Henry Boyo: Patriotic and Radical Economist
In his patriotic campaign to “Save the Naira” Mr. Henry Boyo had consistently challenged the illegal substitution of naira for payment of the statutory allocations to the three tiers of government by the Central Bank of Nigeria. After waging the campaign for about five years Mr. Boyo called me on phone, sometime in 2012, to book an appointment for a meeting in the company of his comrade, Mr. Adaighofua Ojomaikre. At the scheduled meeting both Messrs. Boyo and Ojomaikre spoke so convincingly of the need for our firm’s urgent intervention in the task of defending the national economy. At the end of the briefing, we agreed to commence public interest litigation anchored on section 162 (3) of the Nigerian Constitution which provides that "Any the amount standing to the Federation Account shall be distributed among the Federal and State Governments and Local Government Councils in each State on such terms and in such manner, as may be prescribed by the National Assembly."
Hence, in a suit, No FHC/L/388/2012 filed at the Federal High Court between Henry Boyo & Another v. Central Bank of Nigeria we sought a declaration that the revenue accruals from crude oil sold and collected by the Government of the Federation in foreign and local currencies shall be paid into the Federation The account in the original currency pursuant to Section 162 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. We also prayed for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Central Bank from substituting or changing the revenues paid into the Federation Account in foreign currencies to Naira in any manner whatsoever and howsoever. Not unexpectedly, the CBN questioned the locus standing of both plaintiffs to maintain the suit. After the case had suffered needless adjournments for 4 years we discontinued at the instance of the plaintiffs it so that the campaign could resume in Mr. Boyo’s weekly columns in the Punch, Vanguard, and Independent newspapers.
The suggestion paid off as a private member’s bill was sponsored, in 2016, by Senator Francis Alimikhena (APC Edo North) seeking to direct the Central Bank to issue dollar certificates to the three tiers of the Federal Government with respect to revenues earned in foreign currencies. The bill which was anchored in section 162 of the Constitution had scaled the second reading before the dissolution of the 8th session of the national assembly. A couple of months ago, I called Mr. Boyo to congratulate him when it was reported that the 36 state governors had unanimously demanded for payment of the monthly portions of fiscal allocations in the currency in which the revenue was earned to the respective states governments and local governments. Sensing that the Central Bank would kick against the legitimate demand Mr. Boyo had suggested to the governors to reinforce the legality of their demand “by resuscitating Senator Francis Alimikhena’s bill that has become spent in the Senate. It is hoped that the governors will follow Mr. Boyo’s advice and end the brazen violation of section 162 by the Central Bank.
Apart from the campaign to “Save the Naira” the late Henry Boyo and I collaborated in challenging the ruination of the national economy through the implementation of neo-liberal policies by the federal government led by both PDP/APC regimes. In particular, we had worked together to expose the monumental fraud in the importation of petroleum products by the federal government. Even though Mr. Boyo was not averse to the privatization of public enterprises if it was transparently carried out he understood my strident opposition to the sale of public assets by a few individuals. Notwithstanding our ideological differences over privatization we both agreed that the funding of privatized companies by the federal government with intervention funds running to hundreds of billions of naira from the public treasury was tantamount to obtaining public money by false pretenses, otherwise called 419.
Equally, Mr. Boyo saw no economic sense in the policy of sustaining private banks with bailout funds provided by the Central Bank. In particular, he had joined issue with the CBN management for illegally removing $7 billion from the nation’s foreign reserves in 2006 and distributing the same to 14 commercial banks at $500 million per bank. When I intervened in the debate two years ago, former CBN Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo pointed out that it was not a bailout but a fixed deposit. Based on my request for the recovery of the fund the Presidential Panel on Recovery of Public Property led by Chief Obono had demanded the refund of the money by the CBN. But following the recent dissolution of the Panel for embarrassing the pampered members of the ruling class Mr. Boyo and I had cause to review the matter a month before his transition to eternity.
On Mr. Boyo’s instructions, our law firm has requested the Asset Recovery department in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to recover the said sum of $7 billion. On November 8, 2019, I informed him that the House of Representatives had commenced an investigation into the CBN's $7 billion scandals. In acknowledging the receipt of my text message Mr. Boyo stated, "Good morning Femi, thank you for very much. I enjoyed reading this and it has made my day. Let's pray that the House members don't also chicken out, but at least we thank God that we are getting somewhere. Well done my brother." When I informed Mr. Boyo that the EFCC had recovered N72 billion from a private company that was pocketing about $200 million out of the annual sum of $400 million realized from the issuance of the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card collected on behalf of the Federal Government he sent another SMS wherein he said," Femi, this is EXCELLENT. I am concerned that the EFCC may ultimately chicken out! This ISSUE must be kept on the front burner. Poverty cannot be so deep when we are so blessed. As you struggle for other people's causes GOD will also have your back. AMEN."
