If you’re a fan of the Arsenal Football Club who appear to be suffering bad fortunes in the Premier League this season, there is good news from the Central Bank of Nigeria. You can now improve your team’s score-line by attacking Livescores and sending ‘experts' to take down its site. This quick-fix which has eluded seasoned pundits is the ingenuity of none other than Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the Chief Treasurer of Nigeria and apparently also, the Clown-in-Chief.
Indeed, of all the inanities that have buffeted us in recent times as Nigerians, the CBN Governor’s declaration of war on abokiFX, an online platform that publishes aggregated currency exchange rates for reference purposes, takes the ball. It offers insight into how our leaders in the eco-political sphere think, and we must be concerned.
It does not take an economist to unravel the apparent improbability of a non-trading platform that merely publishes exchange rates publicly sourced as being responsible for the weakening of the naira. If it were so, abokiFX would only have to publish that the naira is now at par with the dollar for it to be so. The government would not have to fight the platform and its owners but partner with them in publishing favourable even if untrue naira to dollar exchange rates to magically cause it to be so in the currency market.
In this utopia, one would be free from contemplating the role an import-based economy plays in the valuation of a country’s currency; one would be free from worrying over the lop-sided chasing of dollars with naira, and be unmindful of our single-export based economy, being crude oil, whose value is decided by a global body and as such, outside the control of the Nigerian government. In that utopia, the role of fiscal policies by the government to shore up foreign reserves or scale up industry-based exports which would tip the scales of international valuation of the naira would be left out, completely ignored, and this, no doubt, are the synapses that jump around in the insulated mental world of our CBN Governor.
It is appalling that this is the mind and thinking of the man saddled with the nation’s treasury and reserves. Going after an online platform and its owner for merely publishing exchange rates is shadow chasing and fighting a non-factor in the strengthening or weakening of the naira. Surely, the CBN Governor with all his learning and exposure knows this. If this is so, then the real reason for the CBN’s attack on abokiFX and its owner must be because it considers its publishing to be embarrassing to the government and hopes that by bringing it down, they can save face.
In the grand scheme of things, this is consistent with this government’s approach to facts they find embarrassing and which are evidentiary of their failures or incompetence. And as such, the CBN is another successfully bastardised institution of state deployed to the purposes of regime protection as against its primary responsibility.
Given that the abysmal failure of the naira to perform favourably is a no-brainer, the CBN Governor’s delusion of authority in eviscerating the owner of abokifx, going as far as deigning to arbitrarily order his prosecution, must be tempered by the reminder that executive rascality will only condemn the naira to a further plunge. The CBN and its governor are, indeed, not laws onto themselves but are beholden of it and due process.
The attack on abokiFX and its owner, no matter how stubbornly sustained, will not save the naira from its embarrassingly free fall and, I predict that many other platforms will spring up in place of, or in solidarity with abokifx. Will the CBN attack all? Anyway, the average Nigerian does not need to visit an online platform to know that the naira is fast losing value. The black marketeers under the trees at Sheraton know, travellers and traders sourcing for scarce dollars know, and the general public who have to adjust to the tripling cost of household materials and commodities know. It is to these ones that the CBN Governor owes a duty, not to insulate government from reproach but to build a spine for the crippling naira.
Olajengbesi is a legal practitioner and the Principal Partner at Law Corridor Chambers, Nigeria.