It was a mix of political and economic ideologies at the Ondo State 40th Anniversary Symposium in Akure on Wednesday, as former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, threw his weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari on his stand not to devalue the nation’s currency.
Mr. Anyaoku however met an opposition in the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, who argued that the policy of pegging the value of naira was breeding corruption.
Mr. Anyaoku, who was the chairman of the session, had opened the symposium with his opinion on the state of the naira, a topic he said was tangential to the theme of the event, “Curtailing Nigeria’s Centrifugal Forces”.
He said devaluing the naira would worsen the economic situation and cause a severe drain on the nation’s foreign reserves.
“In my view those calling for official devaluation of the naira need to come up with a good answer to Nigeria’s basic present problematic situation with its currency,” Mr. Anyaoku said.
“There is an incontrovertible fact that with the present level of the country’s dependence on imported goods, which results in a monthly import bill that is four times the value of our main export, which is traded in dollars, official devaluation of the naira vis-a-vis the dollar, will inevitably produce a further rise in inflation to the detriment of all of us, including, especially the masses.
“And besides, in such circumstances, devaluation will lead to an unacceptable drain on our country’s external reserves which is already worryingly depleted.
“The crux of the challenge we face with the current world price for crude oil is to devise policies for reducing the level of the country’s dependence on imported goods while in the mean time, allowing the dollar to float in the unofficial currency market with adequate safeguards being put in place by government to check round tripping in the management of the foreign exchange.”
Mr. Anyaoku also urged the president to, as a matter of urgency, convene a meeting of carefully chosen economic experts in the country to discuss the issue, as well as the wider issue of how to deal with the country’s current economic crisis.
Mr. Odumakin, who was a discussant at the symposium, disagreed with the seasoned diplomat, saying that the pegging of the naira at N199 to a dollar was encouraging corruption.
He said it was unfitting for the president to be talking about fixing a price for the naira, saying that such practice was in the past.
“The fact is what we are doing right now is that we are fighting corruption on one hand and promoting corruption on the other hand,” said Mr. Odumakin.
“If today Dangote walks into the CBN and the CBN gives him $1 billion, and say he should go and use it to trade, it would not make any sense to go and do any business, at the gate of CBN, he can make over N2 billion profit. That is what we are saying when we fix it at N199 and it is going for N400 in the black market.
“We should allow the naira to find its level. What we are doing presently is hurting the economy.”
He said the comments of the president in Egypt that he would not allow the naira to be devalued, and that those who have foreign taste should go and look for where to fund it, was unfortunate.
“The plane that took the president to Egypt was not made in Nigeria. The parts of that plane were not made in Nigeria. Everything that was budgeted for in Aso Rock this year are not made in Nigeria. The vehicles that they are riding in the villa, they are made abroad,” he argued.
“So at this point in time, naira must be allowed to find its level and should stop this corruption where we think we can peg the naira at N199, while the naira is on a free fall, you are only encouraging corruption.”