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The naira is dying — desperate Tinubu wants to save it using guns

The government's new brute force approach to saving the naira is a tested and trusted failure.

President Bola Tinubu hopes brute force will solve his naira headache [Presidency]

The economy has experienced untold turmoil over the past year — inflation is joyriding to the moon, and the value of the naira is diving in the opposite direction, deep underground.

When he was sworn into office in May 2023, $1 exchanged for ₦461 and £1 exchanged for ₦574 at the official rate of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The alarming dip in the naira's value has become one of the most charged political conversations in the country over the past decade. So when Tinubu stepped in, he needed to do something urgently to arrest the slide and make the naira great again.

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The trained accountant decided the best way to pull off a miracle was to unify the exchange rates to nullify the black market and expose the value of the naira to the uncertainties of market forces.

That decision, in isolation, has turned out to be a mistake because, as of February 19, 2024, $1 exchanged for ₦1,605 and £1 exchanged for ₦2,203 at the official market.

Tinubu needed a new plan.

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This week, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) raided the Abuja Zone 4 market looking for black market bureau de change (BDC) operators.

Tensions ran high enough that the operatives, as recorded in a viral video, discharged their firearms to disrupt trade all in a bid to defend the naira's honour. It was a strangely disturbing event, and further proof that Nigeria's political leaders never learn from history, no matter how recent.

Tinubu's predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, also demonised BDC operators as the monsters cooking the destiny of the naira throughout his eight gruelling years in office. One of the laughably bad ideas of the former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, to disrupt the black market trade was to cut down trees to deny Abuja operators ease of doing business under natural protection from sunlight. He also notably engaged in a public grudge with online foreign exchange rate aggregator, Aboki FX, accused the founder, Oniwinde Adedotun, of illegal conduct, and went as far as bait for a physical fight.

If anyone was hoping the Abuja raid was a one-off, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) cleared all doubts in a press statement on Tuesday, February 20.

Nuhu Ribadu's office claimed illicit activities within the Nigerian forex market greatly influence the naira's diminishing value. The solution? A coordinated effort with key law enforcement agencies, including the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), and EFCC, to save the naira.

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This week, security operatives have arrested dozens of BDC operators in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Lagos and Kano, all to save the naira from disappearing into the void.

But how much of this aggressive gung-ho approach helps the naira's case, and when should Nigerians expect to start seeing the result? As it stands, the opposite is happening — the naira is sliding deeper into the abyss, further exposing the current government's mishandling of almost everything it has touched over the past nine months.

The Tinubu administration is desperate for a win — something Nigerians can rally around as a rare sliver of hope that maybe everything isn't falling apart — and desperate people make mistakes. The government's new approach to saving the naira is to bark aggressively at the consequence of years of economic mismanagement, instead of clinically treating the symptoms.

How long this strategy lasts before common sense and natural exhaustion prevail is anyone's guess; but years down the line, when Nigerians remember this trigger-happy episode, the most notable question would be, "What was that mess about?"

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Pulse Editor's Opinion is the viewpoint of an editor at Pulse. It does not represent the opinion of the organisation Pulse.

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