BY AUGUSTINE EHIKIOYA
President Muhammadu Buhari has said he is yet to be convinced that Nigerians will benefit from an official devaluation of the Naira.
He spoke on Wednesday at an interactive meeting with Nigerians living in Nairobi, Kenya.
President Buhari, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, maintained that while export-driven economies could benefit from devaluation of their currencies, devaluation will only result in further inflation and hardship for the poor and middle class in Nigeria’s import-dependent economy.
He said he had no intention of bringing further hardship on the country’s poor who, he said, have suffered enough.
Likening devaluation of the Naira to having it “killed”, President Buhari said the proponents of devaluation will have to work harder to convince him that ordinary Nigerians will gain anything from it.
The President also rejected suggestions that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should resume the sale of foreign exchange to Bureaux de Change (BDCs), saying that the bureau de change business has become a scam and a drain on the economy.
“We had just 74 of the bureaux in 2005, now they have grown to about 2,800,” President Buhari noted.
He alleged that some bank and government officials used surrogates to run the BDCs and prosper at public expense by obtaining foreign exchange from the government at official rates and selling it at much higher rates.
The President said: “We will use our foreign exchange for industry, spare parts and the development of needed infrastructure.
“We don’t have the dollars to give to the BDCs. Let them go and get it from wherever they can, other than the Central Bank,” President Buhari told the gathering.
The President reaffirmed his conviction that about a third of petroleum subsidy payments under the previous administration was bogus.
“They just stamped papers and collected our foreign exchange,” he said.
The President urged Nigerians studying abroad to bear with his administration as it strives to address the challenges they are facing as a result of new foreign exchange measures.
He is optimistic that the economy will stabilise soon with the efficient implementation of measures and policies that have been introduced by his administration.
The President said that for peace to reign in the world, the global community must develop and implement comprehensive and coordinated counter-extremism strategies at sub-regional, regional and continental levels.
He spoke during the opening of bilateral talks between Nigeria and Kenya. He said radicalisation and violent extremism were taking root across Africa and must be tackled head-on and with brand new strategies.
His words: “The threat posed to national, regional and global peace and security by terrorists has taken an alarming dimension in recent times.
“In Nigeria, Boko Haram has caused havoc, especially in the Northeastern part of the country – killing, maiming, destroying livelihoods and displacing hapless citizens, majority of who are women and children.
“In Kenya, you also face terrorist challenges. Similarly, Iraq and Syria are facing their own brand of terrorism which has thrown the entire Middle East into turmoil. Terrorism does not respect religion, creed, race or national boundaries. No country is safe from the menace.
“This is why the entire global community must work in a concerted manner, particularly in areas of sharing intelligence and pooling resources and finance, to confront the scourge. Our armed forces and security services should also be adequately supported and well-motivated to fight terrorism.
“It is worth emphasising that terrorists are continually changing tactics, building alliances, merging and generally getting more sophisticated, all in an attempt to build their capacity to inflict pain and misery on societies.
“To win the war on terror, therefore, we must respond to this phenomenon by developing new and versatile strategies. Together with our allies, Nigeria and Kenya can successfully tackle these challenges that have traumatised and brought untold suffering to our people.”
At the Nigeria–Kenya Business Forum, President Buhari expressed the confidence that the Nigeria-Kenya Business Council and the Kenya-Nigeria Agribusiness Forum will serve as platforms for the promotion of intra-African trade.
The two countries plan to launch five-year business visas for business people operating in both countries to allow ease of doing business.
While signing various bilateral trade agreements in Nairobi, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Buhari committed themselves to removing barriers to trade between the two countries.
They pledged to jointly fight corruption and insecurity in a bid to strengthen trade ties between the East and West African nations.
Kenya also announced that it will host the inaugural Kenya – Nigeria Joint Commission for cooperation later this year.
Kenya and Nigeria began the process of reviving investment and trade agreements signed eight months ago.
The two countries are keen on establishing a joint commission for cooperation aimed at boosting ties in trade, tourism, security, agriculture and energy.
Kenyatta said: ”The streaming of immigration issues, particularly the issuance of the five-year visas for our businessmen, will invigorate our trade and business ties, the Kenya-Nigeria joint trade commission for cooperation remains an important implementation and monitoring mechanism for the agreements that our two countries have signed.”
Buhari and Kenyatta pledged to cooperate in the war against terrorism and corruption.
Both countries are battling the threat of terrorism within their borders, Nigeria from Boko Haram and Kenya from the Al Qaeda-linked militant group Al Shabab.
Kenya has recently discovered oil in the North of the country and is seeking expertise from Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, which Buhari pledged to give.
Buhari said: “We congratulate Kenya for discovering oil and gas. There we believe with indigenous technology from Nigeria we will be able to help. In other areas we are going to benefit from agriculture in Kenya.”
Official figures indicate that trade between Kenya and Nigeria stood at $190million in 2013.