The Naira / Urgent Need For Re-Denomination


B. Igiebor




Does anyone in Nigeria at this point in time have the faintest idea what the current Naira note is worth? To come down to earth, have our heads of government any idea what the billions they budget annually can finance? Does the person who has earmarked 50 billion

Naira for Nigeria's independence celebration have any idea of the amount, in real money, he is talking about? Do the politicians embezzling hundreds of millions know exactly what percentage of their budgets they are siphoning? Did Mrs Etteh know what she was asking for when she demanded 600+ million for furnishing her official quarters? And for that matter, is INEC really certain that what is required for the next election is 74 billion Naira?

Even those at the helm of affairs are hardly aware that our legislators and house of representative members are earning the kind of money that is the dream of their US counter- parts! If we are honest with ourselves, we have lost count of the value of the money we use, right from all those running the country down to the roadside cleaner.

Up to the year 1985, the Naira was the equivalent of the Pound Sterling and stronger than the Dollar. Yes, the almighty Dollar. Prior to that year, planning at both government and individual family levels was easy to do; government budgets were only in millions or hundreds of millions and it was easy to tell, at any time, how much of the country's annual budget was going to education, the military, health, power supply, etc. It was easy to moni- tor expenditure, make cuts in subsequent budgets where necessary or increase, as the case may be. At the family level, low-income workers earning between 200 and 500 Naira monthly were able to manage their incomes and knew exactly where every Naira went! It was easy for the family head to budget for rent, school fees, transport and food for the family.

Things were very well under control. There were no mind-boggling thousands or millions to manage. Sadly, this is no longer the case. As a result of inflationary tendencies arising out of the confusion of using arbitrarily high-figure sums, contractors are charging sky-high amounts for small jobs; landlords, traders, fuel dealers, transporters, etc have been able to seize control of the pricing mechanism, sky-rocket prices and make the Nigerian worker pay, well over and above what their products and services are really worth. Many workers' salaries are finished in the first week of the month! In a nutshell, things have gone completely out of control, at both the national, state and family level!

The net effect of the above is that today, most Nigerian workers [particularly in the cities] are finding that 75% of their salaries go on rent, leaving a paltry 25% for feeding, transport, children's education and generally running the home. No wonder the policeman is unable to make ends meet and so has to supplement his income by collecting bribes. Ditto for the civil servant, teacher, court clerk, Customs agent, etc. In the business sector, the competition created by the arbitrary inflation has led to a situation where there is always a mad stampede by service providers and traders for every Naira available; the sight of danfo, molue and okada drivers trying to out-manouver one another for customers in all our city and town centres is a frightening phenomena. Hawkers on road sides make life unbearable for motorists in traffic hold-ups in the mad rush for tens and hundreds of thousands! Thousands of school leavers and graduates head for the cities on completing their studies, in the hope of landing well-paid jobs that pay tens or hundreds of thousands of Naira, even though they do not exist, thereby worsening the unemployment situation.

For things to get back under control in the economy, at both the national, state and family levels, there certainly needs to be a re-denomination of the Naira, with a 3 or 6-month preparation period, with the current 100 Naira being re-denominated N1, N1000 becoming N10, and so on and the current 5, 10, 20 and 50 Naira phased out; coins in the value of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 kobo should be brought back into use as they will have purchasing power. During the 3 or 6-month period, the government should embark on establishing new pricing guidelines for most basic products and services nationwide through a massive publicity blitz - for example bread should sell for no more than N2; it is a lot easier and less time-consuming and stressful to count N2 rather than 200. Any car currently selling for 1 million Naira should then go for N10,000.00. Period. Ghana has done it and its economy has got on really well, so what are we waiting for?