With barely 2 days to Democracy Day, President Muhammdu Buhari has opened up on his biggest shock since assuming the supreme position of Nigeria in May 29, 2015.
Speaking on Thursday in Abuja to editors and newspaper executives in a brief interview to mark the administration’s first year in office, Buhari said his biggest shock as President was the realisation 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.
Rattled by the unfolding development, President Buhari said he had to summon the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] Godwin Emefiele to know what Nigerians were buying with foreign exchange, upon realisation that oil prices had fell to $40 per barrel.
He said to his greatest shock, he found that most of the imports were food items.
His words: “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.”
Speaking on his opposition as regards to naira devaluation, Buhari 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 benefited from currency devaluation were developed countries that produced more products after devaluation and were able to export more because their goods became more competitive.
He continued: “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.”