Last week, my gate keeper suddenly packed his luggage with the intention of quitting his job. The reason he decided to withdraw his services and return to his country is the weakening exchange rate between the CFA franc, the currency of the Francophone countries and the naira.
If you have not guessed already, my security man, Honoree, is from the Republic of Benin and after receiving his salary every month, he changes a portion of it into CFA franc and remits the same to his folks back home.
Owing to the fact that the naira was stronger than the CFA franc, he migrated to Nigeria to work and earn income to be remitted home. But with the current devaluation of the naira, less CFA franc is now being exchanged for the naira, so working in Nigeria which was attractive in the past has now become unviable for Honoree, necessitating his decision to return to his home country.
My gate keeper’s sudden decision has put me on notice with my chef, Michael, who is from Togo. Only a couple of weeks ago, Michael requested salary advance which l obliged him.
On hindsight, he might have done so because the portion of his salary that he usually retained in Nigeria after remitting the other portion to Togo was probably inadequate to cover his local expenses due to the inflation arising from naira devaluation.
My gateman and chef are just examples of millions of Africans who owing to the fact that the naira was overvalued, have been coming in droves to earn their living in Nigeria.
Before the infamous Ghana-Must-Go episode of 1985, expulsion of over 700, 000 aliens from Nigerians, up till now, the high value of the naira has been encouraging the steady influx of artisans from neighbouring countries like the Republic of Togo, Niger Republic, Chad, Ghana, eking out their living in Nigeria.
These foreigners fill up job vacancies as masons, tailors, mechanics, electricians, plumbers and marble tilers etc in Nigeria simply because of the oil boom that is now fast turning into a burst which made our currency stronger than those of their home countries.
But with the naira now significantly devalued, as international oil prices plummet in the past couple of months, as they say in street lingo, levels have changed, and the foreign nationals who had been working in Nigeria and denying Nigerians of artisan jobs, are now vacating the jobs and in the process creating vacancies for Nigerians.
Unbeknown to me, and l believe most Nigerians, my two domestic staff who are foreigners from neighbouring African countries constitute a drain on Nigeria’s forex because when we pay them salaries and as foreign nationals, they convert a portion of their salaries into remittances back home and that represents an import cost which has a negative bearing on our forex resources.
Now, this is contrary to the notion created by some anti-devaluation crusaders on the side of President Buhari who have argued that Nigeria does not export finished products like iPhones or other high tech items like computer chips from Silicon Valley in the USA, neither is Nigeria like South Korea that has Samsung TVs or Kia cars to export which could have justified devaluing the naira.
Conversely, devaluation advocates had fired back by validating their position with the fact that a strong naira encourages higher propensity to import “cheap” stuff like high end champagne or low end toothpicks into Nigeria including employment of foreigners to engage in jobs that Nigerians could have easily taken up as illustrated by my personal experience. They conclude that it is such indulgence that has been leading to the unwarranted depletion of our foreign exchange reserves.
This is a classical case of the argument on whether the glass is half-full or half-empty.
As a member of the Economic Community of West African States, where an economic treaty for free movement of people and goods has been signed, foreign nationals have easy migration access to Nigeria and as the country with the largest economy in Africa, boasting of an estimated GDP in excess of $530bn, nationals of less endowed countries have been making a beeline for Nigeria.
Considering that the recent referendum in the United Kingdom, tagged BRExit that led to her exit from European Union was influenced by job losses by British citizens to foreign nationals, (would your white hotel guests preferred white chamber maids from Eastern Europe to non-white Britons?) Nigerian authorities should have been studying the pattern of immigration into our country with a view to determining the implications on the economy in terms of employment and security/safety of Nigerians.
This is more so because it is free movement of people within the ECOWAS borders similar to what obtains in the EU which the UK just exited via a referendum that has been aiding terrorists in their recent bombing expeditions in France and Belgium. In a similar fashion, it is believed that the Boko Haram religious fundamentalists might have been migrating into Nigeria from neighbouring countries like Chad and Niger Republic.
The assertion above is buttressed by the fact that both countries that are our neighbours have been experiencing schisms related to religious fundamentalism for a very long period of time and of which Nigeria has been intervening over the years.
This is probably the reason authorities had cause, about 31 years ago, to shut down Nigerian borders to stem violent crimes and smuggling during the estimated 20 months reign of General Muhammadu Buhari on the saddle of leadership in Nigeria (1983-85) as head of state and Commander-in-Chief.
Writing in New York Times of May 12, 1985, Sheila Rule reported in a news item titled, “Ghanaians expelled by Nigeria return to start over”, that “On May 3, the Nigerian government told 700,000 illegal aliens that they had a week to leave and that the borders previously closed to prevent smuggling would be open for their departure.” In addition to the 300,000 migrant workers from Ghana, “there are about 100,000 from Niger; most of the rest were from Chad and Cameroon”, she reported.
Continuing, the NYT reporter noted that, “It was Nigeria’s second mass expulsion of aliens, who had been attracted to African oil giant in hopes of gaining a foothold or fleeing drought.”
Rule finally observed that “falling oil prices have slowed Nigeria’s economy, and foreigners viewed as depriving citizens of jobs are being expelled”.
When I came upon the foregoing excerpts in the course of my research for this article, I felt a sense of déjà vu as I wondered how Nigeria has turned back 360 degrees to where she was 31 one years ago with the economy in doldrums, politics in the shambles and the same personality–Buhari–back at the helm of affairs.
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Source: Punch News
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