But he breathed a sigh of relief when I sent him a copy of the originating processes in the case of Femi Falana v Minister of Interior & Ors instituted at the Federal High Court wherein I had challenged the legality of the deduction of the $200 million by the private company. When he read in the media that I had won the case two days before his sudden death Mr. Boyo called me on phone and must have prayed for me for not less than 5 minutes. He, therefore, advised that we should look for other areas of the criminal diversion of public funds to increase the revenue of the government so as to strengthen our moral capacity to mount pressure on public officers to address the man-made excruciating poverty to which the majority of our people have been sentenced.
In November 2015, I had begun a campaign for the amendment of the Deep Shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act (Cap D3, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. Apart from Mr. Boyo and Mr. Waziri Adio, the Executive Secretary of the National Extractive Industry and Transparency Initiative the only other Nigerian who supported the campaign is Dr. Tonye Jaja of the Nigerian Institute of Legislative Studies in Abuja. In addition to the campaign, I joined issues with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources for not collecting the outstanding huge royalties under the law. When the immediate past Minister of State, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu publicly admitted in August 2017 that the nation had lost $60 billion due to the failure of certain public officers to enforce the provisions of the law, Mr. Boyo’s joy knew no bounds as he passionately urged me not to relent in pursuing the matter. Of course, when the law was recently amended by the National Assembly Mr. Boyo lauded me to high heavens.
The last battle Mr. Boyo and I fought together pertain to the huge fund usually remitted to the country by millions of Nigerians in the Diaspora. We had challenged the Guideline of the Central Bank which has authorized Western Union, MoneyGram, and local banks to pay remittances to local beneficiaries in naira and at the exchange rate on the date of payment. Since the guideline contravenes the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Act and the Money Laundering Act I wrote a petition to the EFCC. In the petition, I alleged economic sabotage by banks that keep the dollar component of remittances abroad and thereby prevent the naira from appreciating against the dollar in Nigeria. I also alleged fraud and unlawful enrichment by banks that pay remittances at the official rate of N305 only to sell the same at N360 per dollar in the black market.
In the course of investigating the petition, the EFCC contacted Mr. Boyo who graciously offered an insight into the gargantuan fraud. Contrary to the accounts of the World Bank and the NBS that remittances in 2018 stood at $25 billion the CBN claimed that the fund was not more than $2.6 billion. In dismissing the claim of the CBN Mr. Boyo had informed the EFCC that the remittances in 1994 stood at $4.5 billion when there were fewer Nigerians in the Diaspora. He called me two days before his death to thank me for submitting the petition. I assured him that based on his informed contribution to the debate I would sue the CBN if the EFCC was not allowed to pursue the matter to a logical conclusion.
Being a very caring person Mr. Henry Boyo will be surely missed by members of his immediate family. Being an economist who consistently offered an alternative perspective to the neo-liberal economic policies and programs that have continued to increase poverty in the land Mr. Boyo will also be missed by the economically marginalized people of Nigeria. Having worked with him at close quarters I will personally miss him for his patriotic interventions in the public affairs of a nation that has frustrated citizen participation in governance. However, having regards to his life of useful service to the nation the greatest tribute that can be paid to the memory of Mr. Henry Boyo is for the Nigerian people to continue the struggle against the control of the national economy by imperialism and its local lackeys.
Femi Falana SAN, FCI Arb.
TRIBUTE TO LATE MR. HENRY BOYO
I served as the Chairman, Ikeja Branch of The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) from 2009 to 2013. Late Mr. Henry Boyo was a distinguished council member of the branch who became the Honorary Treasurer of the Branch in 2013 and continued till 2017. He was godly, meticulous, thorough, incisive, forthright, and convincing. He was never a yes man. He was a “no-nonsense” individual who could sometime be controversial. Whenever he took a position on any matter, he could hardly be swayed by whatever anyone else was saying; rather, he would hold tenaciously to his conviction and would care less whose ox is gored.
He was a crusader and an economist per excellent who contributed substantially to the discussions and debate on the value of the Naira vis-à-vis the U.S. Dollar. One of his slogans is SAVE NIGERIA, SAVE THE NAIRA.
