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The fire brigade resolution by commercial banks to reject foreign currency deposits yielded result briefly early this week, with the Naira at some point appreciating to N210 to a Dollar. This was better than the N240 to a Dollar a week back. Speculative trading on the currency was temporarily slowed down by the action. This gain recorded by the nation’s currency was largely driven by excess Dollar supply in the market as people and businessmen could not save in their domiciliary accounts. However, this cosmetic and draconian measure crashed just a few days after.

By yesterday, the Naira had depreciated to N224 to a Dollar. Obviously, any economic action not built on a solid foundation and sound reasoning will always fail. How can deposit money banks suddenly stop their customers from putting money in their accounts? This is weird news coming out of our dear country. I consider this a breach of trust by the banks. It is akin to what we call bolekaja in Lagos. i.e. roforofo fight by desperate touts in motor parks.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele had earlier in the week said the “keep your Dollar at home” decision by the banks was not taken by the CBN, but that the apex bank was in support of the idea. I was convinced that the banks could not have unilaterally initiated such a draconian action. This is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are that of Esau. The banks were clearly bolstered by the CBN that has been fighting a losing battle with speculators and money launderers. My conviction was confirmed on August 5, when the CBN formally proscribed the acceptance of foreign cash deposits by commercials banks operating in the country.
A lot of lies have been flying around. Imagine the commercial lenders saying they stopped accepting Dollar deposits when their vaults were full and had no avenues of transferring the cash overseas? These banks are overwhelmed daily by international money transfer customers who are paid in Dollars. Sometimes, they will even tell such customers to come back due to shortage of the USD.

I hope we won’t get to the level where Nigerian banks will shut their doors for days as was the case in Greece a couple of weeks back; all in the name of trying to shore up the Naira. For me, this “keep your Dollars at home” measure aimed at strengthening the Naira is a fraudulent one. That was why Naira’s gain in the parallel market was short-lived. People will always find a way of circumventing steps like this one. The CBN should be more proactive in tackling the fundamental problem of the actual pricing of the Naira. Our currency can’t genuinely appreciate if industrial production remains low. It can’t appreciate if our source of revenue and forex remain largely crude oil. Our dear Naira can’t appreciate if we remain an import-dependent economy. Unfortunately, we still don’t have an economic team to work on these challenges. Our President is still on honeymoon, while Emefiele is left alone to carry the cross.
The actions and inactions of the Buhari regime have so far complicated the case of the Naira. For example, it was depressing knowing that President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the CBN to sell Dollars to Christians pilgrims at a concessionary rate of N160 to a Dollar. Muslim Pilgrims are also expected to get this concession. I still can’t understand why Buhari should subsidise pilgrimage, despite dwindling foreign exchange earnings and pressure on the Naira. By this action, the President has equally opened a window for corruption because people can buy at N160 to $1 and make a huge profit at the parallel market.
Again, so much cash is being pumped into the system to the detriment of the Naira. Over N1 trillion was shared in the May and June by all the tiers of government. There was also the N700 billion bailout fund shared last month. The CBN is getting set to release further N300 billion cash to profligate governors and N213 billion power fund. The economy is clearly awash with Naira. Also having a negative effect on the Naira is the problem of political uncertainty occasioned by the lack of cabinet.
Oshiomhole Gets Presidential Reward
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State who has spent the last two months raucously attacking former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and casting aspersions on the Goodluck Jonathan administration has finally been rewarded by the federal government. The emperor of Edo has been pestering Okonjo-Iweala to explain all manners of completely wild and unsupported figures, ranging from $30 billion, $20 billion, $2.1 billion, N720 billion and now $1 billion. Well, he got his reward on Tuesday with Buhari asking the National Assembly to approve for his regime, a $75 million (about N15.75 billion) credit facility from the World Bank. The bank had approved a Development Policy Programme (DPP) for $225 million (about N47.25 billion) for Edo in 2012 and the programme is to be implemented in three tranches of $75 million per annum.

