President Muhammadu Buhari said the biggest shock he has had in his one year in office was the realization that Nigeria had over the years squandered all its precious foreign exchange on the importation of food items and other frivolous items including tooth picks. Speaking to Daily Trust in brief interview to mark his administration’s first year in office, Buhari said when the price of oil fell to $40 per barrel last year, he summoned the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele and asked to see what Nigerians were buying with foreign exchange.
He said: “Up to 2013 we were earning on average over $100 per barrel from oil but by fabulous coincidence, it went down to about $30 per barrel when we came in. There was no money to import food. For me it was the biggest shock.” The president said everyone abandoned agriculture and solid minerals and went to the city to look for oil money. On the issue of devaluing the naira, Buhari said countries that benefitted from currency devaluation were developed countries that produced more products after devaluation and were able to export more because their goods became more competitive. “When I was removed (as military Head of State) in 1985 the dollar was one naira fifty kobo. Now naira is 350 to the dollar. Tell me the benefits we derived from that. How many factories were built in those years? Economists are not able to explain this to me. I am still waiting for economists to tell me why we should continue to devalue the naira. However, I don’t rule the country alone, so we must accommodate the economists,” he said.
The president who said he believed in the privatisation of state owned firms noted that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s four oil refineries must be revitalised before they can be sold because he will not agree to sell them as scrap.
He said: “Should we sell them as scrap? We cannot spend so much of our national resources to develop infrastructure and then sell them a scrap. We must first take into consideration our state of development. We must repair them first so we can negotiate with the buyers from a position of strength.” As Buhari marks his first anniversary in office on May 29, Femi Gbajabiamila, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, said it would be premature to assess his administration’s performance. According to him, any assessment of Buhari could change in the next one or two years.
– President Buhari has expressed shock over how Nigeria squandered all its foreign exchange on the importation of food items
– He lamented that Nigerians abandoned agriculture and solid minerals while concentrating on oil only
– Speaking about his opposition to naira devaluation, he said countries that benefitted from currency devaluation were developed countries