•Why Naira will continue to fall against dollar
By Ishola Balogun
Olusegun Oyegbami, an economist, oil industry player and author of ‘Reversing the Rot in Nigeria’, in this interview explains how Nigeria slipped into economic recession and the anti-corruption war of this administration among other national issues.
The efforts towards rescuing the naira seems to have defied all logic under this administration, as an economist, what is your take on this?
The Naira is officially a confused currency amongst others today, because nobody knows the actual exchange rate. One thing I want to state here emphatically is that at any time you have a dual exchange rate for any currency, it is an invitation to fraud. In Nigeria today, we have minimum of treble or quadruple exchange rates. It is very corruptible and fraudulent, it is very wrong.
At any point in time there must be only one exchange rate, anytime a government has more than this, that government is fraudulent. On this issue of currency, I can say this Buhari’s government is most fraudulent government ever, because we have exchange rate now ranking between 197 and 480.
Look at that! It means some people can quickly commit fraud, if they want to manipulate the system they can actually collect the dollars at 197 and sell at close to 480, so we are just going deeper and deeper into corruption and it is most unfortunate that this government is the one that is supposed to be fighting corruption. But what this government is doing today is barking against corruption and grandstanding against corruption.
Again, the idea of devaluation of currency is to find a sensible realistic rate for your foreign exchange rate. So, there is no reason to question or argue over it if we should devalue or not. Just find the exchange rate that you can provide the dollar at any point in time against it. In any reasonable or developed economy of the world, there is always exchange rate that goes up and down by probably 0.1% and at worst 0.3%, and that is how exchange rate should float.
But when you now say you are fixing exchange rate for different categories of people, a rate for people bringing things in for government (N350), different from sourcing for it privately which is (N470), and for going on pilgrimage (N197), it is corruption incorporated.
There should always be one exchange rate in any honest economy and Nigeria economy since we started PEF has not been a honest economy. It’s quite unfortunate, we have Ph.D holders in economics all over the country, I challenge them to read my book and see where they have been running contrary to the dictates of their calling. You can’t have Ph.D in Economics in Nigeria and we are running the economy the same way we are running it in Nigeria.
What do you think actually went wrong that led us to where we are today?
The over dependence on oil has actually led us into this situation we are in. Before discovery of oil, agriculture happened to be the mainstay of Nigerian economy, and it was providing employment for the teeming population of Nigerians. But when oil was discovered, we forgot about agriculture.
We have also been running the oil industry in a fraudulent manner, manipulating everything even till today. For now, we are just deceiving ourselves on the fight against corruption. The malaise is still very much ongoing in all spheres of the economy. That is one of the inspirations for writing a book on ‘Reversing the Rot in Nigeria’ to make a turn around to rationality and sanity. It is only when we do that, that we can improve on the economy.
What are your suggestions on how to right the wrongs now?
What we can do is to run the economy on the template of honesty. What has been happening all along is that we claim to be marketing petroleum products but in actual fact allocating petroleum products to different sections of the country. That should not have happened. We should have allowed market forces to let the product flow round the country. If that had happened we will not be in the current state.
We don’t even know how much petrol we are really using as a country, because when you use the country’s money to send petrol to every part of the country, so that you are trying to maintain equal price, you are encouraging smuggling out of Nigeria and that will not allow you to know how much of fuel the country really needs to run the economy. People who are ruling Nigeria today are going to different parts of the world and they see how their governments used their common sense for material advancement of their society.
Look at the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, we have been trying to expand it and construct it to modern standard for probably more than 15 years now, I am sure with the way they are going, in another ten years we might not have completed that road because there are still long stretches that have never been touched at all. This is disgraceful. National award is meaningless in Nigeria today because you cannot give what you don’t have. The politicians are not making the country honourable so why are we calling some people honourables, why are you calling some people Grand Commander of the Order of Niger? I will not take an award from Nigeria.