By Prince Charles Dickson Ph.D.
An illusion shared by everyone becomes a reality—Erich Fromm
Two neighbours came before Jupiter and prayed to him to grant their hearts’ desire. Now the one was full of avarice, and the other ate up with envy.
So, to punish them both, Jupiter granted that each might have whatever he wished for himself, but only on condition that his neighbour had twice as much.
The Avaricious man prayed to have a room full of gold. No sooner said than done; but all his joy was turned to grief when he found that his neighbour had two rooms full of the precious metal. Then came the turn of the Envious man, who could not bear to think that his neighbour had any joy at all.
So, he prayed that he might have one of his own eyes put out, by which means his companion would become totally blind.
Vices are their own punishment.
How does the above relate with Nigeria—especially in these times. What constitutes a crisis worthy of leadership attention? At what point is enough, really enough. I will write a few paragraphs’ gist with us. For better understanding, let me tutor us!
Nigeria has been facing a currency crisis for several years now. The country’s currency, the Naira, has been steadily losing value against major foreign currencies like the US dollar, Euro, and British pound. The following are some of the factors that have contributed to the currency crisis in Nigeria:
1. Overdependence on oil exports: Nigeria is a major oil-producing country, and the economy heavily relies on oil exports for revenue. The fall in oil prices in recent years has led to a significant reduction in foreign exchange earnings, thereby putting pressure on the Naira.
2. High inflation rate: Nigeria has been experiencing high inflation rates for several years. This has eroded the value of the Naira and made it more expensive to import goods and services.
3. Weak economic fundamentals: Nigeria’s economy has been characterized by low productivity, weak infrastructure, and poor business environment. This has led to a lack of investor confidence, which in turn has contributed to a weak Naira.
4. Foreign exchange restrictions: The Nigerian government has put in place several foreign exchange restrictions in an attempt to conserve foreign exchange reserves. However, these restrictions have led to a scarcity of foreign exchange and have further weakened the Naira.
The currency crisis in Nigeria has had several negative impacts on the economy, including rising inflation, high unemployment, and low economic growth. The government has taken several measures to address the crisis, including devaluing the Naira and introducing foreign exchange policies aimed at stabilizing the currency. However, more needs to be done to address the root causes of the crisis and put the economy on a sustainable growth path.
In the light of these we decided on a Naira redesign. A currency swap naturally followed it, in the Nigerian context. The fact of the matter was, there was no campaign to enlighten the masses. There was no form of advocacy, the ordinary man on the streets did not know what to expect, did not understand the entire process. Who we be sef? And after all what do we know, it came with a cash crunch… the last time Nigerians experienced this was in the 1980s. Why the naira design, we still don’t have a grasp.
A nation with no sense of emergency, maybe that’s why we don’t have any natural disasters, albeit self-inflicted floods that can and should be avoided. We are not bothered about the crisis, the Central Bank chief went ahead with his mandatory role of redesigning the Naira notes, he did not tell the minister for finance, the ministry was left in the loop, and those in economic and national planning were not aware. The national assembly was as usual not beyond an assembly.
We all started the blame game, the apex bank chief feeling like James Bond and others went on the defense. We were told that it was targeted at politicians who wanted to buy votes for the upcoming (now concluded) elections. The politicians played their roles, went to court, government carry government go court. Nigeria is indeed a country. Governors threatened banks, banks punished citizens. And one ponders, if indeed we are 200 million Nigerians why should we bear the brunt of the thievery of barely 1%. Abi Nigerians politicians pass 1million?
We are a people that just do anyhow, go anyway and at the end nothing happens. In the interim, banks were touched in parts of the country, no one was held liable, while other parts just moved on painfully. The old notes disappeared and the new notes were nowhere to be found. If Venezuela was picturesque, Nigeria is the reality; Nigerians were buying naira with naira and all the authorities did was at best rant and dramatize.
The central bank said they had destroyed the old notes, they said the new notes were not enough or being printed. Who is printing and why was the printing not done first. Why reduce the old notes and not make available the new notes. We just dey play! Banks are operating at lowest capacity; electronic banking is at best working in babalawo mood. The more you look, the more your eyes hurt from seeing nothing. We are possibly the most impossible people. The governors had alleged that contrary to the CBN defence that they had destroyed the old notes, the notes were there and months after, we know better, the old notes are appearing, after the dance of the naked at the nation’s apex court the old notes stay till the end of the year.
However, the damage done to small businesses, the fact that Nigerians have painfully learned the difference between cash at hand and cash at bank cannot be quantified. For a policy that ordinarily should have enhanceed the security features of the currency and prevent counterfeiting, because the new Naira notes were supposed to feature new designs, images, and colours, which are meant to reflect Nigeria’s diverse cultural heritage. Counterfeiting has been on the rise, with even the ordinary Nigerian not knowing anything about the new notes, as counterfeiters are producing fake notes everyday.
Public confidence in our naira is at an all-time low. We are supposed to have witnessed a reduction in transaction costs for businesses that handle cash transactions. But it has rather tripled costs, many argue that the new notes are not more durable than the old ones.
This exercise has killed the economy, all the aims for which the two neighbours came before Jupiter and prayed him to grant their hearts’ desire, has failed because we are a nation full of avarice, and the other eaten up with envy, nothing works according to the original plan, until some interests are being served, when will it change—only time will tell!
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