President Muhammdu Buhari today in Abuja during an interview with newspaper executive and editors to mark his administration one year in office has revealed his greatest shock when he discovered Nigeria had squander all foreign earning on importation of foods and other frivolous items like tooth picks.
Buhari said last year, when oil prices fell to $40 per barrel, he summoned Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)Godwin Emefiele and asked to see what it was that 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”.
“Nigeria became an oil economy and we left agriculture and solid minerals and everyone went to the city to look for oil money.”
On his opposition with regards to naira devaluation, he said when he was military Head of State in 1984-85, World Bank and International Monetary Fund [IMF] experts advised him to devalue the naira and remove subsidy on petrol and flour. He said even though they pressed him hard, he did neither of the two.
He said this was because 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.
Buhari further recalled: “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.”
Buhari disclosed that he believes in privatisation of state owned firms, as “It is much more efficient.”