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Dogara to FG: Unlock idle dollars in private vaults to crash FX rates

Yakubu Dogara, former speaker of the house of representatives, has asked the federal government to unlock “idle dollars” in private vaults to crash the foreign exchange (FX) rate.

Dogara spoke on Wednesday at the special edition of The Platform, an event powered by The Covenant Nation to facilitate national development.

Themed, ‘Democracy And The Free Market Economy’, the programme was held to mark Nigeria’s 25 years of unbroken democracy.

The naira had appreciated marginally to N1,480/$ at the parallel section of the FX market on June 10 — but fell by 0.02 percent to N1,483 at the official window on the same trading day.

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Expressing his views on the currency’s performance against the greenback, Dogara said the naira is grossly undervalued, attributing this to an insatiable demand for dollars.

The former lawmaker said the FX issue is the primary problem currently affecting Nigeria’s economy.

He said both legitimate and shady transactions are conducted in dollars, stressing that unless the appetite for dollars is curbed, the demand would always exceed the supply.

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“So many reasons have been adduced by pundits to be responsible for FX rate instability in Nigeria,” Dogara said.

“I believe the naira is grossly undervalued. This is because the most productive nations are not necessarily the nations with the strongest currencies.

“I think the only infliction point we witnessed was due to the advent of the BVN, which crippled the ability of corrupt officials and other shady characters to keep their loot in anonymous bank accounts.

“Almost all ill-gotten money is stashed in USD in private vaults as the naira is too bulky to warehouse.

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“Therefore, I am of the firm belief that our insatiable appetite for USD is what is killing the naira.

“Believe it or not, nearly all big-ticket deals and transactions, both legitimate and shady, are closed in USD in Nigeria.

“Just find out, there is no hefty bribe that is not paid for in USD. Some schools in Nigeria charge fees in foreign currencies, and even our most valued export is paid for in USD.

“So, to me, wittingly or unwittingly, the USD is our currency of choice and as long as we don’t kill our appetite for USD, the demand for USD will always outstrip its supplies.

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“The challenge before the government is how to unlock and make the USD locked up in private vaults in Nigeria begin to chase the naira. That to me is the commonsensical solution.

“I believe we have enough dollars in this country that we can unlock to make our economy work and to crash the FX rate.”

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Dogara urged the government to mandate the use of the naira for the payment of all Nigerian exports, including crude oil, to strengthen the local currency.

“To achieve this, the government must demand that all Nigerian exports, including crude oil exports, be paid for in naira, just as we don’t pay for any import into Nigeria from any country in naira. It is not too much to demand that,” he said.

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‘IDENTIFY INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE DOLLARS STASHED IN THEIR PRIVATE VAULTS’

He said the government, through security agencies, should identify and go after individuals who have idle dollars in private vaults.

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“Government through credible intelligence generated by security agencies ought or should know those individuals in Nigeria who have taken advantage of the system and they have idle USD stashed in their private vaults,” the former lawmaker said.

“Should they fail to respond, it is my considered opinion that Mr. President should invoke and apply the MBS solution, the Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in Saudi Arabia.”

According to Dogara, no one who has taken advantage of the system should have the liberty to store in excess “what his or her country desperately needs in order to lift millions of its people out of multidimensional poverty”.

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