May his gentle soul rest in peace at the bosom of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
REV. ISAAC A. AGOYE,
Former Chairman, Ikeja Branch of MAN,
Former Vice President (Lagos Zone) & Honorary National Treasurer of MAN
Currently Honorary National Treasurer of MAN.
BOYO: EXIT OF A CRUSADER FOR ECONOMIC RENAISSANCE
Published November 25, 2019
BY JOEL NWOKEOMA
“A library of financial matters is shut down” – Bob Etemiku
“Henry Boyo was the one we read to get a lay man’s interpretation of economic policies” – Khaleb Ogbonna
Sometime in December 2011, I was mandated by PUNCH editorial leadership to reach out to a certain columnist with a poetic pseudonym, Les Leba, and get him to write a weekly column on economic and financial matters for the newspaper. The column he wrote was aptly named, Rational Perspectives, devoted to dissecting and analysing the Nigerian economy with a self-imposed task for advocacy on “saving the naira”.
The proposed weekly column on the back page of The PUNCH, I was further asked to tell him, would entail unravelling the writer’s identity by revealing his real name and showing his face to our teeming readers in line with our editorial policy for the (back) page. Unknown to me and many Nigerians, the face behind the pen name was a popular analyst on the Nigerian economy and financial matters on national TV named Henry Boyo!
When I eventually contacted him via telephone on December 20, 2011, Boyo, who studied Economics at the University of London between 1971 and 1974, told me that unveiling his identity was a tough call. He preferred to remain “Les Leba” to the reading public. Eventually, in communicating his acceptance to write the column, dedicated primarily to economic analysis with emphasis on X-raying, in particular, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s monetary and fiscal policies and their impact on the welfare of Nigerians, Boyo, via an email he wrote to me the next day, expressed his gladness “to make regular contributions to your paper”. Sounding like a crusader is wont, he maintained that there was a nexus between “saving the naira and saving Nigerians from poverty” and that the latter’s attainment depended solely on the former. He was unequivocal in his belief that, “…the accommodation of my advocacy is the fundamental requirement for the turnaround of the economy. This might sound arrogant, but I don’t intend it to be so!”
Thus, Boyo set out what appeared to be the Holy Grail of his column: to defend the naira, and save Nigerians from what he perceived as the “failed” monetary authorities’ bizarre handling of the foreign exchange regime. A few years later, the Rational Perspectives, column was renamed, Economic Renaissance, when its day of publication was subsequently changed from Friday to Monday.
From the first draft of the column sent on December 21, 2011, Boyo’s ideological and philosophical standpoint on touchy national economic issues, especially the seemingly endless fuel subsidy conundrum, was not lost to the reader. He approximated a capitalist crusader moulded in the image of a humane and welfarist Marxist. In the pioneer article entitled, “The bogey of fuel subsidy”, Boyo insisted, in response to a self-imposed poser asking if there was any relationship between fuel subsidy and the naira exchange rate: “In reality, there will be no need for fuel subsidy if the CBN adopts a naira and people-friendly framework for infusing dollar component of monthly allocations into the economy.” This point he explained seamlessly in a question and answer format, which became the trademark of his writing style.
Tracing the origin of fuel subsidy in Nigeria, Boyo said, “If we cast our minds back, we will recognise that the bogey of fuel subsidy evolved from the dastardly blows to the naira and welfare of Nigerians by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s reckless devaluation of the naira in consonance with the IMF’s prescribed Structural Adjustment Programme in the late 1980s.”
He argued: “The reason for this inverse relationship between the naira value and fuel price is obvious: fuel prices, like most commodity prices, are denominated in dollars. Thus, if, for example, the international ex-refinery price of petrol is about 50 U.S. cents, then, our domestic price will be N75/litre (@ N150=$1) plus shipping/transport and clearing charges, plus reasonable profit margin for the importer.”
Arguably, that was the first time a newspaper columnist, not drawn from the Ivory Tower, could sound so magisterial and professorial. But, his was a ground-breaking, even though unpopular, intellectual adventure as he saw in the payment of dollar earnings to subnational units the silver bullet to Nigeria’s economic woes.
If his strident advocacy on the issue was revolutionary, his subsequent conclusion, read lamentation, was unmistakable: “…the naira value vis-à-vis the dollar is a significant determinant of the local price of fuel. Unfortunately, neither the media nor labour unions, nor indeed, government seems to recognise this reality! Consequently, Nigerians are misled into searching for solutions to fuel subsidy removal everywhere else but this one!”
