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Navigating forex volatility in Nigeria

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By Abraham Adekunle

Unravelling the journey of dedollarising the economy of the country.

Amidst a myriad of challenges, Nigeria finds itself navigating through the turbulent waters of forex market volatility. The confluence of reduced forex inflow stemming from declining oil production and heightened demand for foreign exchange, particularly for tuition fees and medical tourism, has spurred a phenomenon known as “dollarization“, exerting downward pressure on the Naira’s value. Revelations emerging from the recent Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Monetary Policy Committee meeting have sent shockwaves across the financial landscape.

Governor Olayemi Cardoso disclosed staggering figures, revealing that a whopping $26 billion in untraceable funds had coursed through Binance Nigeria Ltd in the past year alone. Such revelations, coupled with reports of unethical practices in the forex market by banks and select bureau de change (BDCs), along with the manipulation of exchange rates by certain individuals, have posed significant obstacles to the CBN’s pursuit of price stability. Faced with a severe foreign exchange crisis, Nigeria stands at a critical juncture, grappling with the imperative to rein in arbitrage and speculation within its financial ecosystem.

Crypto rollercoaster, a reflection of Nigeria’s forex struggles.

The CBN’s rollercoaster ride with cryptocurrency regulation epitomizes the complexities inherent in addressing the nation’s forex challenges. While the apex bank initially clamped down on cryptocurrencies in February 2021, citing concerns of regulatory oversight and financial stability, it subsequently reversed its stance in December 2023. This policy reversal, reflected in circular FPR/DIR/PUB/CIR/002/003, underscores evolving global trends recognizing the imperative of regulating virtual asset service providers (VASPs), including cryptocurrencies and crypto assets.

Recent disclosures from the CBN governor, compounded by the indictment and subsequent guilty plea of Changpeng Zhao, former CEO of Binance Holdings Limited, corroborate the CBN’s stance on cryptocurrencies, lending credence to its previous ban. The Naira’s downward spiral to an all-time low exchange rate of ₦1,900/$1 underscores the ramifications of broader economic reforms, including fuel subsidy removal and the adoption of a harmonized exchange rate, spearheaded by the current administration. Yet, beyond external factors, the depreciation of the Naira is also symptomatic of deep-rooted issues within Nigeria’s economic landscape.

Steps fuel naira devaluation and calls for dedollarisation grow.

Dollarisation, perpetuated by the Nigerian elite, has further exacerbated the currency’s devaluation. State governors, flouting legal tender laws, opt to convert their monthly FAAC allocations into foreign currencies, while the proliferation of dollar transactions for various domestic activities have become alarmingly commonplace. Furthermore, the nation’s neglect of economic diversification, coupled with an insatiable appetite for foreign imports over local alternatives, has further compounded the forex woes. In response to these challenges, Senator Ned Nwoko’s impassioned plea for dedollarisation rings as a clarion call. Despite potential political ramifications, Senator Nwoko’s advocacy underscores the urgent need for concerted action to curb the nation’s over reliance on foreign currencies.

However, addressing Nigeria’s forex conundrum necessitates a multifaceted approach. While commendable efforts by security agencies in apprehending currency traffickers warrant praise, the onus lies on policymakers to lend unwavering support to the CBN in its battle against forex malpractices. As Nigeria charts its course towards dedollarisation, it finds itself at a pivotal juncture, echoing the sentiments of other African nations seeking greater economic autonomy. The recent ban on the American dollar for international transactions by Egypt underscores a broader global trend towards financial sovereignty. In embracing dedollarisation, Nigeria not only fortifies its economic resilience but also charts a course towards sustainable growth and prosperity.

Related Article: $39.6bn spent abroad caused forex crisis – CBN

In all, Nigeria’s journey towards dedollarisation amidst forex market volatility is fraught with challenges yet brimming with opportunities. While the nation grapples with the complexities of its economic landscape, concerted efforts from policymakers, regulatory bodies, and stakeholders are imperative to steer the country towards greater financial resilience and independence. By addressing the root causes of forex instability, curbing dollarisation, and fostering economic diversification, Nigeria can lay the foundation for sustained growth and prosperity. Embracing the principles of dedollarisation not only safeguards the nation’s currency but also paves the way for a more robust and self-reliant economy in the years to come.

Related Link

Central Bank of Nigeria: Website

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