CBN Forex Policy: another war against legitimate enterprise

For many in Nigeria, living abroad is synonymous with wealth and affluence. But just like the coin, there is always the other side of dwelling abroad. Hardly do people talk of the other side. That other side is indeed what paints the real picture. The side most talked about is more of the facade.

The other side is a life of struggle to guarantee livelihoods, both abroad and back home. While many make money abroad to support families back home, others use living abroad as a two-way-street to make ends meet. By and large, there are millions of Nigerians that survive on the growing population of diaspora citizens.

Many Nigerians I know, living abroad, including myself rely on commodity trade to keep body and soul together. If it does not feature as a main source of income, it comes in handy to defray the high cost of living or a way to keep friends and family members back home engaged in one business or the other instead of them expecting and depending on handouts from you.

In my case, instead of facing the constant pressure of monetary demands from relatives, money I don’t have, I rather send some goods for a relative to sale, while I make less than 20 percent out of the sale, the relative earns double or triple of that amount in profit after sales. They deposit the amount, making up your capital and the marginal profit in your Naira Account in Nigeria.

With your debit card, you’re able to access that sum and commit it to further the direction of enterprise you desire. Nothing is simpler and more engaging, even dignifying than this. For many in the Diaspora, including myself, it saves a great deal of hassle. You send goods to a few friends and relatives, turn them into small time entrepreneurs. Those that repay stay in the trade, defaulters that fail to remit monies into your account are out. And that means, they will never constitute a nuisance to you anymore.

This is the outline of how am able to keep my family going. Not only am I able to handle my bills, it helps to put a little smile on the faces of many in Abuja, Kano, Jos, Maiduguri and Adamawa, where my customers are based. Also, once or twice a month there are clients who are rich enough to pay their way to Dubai but do not wish to.

With a simple WhatsApp message you are assigned to task: They offer the equivalent in US dollar of their return tickets to you in return for sourcing goods for them, purchasing, and ferrying the goods back to Nigeria on their behalf. The profit is multi-faceted for me. First its the cost of their air tickets for your service, the shop owners in Dubai also give you between 5% to 10% after purchase, and you generate a commission from the cargo to Nigeria.

The more reliable you are, the more clients you get back home, from one or two it grows into a handful. This was my line of principal business engagement before the policy of stifling everyone of foreign exchange by the government in Nigeria. As a journalist, I didn’t need a lecture to know that Nigeria is more of a trading nation than anything else. Her citizens are all over the continents of the world engaged in limited or extensive trading.

I am not an economist, this fact ought to be obvious to anyone. And my simplest of expectations from any government in Nigeria is to leverage on this reality to build the national economy as well as empower its teeming population. But alas, what you get is a most unthinkable of policies. Shut down every avenue of legitimate enterprise by your citizens and keep an ignoble straight face in shoving your citizens to the precipice of desperation.

The thought of returning to the newsroom in Nigeria and placing my future in the hands of platforms that have made records of unfulfilled obligations to personnel is not an option. And this is even when I decide not to factor the escalating threats to my life arising from the stories I did on activities of the Islamic State affiliate in Nigeria. The activities of insurgents were not the only stories I focused on. I reported on the environment as well. But because most of my stories revealed failings by constituted authorities, I was regularly put at cross with authorities.

The situation had so degenerated that my family was practically living a nightmare. Arising from these, I had to run for dear life. Essentially, this is why I find myself today in a foreign land. So, has the situation changed as to warrant a return with my family. Not in anyway. In fact, as a way of remaining anonymous I had committed time and resources into my trading to keep me out of media traffic. To make the best of the opportunities in a society as organized as here, you do not need the trail of unnecessary controversy.

Journalism, nevertheless, is not a total waste. It was the little goodwill I earned in that profession that I deployed in business. All over the organized world people are in need of integrity. Nigerians have earned the reputation of being in deficiency, generally, of integrity. For me that integrity is my selling point. People are reluctant to do business with you at first. But when they start and taste the uncommon integrity they do not leave you.

For once, my children began to enjoy a settled life. And quite amazingly, as I discovered, locked in some part of their memory is the trail of nightmares we suffered as family in Nigeria. These children today associate a life in Nigeria as a life of nightmare. I have been unable to change that. The UAE is for them a definition of Nirvana.

