Kunle Aderinokun in Lagos and Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that Nigeria cannot afford to sell forex to parents seeking to fund their children education abroad. This president’s position on forex allocation for school fees of Nigerian students studying abroad was part of the interview Buhari granted to Aljazeera television during his trip to Qatar last weekend, which was posted on the TV’s website sunday.
Buhari said his position on the forex allocation issue followed a discovery that the high demand for forex by parents of the students studying abroad to pay their wards’ tuition fees had been putting unnecessary pressure on the Naira, which in turn affects Nigerian economy.
Convinced that the practice is responsible for the current free fall of the currency, Buhari said the country could no longer continue to sell dollars to parents to sponsor their wards in schools abroad. He, however, said any parent who could afford forex outside of the official window could go ahead.
According to him, “those who can afford foreign education for their children can go ahead but Nigeria cannot afford to allocate foreign exchange for those who decide to train their children outside the country. We can’t just afford it. That is the true situation we are in.”
The president also frowned on those who received foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) to buy pharmaceutical products abroad but divert same to make more profits.
He said the culprits would be pursued, arrested and prosecuted.
“Anybody who is given dollars by the CBN to import pharmaceuticals and decides to go and sell at parallel market in order to make, maybe additional N100, we will pursue them and punish them”, the president vowed.
Speaking on the state of economy and the pressure to devalue the Naira , president Buhari stated that Nigeria was prepared to go against the advice of the International Monetary Fund( IMF) in that regard.
He maintained that the devaluation of the Naira would not be beneficial to Nigeria, saying the country was purely an import nation.
With some analysts and foreign institutions, including from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), calling on the Federal Government to devalue the naira, Buhari said he will not reconsider his insistence on freezing the currency. Buhari said as Nigeria “virtually imports everything, from rice to toothpicks”, it cannot afford to devalue its currency.”If it is against our national interest, why can’t we go against the IMF advice?” Buhari asks.
He also stated that despite the plummeting crude oil prices in the international market, it would benefit Nigeria to remain in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
“Under my leadership, Nigeria will not withdraw from OPEC. Between 1976 and 1979, I served as petroleum minister, I very much value the institution of OPEC and I think Nigeria will make the necessary sacrifice remaining in OPEC.”
Buhari’s election campaign rode on pledges to root out corruption and quash the armed group, Boko Haram. Yet, Boko Haram remains active in many areas of Nigeria, seemingly able to strike at will.
And many questions are being asked about whether Buhari’s anti-corruption drive is yielding results and if newer forms of corruption are emerging with a freeze on the naira.
The president essentially spoke about his campaign against graft and the fight against Boko Haram.
Asked to comment on the anti-terrorism war, the president heaved a sigh of relief that no local government area of Nigeria was under the control of the Boko Haram insurgents as was the case when he assumed office in May 2015.
Buhari also spoke against the agitation by separatist groups. He specifically stated that Nigeria will not tolerate the state of Biafra. According to him, over two million lives were lost during the Nigeria civil war between 1967 to 1970 on the demand of a Biafran state.
The president, who spoke against the backdrop of the renewed agitation for the actualisation of the Republic of Biafra, said: “At least two million Nigerians were killed in the Biafra war. And for somebody to wake up, may be they weren’t born, looking for Biafra after two million people were killed, they are joking with the security (of Nigeria) and Nigeria won’t tolerate Biafra.”