge ahead and be resolute as history will adjudge them rightly.
Ariara market in Owerri needs empowerment and support for production of quality leather shoes and the like. Innoson motors, Peugeot, and other automobile plants have the capacity to produce cheaper and durable vehicles suitable for us, and our environment. Dangote of Nigeria is doing well in cement production. Do we need importation of dairy products when the entire northern part of Nigeria can comfortably give us dairy companies with the huge population of cows to quench our thirst? Behind all these initiatives are a crop of competent people driven by patriotic zeal, and sense of urgency to reposition the country on the path of sustainable growth. President Muhammadu Buhari in his wisdom has already endorsed these lofty initiatives aimed at redirecting future course guaranteed for Nigerians present, and generation yet unborn. -Leadership