By Ademola Oyetunji
The issue of Naira redenomination started gaining traction on social media around September 2023. It was believed that the trending misinformation was the handiwork of some ‘drunks in a Chinese bar”, idled, and needed to ruffle the economy’s feather. The Central of Nigeria has denied the trending malicious story.
Unperturbed though, the perpetrators retreated awhile, and recently, the malicious misinformation started gaining traction on social media. One may wonder what their motive is. No soothsayer is needed to know that economic saboteurs are at work again, but to gain what?
The attack on the Naira is one of the many products of corruption bedeviling the nation. Others include untamed obnoxious taste for foreign items, and utter disdain for locally produced items (often of better quality than their foreign counterparts), mono-economy, – dependence on oil, forgetting that the foundation and strength of the economy was agriculture. Monumental legacies adorned the nooks and crannies of the country that are attestation to what agriculture did before the petrol-dollar craze. Agriculture was later neglected. The scramble for fast buck from oil till date incapacitated the economy. No effort was made to diversify the economy. At a time in the history of this economy, a regime once told the world that, Nigeria’s problem was not money but how to spend it.
Profligacy became the order of the day. Corruption crept in, and scramble for power to get a bite of the oil ‘cake’ caused successive military coups. This was in connivance with corrupt civilians. Every successive administration embarked on primitive acquisition of wealth stolen from our commonwealth. Mediocrity reigned, leadership selection became “paddy-paddy, and merit took a flight. Some past leaders sought power for powers sake, clueless of what to do with it. The economy was on autopilot, burdened, and still suffering from those uncoordinated and rudderless inactions. The economy has been in chains while the masses bear the brunt.
The descent to this ignoble state started before 1986 and became a reality with the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). It was the onset of gradual destruction of all economic fibers of Nigeria. A leader at the time frustratingly retorted that ‘the Nigerian economy defied all economic theories.” Little did he know that vultures and vampires had taken over the economy, and ever since the economy has been under attacks. Still the only legacy we hold onto, the Naira, is under serious threat now.
They took over and destroyed all the refineries, made them non-functional despite trillions of Naira spent to fix them. They destroyed the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), and bought them over under the disguise of privatization, leaving us with what we have today – darkness. The Nigerian Airways, and Nigeria National Shipping Line are all moribund, yet investors who professed competence and business acumen bought them. They hijacked the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) making all refineries derelict. Fuel importation and subsidy was introduced through which the economy was sucked. No past regime had the political will to end the obnoxious regime. But since this regime took the bold decision to remove fuel subsidy and harmonize the exchange rate, the economic vampires and the vultures have swooped on the economy, baring their fangs ferociously on the Naira.
While other oil producing nations are reaping bountifully from oil, building infrastructure, and bettering the welfare of their citizens, Nigeria, the 6th oil producing nation in the world is wallowing in poverty, corruption, darkness, yet its leaders are unperturbed.
Those calling for the redenomination of the Naira are the faceless ‘owners’ of Nigeria, attacking the economy with the main aim of wrecking it to enable them to take it over. They have gained, and still gaining bountifully from every crisis of the past. They are determined to destroy the Naira. Their grouse may have been the current administration’s gut to take away the fuel subsidy. They have the war chess – hoarded foreign and local currencies, through the BDCs they own. They are rich and entrenched individuals, using their ill-gotten wealth to attack the Naira.
Their call for the redenomination is to cause disaffection between the government and Nigerians, thereby bending the hands of the government backward. When in 2006 the Republic of Zimbabwe redenominated its currency at the rate of 1,000 old Zimbabwean note to one Zimbabwean dollar, it was because of hyperinflation. The newly independent nation probably got carried away with the euphoria of independence and forgot to do the real business of governance. Things spiraled out of control, the currency began to lose value because of the taste for foreign goods, no effort to develop local capacity, and the currency suffered. The Republic of Ghana that plied same route thought it had no better option than to redenominate in 2007.
If it must be recalled, Ghana’s hyperinflation between 1977-1983 hovered between 116% and 123%. The reason the government gave for taking the action was to reassert the monetary sovereignty of Cedi. The government was conscious of the fact that if Ghanaians should lose confidence in the currency and begin to embrace other foreign currencies as store of value, there will be problem. Another reason it gave was years of economic decline that took a toll on the Cedi. In fact, it was to arrest the spiraling hyperinflation that threatened the country, and to also make it easy for accounting and statistical purposes. According to the authorities, they believed it would be easier to maintain by setting 10,000 Cedis to be 1 Ghana Cedi.
Has the Nigerian economic situation reached what can be compared to the Zimbabwe or Ghana situation? The answer is No. The problem with Nigeria is corruption and greed, self-centeredness, obnoxious foreign taste, and disdain for what she produces. Nigerians do not eat what they produce, nor produce what they eat.
What the purveyors of this malicious misinformation set to achieve is to arm-twist the government and the CBN to do their bid and redenominate to suit their criminal desires. They are presently clueless about what the government is doing going forward to address the economic challenges, and the exchange rate as it unfolds its economic reforms template.
The CBN said in its latest press release on the issue that, the masterminds of this fake news had in September circulated same through a misleading WhatsApp message, and rather than retracing their steps have become recalcitrant “in their mischief, (and) modified text eked from an old policy move by a previous CBN Governor in 2007 to make it appear recent”. It read, “For the avoidance of doubt, there is currently no plan by the Bank to restructure and redenominate the Naira. While the Bank may be considering reforms, such are subject to laid-down procedures in line with the provisions of the CBN Act 2007”.
Nigeria, hugely endowed with human and natural resources, and rated as the largest economy in Africa was recently warned by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that if the urgent necessary reforms are not introduced to address its economic challenges, South Africa by 2024 may become the largest economy in the continent. Patriotic citizens of some thriving economies in the continent are supportive of their governments’ efforts for a better living standard, but here at home, the reverse is the case.
Thus, if Naira is destroyed, what legacy would we have as a nation?
Ademola Oyetunji writes from Ibadan.