Pressure On Naira: The Vultures Are Hovering

By Simeon Ogah
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Far from being alarmed at the threat that the global economic situation poses to the Nigerian economy, some group of unpatriotic are impatiently waiting in the wing to cash in on the nation’s economic challenges. These are vultures that have smelled the potential for carrion and would not even wait for the animal to be fully dead before feasting. Like vultures waiting out the final moments of a dying animal on boughs, they are waiting to see Nigeria’s situation worsen before diving in.

But unlike vultures, which are not in the habit of quickening the demise of the animal they want to devour, these saboteurs are doing all they can to quicken the death of Nigeria’s economy so that they can feast to their full.

Specifically, they have placed the managers of the Nigeria’s economy under unprecedented pressure to devalue the naira. Their chorus for devaluation has been without thoughts for the impact on the larger population that stand to be negatively affected by any such hasty move.

As they grow more impatient to reap windfall from their envisaged destruction of the national currency, desperation has set in. Newspaper publications are inundated with pseudo analysts competing to outdo each other as to who can be the most screeching strident in the call to reduce our currency to tissue paper.

Television programmes have a full cast of talking heads that market devaluation of the naira to appear like the best thing since the discovery of three minutes noodles – five minutes of listening to them and one realizes that while they may be physically present in a Nigerian studio they do not live in Nigeria. Same as their online and newspaper counterparts these minions for neocons are completely insulated from the reality on the streets.

The crooks who are clamouring for devaluation of the Naira have not for one heartbeat been sincere about their true intentions or at least the agenda of those they are fronting for. What they have never mentioned in their many treaties and television appearances is that they desperately want devaluation so that they can ship back the stolen funds stashed abroad to buy up Nigeria at half price.

Fortunately, it appears the Central Bank Governor (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele is awake to this ploy which could in part explain the staunch refusal to bow in to the fraudulent demands for the currency to be rubbished just to please a clique of cutthroats. Instead of bowing in to the blackmail of these currency speculators, he has taken bold steps to shore up the Naira on other fronts.

Despite the low return on crude oil sales, which has been the driver of the pressure on the Naira, the CBN Governor has been able to sustain investors’ confidence contrary to the prophesy of charlatans that there will be divestments and panic withdrawal from Nigeria.

Those who had tried to use the potential for divestment as a point in their argument for devaluation usually, conveniently, sidestep the fact that what we are witnessing has a fairly global spread and that other countries also have their currency under pressure while manufacturing has slowed down in others.

The other fact the pro-devaluation crowd are happy to hide from Nigerians is the role played in the past by institutional corruption, of which they are beneficiaries. The armsgate scandal might have exposed how public fund was shared like a local trader giving out alms to beggars, but the other lesson that is not impressed on our collective subconscious is that the much of the stolen funds – arms purchase and in other sector – are in dollars. So we had a recent past that was not only corrupt but whose officials also unabashedly dollarized our economy.

Furthermore, most of the dollars that should been in our foreign reserve is sitting pretty in the offshore accounts of the same people who are now campaigning for the crippling or even death of the Naira.

They are also dubious to admit that devaluation mostly works wonder if the economy is heavy on manufacturing and export. We are low on both, so where is the advantage of devaluation to us? It will take a while for our export and manufacturing, after prolonged neglect, to pick up. If we devalue before we have something to sell then we may not be able to afford the capital to kick-start manufacturing considering that heavy machines must be necessarily imported.

Mr Emefiele might have been appointed under the previous administration; as an appointee of government he was obliged to obey the then Commander in Chief, but today he has to clean up the mess left in the wake of that administration. This is a task he has largely succeeded in achieving and has thus proving that the stance of the President a CBN Governor serves matters.

His pursuit of zero tolerance for corruption in so many areas is yielding result and they are in tandem with President Muhammadu Buhari’s change agenda.

Of course, Mr Emefiele’s stance, in joining the fight against corruption; in refusing to destroy the naira; and in reactivating statutory remittances, has consequences.

He is now the subject of smear campaigns that aim to more than rubbish him. The goal, from what is available in the media space is to either force him to resign or have the President sack him. The logic backing such calls are as shallow as they are untenable. Why should Mr Emefiele resign on account that he acted on instructions of the former president even after he has demonstrated what difference a purposeful leadership can make under the current government?

His detractors have even gone the extra length of asking the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to arrest him on account that the Dasukigate scandal happened under his watch. There is no point wasting precious print space taking apart this line of reasoning – it is akin to asking a person’s account officer to be arrested because money was released to the account holder when he demanded for it.

The reality of the situation is that while it may appear that those calling for Mr Emefiele’s sack with threats of “mother of all occupy protests” genuinely want to see him go, their intention is more sinister.

International markets usually monitor more than the economic situation in their country of interest, they also monitor political dynamics. The call for the CBN Governor’s sack is surreptitiously meant to achieve a different objective in the short term. It is meant to spook the markets and further put pressure on the Naira. This will in turn provide additional fodder for the pseudo analysts and the talking heads to screech more about why the currency should be devalued.

For the sake of Nigeria, Mr Emefiele must therefore remain unbowed and unaffected by these ill-conceived calls for him to resign or be sacked. President Buhari has repeatedly demonstrated that he is with the CBN Governor as far as not devaluing the Naira is concerned so this should embolden him. As the vultures continue to hover, the CBN Governor should make the subject of their interest, the Naira, recover and walk away. For once, let the vultures go hungry.

Ogah is a public policy analyst based in Makurdi, Benue State.

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