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Menace Of Vote Buying In Nigeria

The Nigerian economy has hardly had it this bad in along time, with the inflationary rate as high as two digits and the naira value exchanging for as high as about N600 to one US Dollar at both the parallel and official markets.
The Nigerian naira’s spiraling fall against major currencies of the world like the Dollars (US), Pounds (British) and Euros (European Union) has been like this for the past months and weeks defying all attempts by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through its monetary policy framework, to arrest the slide. 
Foreign exchange is the major determinant factor for exchange value and other parameters like the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), manufacturing capacity utilisation, exports of the country to other countries to earn foreign exchange and general productivity of the economy, amongst others. We may ask, why this sudden turn of events or trend in our economy? 
Nigerians need foreign exchange for medical or health tourism. For instance, those going overseas for better medical treatment or referrals mainly because most of our health facilities are poor and inadequate. This category of people buy foreign exchange for their journey, lodging and upkeep, accommodation then, cost of actual treatment in the particular country. The expenses can be very exorbitant, running into hundreds of thousands in foreign currencies as countries like UAE, India, South Africa, USA, Germany and UK top the list. This was not the case hitherto. 
Another reason for the high demand for foreign exchange by Nigerians is for education tourism. Many Nigerian students are schooling in high schools, colleges and universities overseas, aiming for International G.C.E, first degree, diploma, masters and other post-graduate degrees. During admissions you need to see scouts or representatives from these foreign institutions who throng our schools and hotels trying to convince parents and students on why their institutions are the best choice.
These students need foreign exchange to pay for tuition, travel expenses, visa, accommodation/lodging and feeding, etc. Parents and guardians and students spend so much in foreign currency to meet up all these demands and requirements.
Another significant category of demands for foreign exchange comes from the manufacturing sector or organised private sector and the small and medium-scale enterprises or industries. They usually import spare parts and machineries from foreign countries or in some special cases like the conglomerates from their parent country for example, UAC, Unilever, PZ, P and G, etc. Then of course they import raw materials or additives for the manufacturing process in their various industries.
Lastly, the federal government through its ministries, departments and agencies buy foreign exchange for its own use, usually for importation of goods and services relevant for its day-to-day performance and operations.
Furthermore, there are other importers who use foreign exchange to import goods in the prohibitive lists of illegal and contraband items. All these put strain to the hard earned foreign exchange, seeing the enormous demand and need of a large developing nation for foreign exchange to run a burgeoning economy like ours. We, as a people, ought to be circumspect and do the needful. 
Be that as it may, the federal government, through the CBN has tried to plug loopholes in the operations of bureaux de change (BDCs) to check any sharp practices like speculations or hoarding of foreign exchange and making sure it sells forex to genuine buyers. Also, the CBN has intervened in its regular disbursements at interbank foreign exchange sales of foreign currency to ensure that priority is given to small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) and industries. This is to help shore up the local economy by building capacity for our local industries and increasing capacity utilisation for our manufacturing and productive sector. 
The federal government can do more through legislation and pragmatic steps by making sure its backward integration policy is not just taken as lip service. Agriculture must be seen to be run as a business venture or enterprise and export oriented for commercial purpose, not for subsistence or small farmer holding. It should be mechanised so that it can contribute to the gross domestic product. If this is done and Nigeria is self-sufficient in food production, then we can be said to be food secure — food security. 
With food security, inflation will go down, our economy would be robust, and we would have enough and even have for export to earn more foreign exchange that will go a long way in reducing the exchange rate of the naira to other major currencies of the world; thereby improving our balance of trade rating.
Again, if the manufacturing sector is upscaled and our industries are producing at full capacity, contributing their quota to the GDP by producing semi-processed and processed goods which are of better value for export, it will help diversify the economy and go a long way in generating more foreign exchange needed for the country’s overall development and help reduce the depreciation of the naira. 
Similarly, the SMEs should be better empowered and encouraged to be export-oriented and add value through special government schemes and programmes. All this is geared towards making them produce for export, to earn the scarce foreign exchange required for the country’s development. 
 Additionally, punitive measures should be meted out to erring BDCs who flout the CBN’s rules and regulations as regards buying and sales of foreign exchange. Also, the other financial institutions like commercial banks should be properly supervised and monitored to ensure strict adherence to laid down laws and regulations guiding forex trading and handling.  
Going forward, the naira will be able to withstand this slide if supply outwits the demand for forex and if our economy is rejigged as enunciated above by diversifying it — as well as attracting further foreign direct investment which will help improve and increase employment that will go a long way in boosting the economy by improving purchasing power of the average Nigerian which will, in turn, increase capacity for people to patronise goods and services.

By: Samson Ayooso

Ayooso, a public policy analyst, wrote from Port Harcourt.

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