This was how Boyo announced his arrival. And it became the central theme of his engaging weekly interventions on this page for eight years, until last Monday, leading to his winning, in 2013, the DAME award for Columnist of the Year and emerging the First Runner-up in the Informed Commentary category of the Nigerian Media Merit Award in 2017. To his credit, Boyo held on tenaciously to his convictions till his last day on earth, on Monday, November 18, as evidenced in the title of his column that day, Govs’ demand for dollar payments: The way forward, a follow-up to his earlier piece, Forex accruals: Finally, state govs remove their blinkers.
Boyo’s writings were as critical as they were prescriptive. In his column on September 30, 2019, entitled, Nigerian bank customers as beasts of burdens, which discussed “sporadic deductions from bank deposits”, Boyo wondered why “the CBN, as the prime regulator of the banking sector, has kept aloof and remained mute to the cries of tens of millions of bank customers for justice.” In the article, $26bn Diaspora remittances: Where are the dollars? (The PUNCH, September 9), he maintained that “the official strategy of deliberately sequestering Diaspora dollar inflow in overseas accounts, instead of the local forex market, is patently misguided and seriously injurious to our economy.”
Boyo, endowed with profound intellectual fecundity, was one analyst who spoke his mind. As a senior financial journalist enthused, “Boyo was never afraid to speak his truth…always saw another perspective to economic issues.” For instance, in a two-part essay in July, he likened the five-year plan of the CBN to “chasing shadows with a charmed audience!” At another time, he queried what became of the $7bn loan given to 14 banks by the CBN under Chukwuma Soludo and wondered if it was a “dash”! (See, The PUNCH, February 11, 2019). Reacting to the 2020 budget presented to the National Assembly by the President, in an interview in The Sun in October, he declared that, “It would be foolhardy to expect any meaningful impact” from the budget.
Aside from economic matters, Boyo leant his uncompromising voice to social issues like commending the Air Peace boss, Allen Onyema, for providing aircraft to evacuate distressed Nigerian victims of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, free of charge, (See, Onyema, Nigeria’s pride and apostle of peace, September 23, 2019); or condemning the government for its perceived indifference to the continued abduction by Boko Haram of Leah Sharibu, whom she likened to MKO Abiola because of her “unflinching adherence to her faith”. (See, Like MKO Abiola, like Leah Sharibu, June 10, 2019). I am aware that Boyo was so concerned about the plight of Leah that he toyed with the idea of spearheading a fundraising for her family’s upkeep with a seed offering.
Boyo, a Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Management, Chairman, Economic Policy & Intelligence Committee and Treasurer, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Ikeja branch, among other accomplishments, embodied the distinctive values of PUNCH through his fearless advocacy for the downtrodden and the weak, relentless but constructive criticisms against regulatory failure and institutional missteps. Nonetheless, he had a firm belief that “e go better”, an expression of his deep Christian faith and background.
In his death last Monday, at the age of 72, a voice for the poor has been stilled and a bulwark against corruption, policy instability and value disorientation has been forever sidelined. Never to holler again on the back page of The PUNCH every Monday. Surely, Boyo will be sorely missed by his numerous readers, The PUNCH and Nigerians at large.
Adieu, The Crusader!
TRIBUTE TO AN ERUDITE AND KIND HEARTED ICON
Sir Henry Olujimi Boyo was an erudite economist who portrayed an adorable picture of a "DIVINELY SENT MAN" overflowing with excellent measures of loving kindness.
He was someone with an uncommon selfless desire to help others around him even when it hurts.
Quite a good number of times I've been a beneficiary of his quintessential virtue of charity.
Sir Boyo will no doubt fit in well in the class of great icons like Nelson Mandela-proudly Methodist, Obafemi Awolowo-best President Nigeria never had and of course Mother Theresa who profoundly subscribe to the dictum that "a day lived without touching someone's live is a wasted day".
Perhaps Henry Boyo came here ahead of his time and maybe that's why all his ever flowing brilliant ideas to reposition his nation's economy in the right priorities for better living standard are often scorned by the ruling elite.
His last write up published in the Punch Newspaper and which he forwarded to me a couple of days before his passage was an interesting piece in its purest form.
To many, Henry Boyo was always something of a great enigma but to God, I believe he was a precious faithful servant who has made indelible marks in the sand of time leaving behind Rich legacies.
Good Night. Daddy Boyo
VERY REV'D OLUMIDE ALUKO
Presbyter, MCN OdoOna Circuit, Ibadan