Nwoko: FG Should Announce Naira as Only Legal Tender in Nigeria

Nwoko: FG Should Announce Naira as Only Legal Tender in Nigeria

A member of the National Assembly, Senator Ned Munir Nwoko, in this interview with Alex Enumah, Senator Nwoko discussed pressing national issues about the economy and security and highlighted his proposed motion and bill before the Red Chamber calling for the immediate prohibition of the use of foreign currencies in Nigeria.

he Naira, the nation’s currency, has continued to depreciate with new records daily since the administration of Bola Tinubu decided in 2023 to float the foreign exchange to enable its value to be determined by market forces. That policy alongside the removal of subsidy on premium motor spirit (fuel) has brought untold hardship not only to Nigerians living in the country but also to their children in foreign institutions across the globe. The hardship has resulted in daily protests in the streets of major cities in the federation, with the umbrella body of workers, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), threatening a showdown with the federal government.

While most Nigerians have called for the rescinding of the policy, arguing that nowhere in the world is the currency allowed to float freely without some mechanism for control, urging the government to go back to the country’s traditional way of managing the naira, a serving Senator in the 10th Assembly has however proffered a completely different view and solution to the issue, which he believes is not just the only way, but the most viable and effective way of not just overcoming the current economic challenges but clothing the naira with the much-needed value that would make it to be sought after globally.

Excerpts from the interview which also formed part of the motion/bill by Senator Nwoko, titled: “Urgent Call for Immediate Prohibition of the Use of Foreign Currencies in Nigeria” and “Bill for an Act to Alter the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007, to Provide for the Prohibition of Foreign Currency Payment for Remuneration and Matters Connected Therewith”.

On the call for prohibition of the use of foreign currency in Nigeria

The biggest problem we have today is the use of dollars, it is the dependency on the dollar, one of the arguments I always hear is oh America will not agree, so it’s either you serve America or you serve Nigeria, you can’t serve both. We keep talking about monetary policy and all that jargon, nothing is going to work until we decide to stop using dollars. Let me tell you how it will work, once it is announced that we will stop using dollars, the government should also make sure that every account in Nigeria is only in naira, so those who have domiciliary accounts today, automatically, don’t need anybody’s consent to convert to naira and at CBN’s rate and they will close those accounts immediately.

Then you will see the value of the naira coming up. Those who are hiding dollars would be given 48 hours to bring them out and get value for it, government will not ask any questions because those who are doing it are doing it legally, we are going to give them 48 hours to bring it out and deposit it and get the naira value. If you don’t do that within 36 hours, it will become illegal.

Once the use of the naira is announced as the only legal tender in Nigeria, every other currency becomes prohibited and it becomes a criminal offense for you to be seen with it, so the law will be put in place immediately, including something to the effect that any visitor coming to Nigeria will not be allowed to come into Nigeria with any foreign currency, if anybody is coming to Nigeria for business, for holiday or for whatever, they will have to go to Heathrow or any other airport to change dollar to naira or pounds to naira or euro to naira, which means that naira will be in demand in those countries for once. They will become aware that we have naira, now they don’t know.

Then we can also take it one step further, we are talking of oil sales in dollars, any sales of oil in Nigeria will also be done in naira, so if they want to buy crude oil in Nigeria they will have to look for naira, either they get it in Nigeria or London or any of the banks in New York or anywhere. This is the only solution to our current problem.

Need for return and domiciling of foreign reserve in Nigeria

We just came out of a meeting with some European Union members. At the meeting, I asked the one from Italy, do you use dollars in Italy, and he said no, it is not possible, I asked the one from Greece, and he said no, it is not possible. Do you know why? It is because they value their sovereignty, they value their independence, none of these countries have what they call foreign reserves, none. For us to have foreign reserves is an anomaly, it is an insult that Nigeria cannot manage our foreign reserves and we have to leave our money in a foreign land, it is a big insult and they don’t seem to understand it. That money you are building up to leave in a bank in America, in France, in the UK is being used by those countries for their people. The reserves we have in the UK and America are not just waiting for Nigeria for the balance of trade and what have you, they don’t understand that that money is being used every day to lend to those who are coming to build houses, acquire houses and buy cars or create employment for others at a manageable rate.

Capping of interest rate

At this point, I am not talking about APC or PDP but what can be done to stabilize our economy, our naira, and our people. Three things; once there is security and the government has the ball to say interest rate must be capped and then abolish the use of the dollars, then you are going to see more production locally, you are going to see more manufacturing locally and you are going to see less importation because, we don’t need a foreign reserve, we need the reserve at CBN. America has a reserve at the Bank of America, England has a reserve at the Bank of England, and so do many other civilized nations. The idea that you will leave your reserve in another man’s country, that is using it to trade is an insult for the current generation of Nigerians. You can imagine if we say we don’t want dollars anymore and then they bring back that value in naira…about 40-something billion dollars and put it into one or two, three, four or five banks and start to lend immediately to our young entrepreneurs with maximum interest of four percent, you will see a lot of difference in Nigeria. So, why is it only third-world countries that have foreign reserves in other countries? When we became independent, they said no we are giving you political independence but not economic independence, we still have to control you.

Some people will still argue about the balance of trade, what is the balance of trade? Balance of trade means nothing, whose trade are you trying to balance, they are the ones selling to us, we have nothing to sell. In a population of 200 million Nigerians, less than 10 thousand are importing things, and less than 10 thousand are importers, so because of these 10 thousand you are keeping money that belongs to all of us there, does it make sense? Africans are still treated like third class all over the world and until our economy begins to be independent, and compete with others, they will never respect us.

What the government can do

The president has to sit up, he has to lead, be strong, and tell Nigerians that the naira is going to become the sole currency in Nigeria and should not worry about what America would say or do. America will do nothing because our currency will become competitive, it will help our economy to grow, it will create jobs, and people will be able to buy houses, buy cars, invest, and do a lot of other things.

There are two burning national issues now; insecurity and the use of dollars. I have taken my position and I have no regrets. There are problems and there are also solutions, Mr. President might be too loyal to America to say I am not going to do this because it will affect you, the reality is this, if we stop using American or foreign currencies, America will not lose sleep because they have their money anyway and they know what to do.

But, we should be able to compete internationally, we are not doing that now, the naira is not usable anywhere in the world. but once he announces it the demand for the naira will make the naira have value.

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