The first tranche was approved by the National Assembly in 2012. Buhari’s letter said the DPP had since been successfully implemented by the state in 2014, and the bank’s board of executive directors approved the second tranche. What is now left is the endorsement of the federal government and the National Assembly to access the 2nd tranche. The emperor of Edo State has now jumped the Buhari hurdle, thanks to the “good job” he is doing for the regime. What I find funny in Buhari’s letter was the note that the key objectives of the DPP were already beginning to yield fruit in terms of increased influx of private investments into the state, increased private sector employment opportunities, and increased internally generated revenue. Haba! All these achieved in Edo State? I am sure that many in the state will be shocked by these assertions.
Corruption Allegations against Ibrahim Shema
Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State has been all over, shouting that his predecessor, Ibrahim Shema stole the state dry. Masari says he has “concrete evidence’’ to drag his predecessor, before the EFCC to recover the stolen funds. The figure Masari has been parading is frightening. He is alleging that Shema had misappropriated over N76.6 billion collected as excess crude oil allocation and diverted over N7.5 billion into his private pocket. He also alleged that Shema and other top government officials connived and faked used receipts to divert over N750 million earmarked for spending on drugs for local government councils.

The list of alleged atrocities is so long. Masari wants Shema to return the “loot”; else, he would be dragged before the EFCC. But, surprisingly, Shema has only responded saying that he was being blackmailed. This is not good for his image. Not providing facts and figures at this point in time to back his denials is dangerous. The nation is waiting to hear Shema’s story backed with facts. As for governor Masari, if you have your facts as claimed, please put them before the EFCC. There is no point showboating.

Governor Ikpeazu and the Ukasoanya Challenge
A  Peoples Democratic Party Board of Trustees member from Abia State, Chief Tony Ukasoanya has mentioned a frightening figure which he alleged that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu collects monthly as Security Vote. He puts it at “close to N1 billion”. This figure is apparently ridiculous. The second story in town on the issue is that Ikpeazu takes home N500 million monthly as security vote. The challenge now is for Ikpeazu to tell the good people of Abia State how much he collected in June and July as Security Vote. He must be transparent in this direction. Then, two, if Ikpeazu is really interested in developing Abia State as he claims, he must immediately stop this illegality called Security Vote and leave the ignominious club of governors who are duping their states through this illegality.

The Wisdom of Bishop Innocent Ordu
The recent statement of the Bishop of the Diocese of Evo, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Rt. Rev. Innocent Ordu on the lopsidedness of appointments so far made by the Buhari administration was instructive. Ordu, who spoke early this week in Port Harcourt at the 2nd Synod of the Diocese advised President Buhari to respect the principle of federal character in his appointments. He declared: “There is the temptation for Buhari to concentrate appointments on areas and persons who voted for him. This could be counter-productive. Ethnic, regional or religious biases must be avoided. Merit, competence and even-spread of positions should be considered first and foremost. Every Nigerian and groups of Nigerians are constitutionally at liberty to vote for any person or political party of their choice, even if that person or party ends up losing at the polls.
“That preference by an individual, ethnic group or geopolitical zone should not make them suffer marginalisation in the distribution of political offices, and other dividends of democracy to the various sections of the country. The people of the South-south and the South-east should not be vilified because of their voting pattern in the last general election as they did not commit any crime against the Nigerian state. They must not be made to stand by, and helplessly watch the other parts of the country scramble for key positions in the country just because they voted differently. Nigeria belongs to all of us and so key offices in the land must be equitably distributed.”
I hope and pray that our dear President will listen to these words of wisdom in the interest of our great nation. His appointments so far have indeed been lopsided in favour of the North. I pointed this out three weeks ago. He has to be sensitive to the political realities of Nigeria. Ours is a multi-religious, multi-cultural and intricate political set-up, with over 250 ethnic groups; evident ethno-religious gulfs, and sensitive geo-political zones.

All appointments must not insult these sensitivities. In this regard, I am again drawing the attention of Buhari to Section 14(1) of our constitution which states: “The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government, or in any of its agencies.”
Indeed, Section 8 of the third schedule of our constitution sets up the Federal Character Commission and it provides as follows: “In giving effect to the provisions of Section 14(3) and (4) of this constitution, the commission shall have the power to work out an equitable formula subject to the approval of the National Assembly for the distribution of all cadres of posts in the public service of the federation and of the states, the armed forces of the federation, the Nigeria Police Force, and other government security agencies, government owned companies and parastatals of the states.” This is the constitution Buhari has sworn to defend. He should do exactly this in his appointments.

Thisday