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Buhari; who is in charge of Nigeria’s economic policy?

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Buhari and Osibanjo

It is shocking to hear that Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is not happy about the Naira devaluation even when some of his fanatical followers have started listing it as one of the main gains of his administration.

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday frowned at the decision to devalue the naira, saying devaluation is of no benefit to the country.

Nigeria’s central bank abandoned the naira’s 16-month old exchange rate peg, of 197 naira to a dollar, a week ago in an effort to alleviate the chronic foreign currency shortages that have choked growth in Africa’s biggest economy. 

Recall that devaluation was announced while Buhari was in far away United Kingdom having ear surgery and professor Osibanjo was the acting president.

Interestingly, the only other economic policy achieved under this administraion was announced while Buhari was again in London for the corruption summit.

So should Osibanjo take credit for the only worthwhile economic policies announced by this administration?

According to Buhari, “I am not an economist, neither a businessman. I fail to appreciate what is the economic explanation” 

The naira ended at 282 to the dollar on Monday but was trading at round 350 on the black market.

“I don’t like the returns I get from the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria),” said Buhari, addressing a group of business leaders that included Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, Zenith bank founder Jim Ovia and oil billionaire Femi Otedola.

The 73-year-old former military ruler, addressing the group at his official residence in the capital, Abuja, said the devaluation of the naira in 1985 saw the naira trading at 1.3 to the dollar, whereas “now you need 300 or 350 naira to a dollar”.

“How much benefit can we derive from this ruthless devaluation of the naira? I’m not an economist neither a businessman – I fail to appreciate what is the economic explanation,” said Buhari.

In a June 3 letter to Buhari, the central bank governor said he hoped the naira would eventually trade at around 250 per dollar, a level the president had “approved”.

Buhari had consistently said he was opposed to the removal of the currency peg but, in an essay published in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, appeared to back the adoption of a more flexible foreign exchange policy.

Isn’t he shooting himself in the foot again?

Good a thing that Osibanjo, Emefiele, and Kachikwu, Nigeria’s best heads are putting politics and sentiments and Buhari aside and doing what is good for Nigeria.

It is going to be a long 3 years!

Ogbuefi Ndigbo

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