Posted by News Express | 19 February 2016 | 3,262 times
There is growing concern over the free-fall of the naira. Though the Federal Government pegs the official exchange rate at N197.5 to the dollar, it exchanged at N400 to the dollar at the parallel market yesterday as demand for the US currency increased amid a plunge in crude oil prices and foreign exchange restrictions by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
On January 11, the CBN announced exclusion of Bureau de Change (BDC) operators in its sale of foreign exchange (forex) as part of steps to arrest the slide.
CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, who made the announcement, urged the BDC operators to get forex from the autonomous sources.
He also announced the immediate relaxation of some of the apex bank’s foreign currency controls with the lifting of the ban on foreign currency cash deposits in commercial banks.
Since the introduction of the new forex policy by the CBN chief, the naira, which exchanged for N277 has continued to depreciate, hitting an all-time low of N391 to the dollar as at the close of business last night.
The CBN move was triggered by pressure from economic analysts, small businesses, manufacturers, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and politicians, including Senate President Bukola Saraki to tinker with the forex policy.
Not a few Nigerians, who expressed concern over the trend, yesterday, called on the Federal Government to arrest the drift.
Millions of jobs on the line
They include members of the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and a former Foreign Affairs Minister, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
The YUF warned that millions of jobs may be lost to the steady free-fall of the naira and the attendant rising inflation. It urged the authorities to act fast.
Noting that this year will particularly be challenging to the country and its citizens, the group urged President Muhammadu Buhari and other managers of the nation’s economy to put measures in place to arrest the situation and also restore investors’ confidence.
It’s new Chairman, Rev. Emmanuel Gbonigi, said in a remark at YUF’s general meeting at Efunyela Hall, at the Ogun State home of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in Ikenne, urged the government to diversify the economy by giving prime attention to agriculture.
The cleric also suggested the establishment of agro-allied industries to add value to farm produce.
Besides, he canvassed the development of the nation’s solid mineral sector and the resuscitation of ailing industries, particularly the textile industries to absorb millions of unemployed youths.
According to him, the textile industries, if revived, could, besides restoring lost jobs, also add tens of billions of naira to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Gbonigi said: “Year 2016 will certainly be very challenging for our country (Nigeria) and indeed for us (citizens). With the United States U.S. dollars exchanging in the parallel market for over N300 and foreign exchange difficult to obtain at the official rate by manufacturers, it is clear that the economy if not given the desired attention may begin to shrink and lead to massive job losses.
“Also very disturbing is the declining revenue accruing to all tiers of governments, and in particular, the states and local government areas as a result of the fall in the price of crude oil.
“Even with the bailout, many states are still unable to pay salaries as at when due, leading to the states owing their employees’ salaries for several months.
“Equally threatening to go spiral is the rising rate of inflation resulting from steady but unofficial devaluation of the naira.
“I therefore called on the managers of the Nigerian economy to act decisively by putting in place necessary measures to restore investors’ confidence in the economy and save the millions of jobs currently under threat.
“In this regard, the Forum recommends that the programme to diversify the economy of the nation should give prime position to agriculture and establishment of agro – allied industries to add value to our farm products.
“In addition, solid mineral development and the revamping of our ailing industries should also receive increased attention.
“I wish to single out the textile industry as an example of an industry which has the capacity of not only restoring in less than one year tens of thousands of jobs lost earlier in the century, but also add tens of billions of naira to the National Gross Domestic Product(GDP).”
•Adapted from reports in The Nation and BusinessDAY.
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