President Muhammadu Buhari said the call for the devaluation of naira has put him under pressure. Buhari made this disclosure while briefing senior journalists on the activities of his government in the last one year.
The President who said he was still agonizing over the call for the devaluation of naira said he needed to be educated on the issues. “My argument has been that those who devalue their currencies have developed economies, where there is local production and they export the excess. They have good infrastructure. So they devalue their currencies to sell their products outside their shores, and employ their people. We claim to import food, but this is a lie. People just take the money out of the country. How many factories have we built? So I refused to devalue the Naira.
“Now you need N350 to get a dollar! I challenged Nigerian economists to tell me what benefits Nigeria has earned from the devaluation so far.
How many factories have we built by killing the naira? I have to reluctantly give up because the so-called Nigerian economists come and talk things to me, and when I raise issues they talk over my head instead of inside my head. For us to lose over N300 (every year we’re losing the value of the currency by N100), what for? Let them tell me how many factories they’ve built. I find myself in a very difficult state because the economists cannot tell me why we should continue to devalue our Naira. People say import, and we find out that we are just importing food! We’re now planning to stop importation of rice, wheat, maize in three years’ time.
“On the value of the naira, I’m still agonising over it, that the naira should be reduced to such a disgraceful level over the last 30 years. I need to be educated on this. But I’m not ruling this country alone. I’m under pressure and we’ll see how we can accommodate the economists”, he said.
The President also threw more light on how his administration ran into the embarrassment caused by the padded 2016 Appropriation Bill.
Reacting to a question on whether he was satisfied with the performance of his team and if Nigerians should expect changes, the President said, “After taking over we had a strange encounter on the budget, which was called ‘padding’. I was in government since 1975 in one form or another, but I had never heard of the word, ‘padding’ until this time around.
“I pity the Minister of National Planning. All the ministers made presentations to him; he compiled them and took them to the council of ministers. It was corrected by the council how they could and I was allowed to go and bow and deliver to the National Assembly. I didn’t know I delivered a sham! Some [civil servants] removed what the ministers put and put what they wanted.
“How did I know about it? I was sitting, watching the television and I saw the Minister of Health appearing before a committee to defend the budget. They gave him the document and he said there was nothing to defend. “How can I defend what I haven’t presented,” he argued.
“I was shocked. He was not the only one. Many of the ministers spent months, hardly eating, and some [civil servants] removed what the ministers have put there and put what they wanted. I called the Minister of National Planning, and said, “I thank you for your hard work, but I can’t assent to this.” I don’t normally sign what I don’t understand. He begged me to sign, but I said because I trust you I will sign, but I will put you in front of me. Wherever there is trouble I will put you in front.
“Not up to 24 hours, he began to look for me desperately. I said, “What is it, Honourable Minister. He said, “Please don’t sign,” because he sat down to look at it and discover what damage those terrible Nigerians had done to us. It took about six weeks to correct it before I agreed to sign it,” the President said.
On privatization of the nation’s refineries President Buhari said it would a disservice to privatize the refineries in the current state.
“We can’t spend so much money to put up the refineries just to sell them as scrap. I think that will be disservice to the country. Let’s repair them and negotiate with them to sell them at good prices. We don’t want them to dictate how much we sell fuel in this country after we’ve sold the refineries to private investors,” he said.