The Decline of the Nigerian Naira: A Historical Retrospective

The dynamics of Nigeria’s foreign exchange management have shaped a complex narrative over the decades. From the Second-Tier Foreign Exchange Market (SFEM) under President Ibrahim Babangida to the recent challenges faced under the leadership of Governor Godwin Emefiele, the journey has been marked by economic reforms, political decisions, and global oil price fluctuations. Let’s embark on a historical journey to understand how Nigeria’s foreign exchange management has evolved into the deeply political matter it is today.

1. President Ibrahim Babangida’s Second-Tier Foreign Exchange Market (SFEM) – 1986-1993: In response to economic challenges, SFEM was introduced in 1986 as part of IMF reforms. This period saw a significant devaluation of the naira from 90 kobo to $1 in the 70s to 17 naira to $1 by 1993. Bureaux de change emerged during this era, bringing new dynamics to the foreign exchange landscape.

2. President Sani Abacha – 1993-1998: The official exchange rate remained stagnant at 22 naira to $1 throughout Abacha’s regime. The introduction of the Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (AFEM) in 1995 aimed to sell forex at ‘market’ rates, but it led to the mainstreaming of the forex black market due to limited available dollars.

3.  Joseph Sanusi (CBN governor 1999 to 2004): With the introduction of the Interbank Foreign Exchange Market, the naira faced challenges due to depleted reserves. The gap between the official rate and the black market narrowed but remained volatile.

4.  Chukwuma Soludo – 2004-2009: Rising oil prices during Soludo’s tenure bolstered foreign reserves, leading to relative stability in the naira exchange rate. However, the global financial crisis in 2008 revealed vulnerabilities, causing the naira to fluctuate.

5.  Sanusi Lamido Sanusi – June 2009-Feb 2014: Restoring Interbank and WDAS markets, Sanusi faced challenges of ‘hot money’ inflows. With stable oil prices, some measure of stability was achieved, but the naira depreciated from 148 to 164 naira against the dollar during his term.

6.  Godwin Emefiele and the Present Challenges: As oil prices plummeted, Governor Emefiele faced a significant drop in revenues. The CBN responded by banning the Interbank forex market and restricting forex for 41 items, leading to rumors of arbitrage and confusion. The naira lost 70% of its value during Emefiele’s tenure.

7.  Mr. Olayemi Cardoso’s Tenure: With Mr. Olayemi Cardoso assuming office in October 2023, the challenges persist. Despite implemented policies and reforms, the Naira continues to depreciate, reaching a concerning exchange rate of 1 USD to 1,867 Naira.

The history of Nigeria’s foreign exchange management reflects a journey marked by economic reforms, political decisions, and global economic challenges. As Mr. Olayemi Cardoso navigates the present landscape, the need for sustainable policies and strategic measures to stabilize the Naira remains crucial. The exchange rate of the Naira has not only become an economic indicator but also a deeply political matter, impacting the lives of millions of Nigerians.

Leave a Reply