Before The Naira Is Destroyed (Part 1)
During the week I had the opportunity of meeting a top player in one of Nigeria’s foremost financial institutions. Of course before now I had always met several people with whom I’ll discuss several things some bothering on politics, others on religion, business, international affairs, security and so on. However I considered my meeting with this fellow a remarkable one; although it didn’t appear so while we were chatting until much later in the day when laid down to reflect on all that had happened throughout that day, including this meeting.
As expected we started on a casual note of exchanging pleasantries and asking after the well-being of each other’s family, then to the everyday issues which make the rounds and touch on the areas I had earlier mentioned above. We talked about all these before getting on the issue which concerns him most, our currency. Yes! The naira.
At this point his countenance changed to a mixture of mild aggression and sympathy. I could create an excuse for his mild aggression as with some Nigerians who talk about the current state of the naira, but was left somewhat bewildered wondering the place of sympathy in what he was saying. It was much later when I flashed back on all that had happened while with him that it dawned on me that indeed “there’s fire on the mountain”.
While we were having the chat during the day he said to me “Kingsley hold it a minute, what do you really think is the cause of this emaciating state of the naira?” Of course I tried to give a possible reason, while still adding other factors as supporting points when he held my hand as though demanding of me to pause and hear him out and then said to me ”my brother the demand for these foreign currencies is just too much and naturally when demand of a thing is higher than supply the cost of such commodity goes up, that’s exactly what I’m saying”.
In line with my knowledge of the economics of demand and supply I immediately understood what he was talking about. It is in line with this statement and what I gave to him as a response that this whole essay will be based. It is to say the least phenomenal that in about a year the value over the naira of a major currency for Nigeria’s foreign exchange which is the dollar has risen about twice what it used to be.
Within the last three months however the spate at which the same currency has risen may best be described as outrageous. While some have resorted to calling the governor of the Central bank, Minister of Finance, Minister of budget and national planning and even the President all sorts of names, it is ideal that before these aspersions are made or while people continue with them it will be logical to examine the underlying and general cause of the continued decline of the naira.
The average Nigerian is a lover of imported “stuff”. So it is usually not perceived as being out of place when people prefer things from the US, Japan, Dubai, UK, China and even South Africa to those from Nigeria. Come to think of it from the services rendered by multinationals to the most infinitesimal things we buy for ourselves, they must all be imported, “sent” or shipped in. I was on my way home a couple of weeks ago when I saw a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) whole manufactured by a Nigerian company, I told my friend about the vehicle and as you’d expect he rebuked the vehicle saying in pidgin English “you sure say person fit drive dat moto sef”!
I stood in utter consternation because I expected at least the smallest word of encouragement to the indigenous company that manufactured the vehicle but then I understood his position as being a microcosmic part of that which can be gotten from the Nigerian society. Very often companies and individuals request replacements for their fleet but not for once have I seen a vehicle from this Nigerian Vehicle company in their fleet because we either want to drive a Toyota, Honda, Nissan or ………
Till this day we are yet to develop an indigenous electronics manufacturing company for home appliances and other heavy duty machines. So that means owning a LED television made by Sony, Samsung or LG makes you a “big boy” and buying a Yamaha, Suzuki, Mikano or Tiger generator set makes you a “Chairman”.
In fact, these days we know how rich you are from the size of generator in your house. That means owning a generator set is a way of life; what is different is the type you own. Can you imagine that! Some even justify this menace of generator ownership by going for “Super Silent Cabins” or a sound proof one from either of these companies.
How funny! You’ll be virtually ridiculed by your friend if your shirt, face cap, t-shirt or shoe is not T.M Lewin, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren or Clarks. Infact our effort at making our own clothing here in Nigeria has been degradingly categorized as “Aba made”. So don’t even bother putting on a shirt or shoe made in Nigeria especially when going for a glamorous social function.
Malaysia is said to currently have one of the highest export capacities of palm oil in the world. Reports have it that the boom currently being experienced in this area of the country’s agricultural growth has its root in Nigeria and all began when agriculturists, researchers and scientists explored the rich palm fruits from Nigeria. How interesting! Whether this account in the area of Malaysia’s rise in palm oil production is true or not, the bottom point is that several years ago the position was vice versa with Nigeria even exporting rubber and other cash crops in very large quantities. Today our local palm oil circulation is grossly inadequate.
I have heard of people forming “swag” because they drank American coffee before coming to work. Nawa o! American coffee! Is it not the same cocoa that was a major export commodity before its replacement by oil that this American coffee is made from? So what has happened to our cocoa? Infact where did the Nigerian coffee go to? I remember seeing some Michelin and Dunlop stores round town some years back. Do you also recall? But now they’re no more. Infact I hear one of these tyre companies have moved to a neighbouring country due to lack of power supply needed for production. Imagine the number of people now jobless because of that!
The most basic things that matter in our academic institutions are even imported. Can you imagine that pencils used by toddlers and children to put down their first letters of the alphabet are imported from ….. Do you doubt it? Just pick up a pencil beside you and you’ll see the country. I guess this was why our Minister of Science and Technology said Nigeria will soon start producing pencils. What an invention by an aspiring great nation in a 21st century world!
The man is “really thinking”. But why haven’t we had “made in Nigeria” pencils all along? Most of our pens are imported leaving our indigenous manufacturers such as Eleganza to beg for a share of the market. The trend has moved to books and other paper materials. Imagine attending a meeting with a notepad or diary made by the Onward Paper Mill when you can patronize one of the big stores in town and get an imported and “very sophisticated” diary or notepad to take for that very special board meeting.....
To be continued