<div style=NIGERIANS FOR EXPORT - 14062021
" >






Sir Henry Olujimi Boyo (Les Leba),

first published in January 2006

INTRO: The article republished last week titled “Time to Break the Self-Inflicted Yoke of Poverty”, was a follow up to a 4-part series titled “Dollar Certificates Will Banish Chronic Poverty”, which was also republished last month. The former discussed the effects of employing poor economic frameworks that only keep us shackled as a nation. If you missed this article and/the 4-part series, they can be found using the link below.

Today’s article was initially published in the year 2006 and is being republished to emphasize that the path Nigeria finds itself, can be likened to a downward sloping curve as we are much worse off than ever before. The article gives an overview of our nation's political economy and the mismanagement that occurred after the withdrawal of the imperial powers. It discusses how life increasingly became burdensome for the average citizen as a result of naira devaluation as the cost of living began to skyrocket, businesses struggled to operate, and unemployment rates began to rise. A situation that led us into an ongoing cycle of brain drain, as youth continue to look for greener pastures elsewhere often ending up as third-class citizens in other countries. As you read this article, keep in mind its initial publication year (2006) when you come across rates that do not align with our current reality, yet so many years ahead, the same issues have to be discussed.

(See www.betternaijanow.com for this series and more articles by the Late Sir Henry Boyo)

The infamous transatlantic slave trade, which was formally abolished in most parts of Europe in the 19th century, persisted in one guise or the other into the early part of the 20th century. Before the abolition, the trade-in Africans formed part of the triangular trade, with merchants’ vessels departing Europe laden with spirits, metallic ornaments, manila and other such irrelevances for sale to African Chiefs, who paid for these wares with slaves captured from ethnic wars and slave raids.

The European merchants’ vessels were subsequently refitted into slave ships on the African Coast and the need to maximize profit meant that the African slaves were tightly packed like sardines, and with barely, enough food and water to keep them alive throughout the journey from the Coasts of Africa to the cotton and sugarcane plantations of the West Indies and the Americas from where, once again, the vessels were refitted and laden with sugar and other semi-processed agricultural materials for the burgeoning factories of Europe; thus completing a triangular itinerary, which brought tales of woe to Africans but sustained agricultural and industrial development and growth in Europe and America.

The slave trade, while it lasted, snatched away the most healthy and strong African youths from their families and roots, and created instability and halted economic and social development in most parts of Africa, including, of course, Nigeria! Local community leaders who attempted to oppose this one-sided balance of trade were quickly dealt with, with superior firepower! The exile of Nana, the Itsekiri merchant prince and Jaja of Opobo were two examples of the high-handedness of the foreign slave traders, who later transformed to oil merchants and set the foundation for eventual formal colonization of most of Africa.

The triangular trade was a win, win and win situation for the European interests, who derived huge profits from each leg of their trip, but the wounds that were inflicted on the African psyche are yet to heal. This inequity was politically consciously sustained throughout the colonial period between 1850 &1950; (dispel the thought that the motivation of the colonialist was altruistic!) Indeed, soon after the optical withdrawal of the imperial powers, the consciously skewed political and economic frameworks left behind soon gave way to anarchy and stagnation in the political economy of the erstwhile colonies, with the related depreciation of their currencies and the consequent loss of value of purchasing power.

In most of Africa, the stronger than parity rates with the dollar has depreciated almost beyond belief, with the cedi in Ghana, for example, changing from over 9000 cedis to a dollar; the naira at almost N130 and the Kenyan shillings at almost 70 shillings since independence. The increasing impact of poverty in most African countries is evident and palpable enough, but the effect of currency depreciation is not always quickly recognized. When a currency depreciates from parity and exchanges at over 100 units to a dollar, the implication is that, if you earned N10,000 per annum in 1980, your income will give you the value of whatever $10,000 would buy anywhere in the world. However, when the naira depreciates to N100 = $1, that means that for you to maintain a steady life standard, you would need to earn at least N1,000,000. Wages, however, never rise that geometrically, and you may have no choice than to cut your standard of living by scaling down your demands; in this manner, a once affluent family with a stable and comfortable standard of living can be shot down to the pits of poverty in a very short while. On the other hand, the 24 hours limit in a day and the human inability to recreate a double or triple of oneself to bring in additional income to supplement the ravages of depreciation will remain serious obstacles to the maintenance of the same living standards as when our currency was 1:1 to the dollar. This dismal reality has led to an exodus of our best brains and skilled compatriots to greener pastures in Europe and America, where the value of income for their labour remains adequate for some dignity in lifestyle, even if these expatriate Nigerians are regarded as second- or third-class citizens by their hosts, and even if they have to do those jobs that their hosts’ population would normally turn down. The unemployment situation in the erstwhile colonies has become so critical that the best and sometimes the ‘worst’ of our youth who cannot immigrate legally, now steal, beg or borrow to raise enough money to make the land journey through the jungle and deserts and finally in rickety canoes to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

Regrettably, only a few strong, tenacious and lucky ones succeed; many others die on the way, or at best languish in jails and detention centres in hostile African countries in their search for the almighty foreign currency. The scenario is reminiscent of the slave trade era, except that no one is being forcibly removed from home; our own children now decide themselves that it is better to face the risk of death on the perilous journey to Dollarland or Euroland than to remain jobless or earn an income that is insufficient as a living wage for an honest day’s work! Whereas Nigerians who studied abroad hurried to come back home in the past after graduation, today, Nigerian youths abroad do not have any motivation to return home! Interestingly, the current administration has now decided to officially formally streamline the supply end of the export market for Nigerian labour so that income from this source would support the drive for a 10% growth in the Nigerian economy in 2006 and thereafter; though the Finance Minister and Mr President were unable to give flesh to the arrangement for the takeoff of this scheme at the stakeholders meeting for newly consolidated banks last week; in any event, it is unlikely that any firm protocol can be established with host economies within the next 12 months, especially as it touches the sensitive issue of race immigration. The host countries for African labour are loud in professing international trade liberalization so that African countries can open up their markets for dumping, but they are not known to be strong advocates of free labour migration! It is unlikely that all potential emigrants can be accommodated within such a scheme and Nigerian youths will continue to risk their lives in attempts to enter Europe and the Americas illegally to offer themselves any kind of work without attendant social rights and benefits! The above notwithstanding, truly concerned Nigerians believe that an unchecked exodus of our best brains and skilled workers can only lead eventually to greater underdevelopment of our country and poverty for our people despite the expected income via Western Union and further blows to our self-esteem.

A more positive approach, they argue, is the revitalization of our economy so that workers can get better value for the naira they earn. This, however, can only be achieved with an enabling environment with a commercial interest rate below 10%, a much stronger exchange rate of not more than N20/$1 and inflation rates of below 5% as in focused economies! Fortunately, these will all be possible when the CBN stops changing the nation’s dollar earnings each month before sharing and adopting instead the instrument of dollar certificates for this purpose.

Save the Naira, Save Nigeria!