Nothing I will write in this episode is new or had not been said before by different people. Nigeria’s troubles are not as intractable as they seem. They are not beyond redemption and not even beyond the capacity of this government to resolve if only our leaders will listen and take reasonable advice.
Organized criminals are holding the country hostage and the president must find the courage to liberate himself, his government and the country even if it means fumigating the cockroaches.
The criminals are in every sector of the economy perpetuating corruption; in the oil sector they are there maxing oil subsidy. You can find them also creating all manners of insecurity and security vote fraud. They are embedded in FIRS perpetuating tax fraud. They are inside the pension office pilfering pension funds. They are in the education sector extorting students and conducting sex for grades. The criminals are in the civil service collecting salaries for doing nothing but awarding contracts to themselves and cronies. They are in the judiciary constituting themselves as businessmen selling justice to the highest bidders; they are there in the National Assembly representing themselves rather than the people.
The moment the law catches up with them, they will start their theatrics, feigning all kinds of illness to escape justice. If they are not being wheeled on stretcher into the court room, they will be on wheel chair or wearing neck braces or applying for court permission to travel abroad for medical treatment. And you just wonder why they will not just die of whatever they claim is their sickness so that Nigeria will live.
President Buhari should be encouraged not to allow the nefarious activities of these criminals to define his presidency. He has a task to leave Nigeria better than he met it. The president should be concerned that his administration cannot justify the trillions of Naira invested on roads in the past four years given the state of disrepair of our federal roads. He should be aware that millions of people plying our bad roads are abusing him as they suffer untold hardship on the roads.
The proposed tolling of federal roads, increase in VAT, closing of our land borders and introduction of all manners of taxation are all wrong headed policies that will further push inflation up and antagonize the people further. I will expect a listening president to revisit some of these harsh policies. For instance, you cannot close legitimate trade by land borders when you have customs to collect tariffs. To take Nigeria out of the woods we must end policies that are killing small businesses and focus on how we can unleash the real wealth of Nigeria. There are lessons to learn from China and India and most recently, Ghana!
Strive Masiyiwa, the former ECONET boss told a story of how he brought in engineers and technicians from Zimbabwe and South Africa to start up GSM service in Nigeria.
So he began the process of recruiting Nigerian engineers and technicians to be trained for the new industry to take over from the expatriate team. The response to the recruitment advert was overwhelming even after vetting the applications. There were thousands of people with qualifications with MBAs and PHDs! Many had qualified in the best universities around the world. There were also GSM-qualified Nigerians working internationally, including in America and Europe, wanting to return home.
The full import of this narrative is that the true wealth of Nigeria is its extraordinary human capital. If we unleash them, they will be unstoppable.
Again before increasing the VAT tariff, I will suggest to the president to consider holding the CBN Governor accountable for the obvious massive foreign exchange laundering going on in our banks. He should ask the CBN Governor to explain why Nigeria is the only country in the world re-exporting its forex remittances?
If India and Jamaica are living on foreign exchange from their citizens abroad, Nigeria can. But where are our foreign exchange earnings from citizens abroad. In 1996 this accounted for over 50% gross of our oil revenue. So where are the dollars? In an article posted by a former Minister of Finance between 1993 and 1998, Mr. Etubon Ani, he disclosed how in 1995 Western Union and MoneyGram could not receive money from Nigerians abroad due to our tax laws.
Though the tax laws of Nigeria, Jamaica and the UK, had the same wordings on imposition of tax (tax is imposed on income accruing in, derived from or brought into). India for instance had modified its tax laws to accommodate its citizens living abroad who wanted to send money in foreign exchange to India.
In 1996 there was a new law to be promulgated, regarding Nigerians repatriating remuneration from abroad, Nigerians repatriating dividends, royalties, fees, commissions from foreign countries, receipts by authors, sportsmen/women, musicians, play writers, artists, etc. Such income repatriated into Nigeria in foreign currency was 100 per cent exempted from tax, provided the foreign currency was repatriated through a domiciliary account with a Nigerian bank.
With the promulgation of this law, First Bank Nigeria Ltd brought in Western Union in August 1996 while the USA brought in MoneyGram a few weeks later. In 1996, Nigerians abroad repatriated about $4.5bn (about 50 per cent of our gross revenue from oil) and it was ensured that these amounts were brought into Nigeria, intact, in foreign exchange. The receipts increased exponentially in 1997 and 1998 and were received in Nigeria, in foreign currency. The receipts helped to stabilize our exchange rate mechanism at N82 to a dollar from 1995 to 1998 to the extent that the naira was internally convertible currency.
Since 2014 when the organized criminals captured the Central Bank, Nigerians who want to repatriate foreign exchange by Western Union are given a quote to be claimed in naira because of a subversive arrangement between our Nigerian banks and Western Union/MoneyGram, whereby the former pays from their excess naira liquidity while the later retains the dollars abroad. In other words, the dollar remittance is retained abroad and is laundered by the Nigerian banks. This is definitely against the law which provides that all remittances must be brought into Nigeria in foreign currency via domiciliary account.
According to Mr. Etubon, if by chance the dollar is remitted into Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria on August 14, 2014, introduced the Outward Money Transfer Service and authorized the same MoneyGram and Western Union to re-export, in tranches of $5,000 per transaction, to Nigerians abroad, on payment of the naira equivalent at the CBN rate of exchange. Thus, Nigeria is the only country in the world re-exporting its remittances. It is relevant to note that the naira is not a convertible currency but remittances which are meant to stabilize our exchange rates are re-exported! There is something wrong at our Central Bank. It could be that we have imported the mentality of commercial banking into the CBN. We now need real central bankers to govern our Central Bank. We have central bankers amongst those in the CBN, and we also have central bankers amongst the members of the Nigerian Economic Society or, alternatively, indeed, we can even go outside Nigeria to employ central bankers. The fact is that the Diaspora remittances are not retained in Nigeria and there is collaboration between the CBN, Nigerian banks and Western Union/MoneyGram; in such an event, government must investigate the infraction, punish the money launders, and recover all past Diaspora remittances retained abroad!
Mr. President, the Outbound Money Transfer Services must be stopped and all our remittances retained for national stability and the nation’s development.