Nigeria is beautiful. Abuja is peaceful and somewhat decent, but where I come from, Borno, life is short, nasty and traumatic for so many families. It cannot serve as a model of a society where any parent wants to bring up his or her children if he has an option. With children, it would surprise you how much of what happen with adults they read perfectly. It is not the savagery of the Boko Haram crisis, I discovered that scares them about Nigeria. It was to do with the harassment and arrest they witnessed against their father by Nigerian security personnel.

In one occasion I was picked up by security operatives just after getting my kids at close of school. The very idea that I had sources among the leadership of the insurgents seemed like an instant death sentence. Sadly, even when I decided to retire from active reporting in the last months before my self exile, the name Salkida became synonymous with the crisis. Many Nigerians, even some professional journalists couldn’t appreciate that a journalist can build a confidence level with a source in whatever position.

This resource of having contact among the leadership of the insurgents had served and could still serve better purposes. On a couple of occasions government had reached out to me and I believe they are still in a position to use that opening to achieve greater good for all. I believe I owe society a duty to deploy my professional skills to save lives and engender peace.

As my family and I are beginning to settle down to a new, serene environment, this policy cessation of foreign transactions through your debit card has put one in a new point of despair and exasperation. I have waited in vain to hear any official explanation and a step to cushion the possible unintended effects on citizens. I have asked questions, and still ask questions, what does Nigeria take her citizens to be? Some vermin that must be decimated and exterminated? I have been effectively rendered helpless and I need help and answers.

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4 thoughts on “CBN Forex Policy: another war against legitimate enterprise

  1. Life can be very difficult for some people yet, so rosy for others. It sounds difficult for you Ahmed Salkida especially now that the Emefiele’s “demand management” regime a euphemism for capital control is biting harder. I do not find it wrong that a Journalist cultivates the trust of evil men, as is your case, as long as you are not carried away by that trust to betray the greater multitude of good people who are victims of those wicked souls. I am however disturbed that our security organisations do not want to involve you in any type of negotiation and or intelligence gathering regarding your “friends” the insurgents. Why isn’t even Mr President, that we are certain means so well, refusing to engage people like you in this war? Could that mean that they have passed a guilty verdict on you already? Why is what is happening happening with resources like you being wasted in foreign lands? The only answer I can hazard is corruption. They must be doing all tehy can to keep people like you away because they do not want the funding for the counter insurgency to stop. They might have discredited you before PMB so that even if he heard about you, he’ll merely dismiss you as a fake. All I’ll say is that you should not allow your spirit dampened by all of these. Continue putting your trust in God as He said, “whoever puts his trust in Allah, He’ll be sufficient for him”. The capital control regime will be lifted whenever PMB realizes the importance of currency devaluation in bad situations as ours. Before then, you will still survive by God’s Grace somehow.

  2. Well, that’s our plight for being a mono economy. The CBN doesn’t have FX to give to those banks to settle your expenses so the banks are taking the painful decision. As they suggest, let’s focus more on local manufacturing and agricultural related processing than flooding our markets with foreign good. It can’t all be rosy at all times.

  3. Hi Salkida, I share your pains and frustration about the new policy on restricting the use of Naira debit cards abroad by the Government. I was upset and angry at first on hearing the news of the policy but after due investigation, it became obvious to me the need to have such policy in place at this difficult time of our history. To be candid with you, I’m a PhD student outside Nigeria and I used my Naira debit cards frequently for withdrawal. However, Nigeria’s foreign reserve is in a record low due to the drastic fall in global crude prices. The CBN does not have the foreign currency to give to the banks for the transaction outside Nigeria, so the banks are taking the difficult decision. I later saw more need to restrict use of foreign currency as a means of preserving the small foreign reserve for essential activities. Many politicians and Individuals have hidden under studying abroad to abuse the use of Naira debit cards, unnecessarily wasting the meager foreign reserve meant for importation of essential commodities. For your information; certain person was recently arrested with over 800 ATMs at Aminu Kano International Airport, with the intent of going outside Nigeria to withdraw foreign currency with Naira debit cards, certain serving Senator was alleged to be operating foreign accounts under the guise of studentship. So, lets be patient and sacrifice for the nation. Moreover, you can use the alternative of domiciliary accounts for the time being, am sure the measure is a temporary one and as soon as the foreign reserve stabilizes, the restriction will be off. In addition, the PMB has promised during his media chat to work on the plight of students abroad.
    Good luch Salkida

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