In 2012, when Nigeria was listed on JPMorgan emerging market Bond index, it was done based on a two way quote by the CBN and the then minister of finance, Okonjo Iweala, backing their decision on Nigeria growing economy of 7.4 percent annual GDP and 6.9 percent in 2011, substantiated with a blooming global oil price averaging between $90 to $100 a barrel as at the time, and Knowing fully well that cost of servicing foreign debts will reduce significantly and position she, Okonjo Iweala as the powerhouse of Africa largest economy on the international scene and the force behind the actualization of Nigeria dream to a more mainstream investment destination, they concluded it was the right thing to do without proper consideration for future consequences in the advent of global disaster like current drop in global energy prices and emerging market economic rout.
Here is the logic, Nigeria is a petrol-dollar economy, which means her economic growth is directly proportional to both petroleum (crude oil) and dollar strength. The former is regulated by global demand and supply while the latter is determined by the US economy, while Nigeria’s economy is being driven by non-oil sector (construction, telecoms, manufacturing and agriculture) mainly, it is normal to expect the economic team representing the nation to base their decisions on those sectors that are thriving and can be internally regulated even if it means not been listed as at the time but no, their decision was based on crude oil price.
In 2014, when oil price started falling after peaking at $105.64 in June, with fewer options left to curb the situation, Okonjo Iweala, the minister of finance took to the media, in her words “Nigeria should brace for tougher economic times ahead” insinuating she has no solution apart from her overzealous ambiguity to be at the realm of power and yet we were being chastised for not retaining her team in power.
The current Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) administration came in without much time to curtail the situation, and with naira weakened to more than 200 per dollar for the first time, Godwin Emefiele, Chairman of Central Bank of Nigeria was forced to take a decisive decision which includes spending $380 million to stop the fall of the Naira, restricting 41 item’s importers from accessing FOREX official rate, overhauling foreign currency domicile accounts, restricting dollar withdrawal limit on locally issued credit cards and pegging naira to a fixed rate of 197 to a US dollar. Bear in mind that these might not be perfect economic measures as Nigeria is a heavy import-dependent economy but juxtaposing the danger of what would have happened without these measures with been delisted, an economist will agree it is an acceptable policy given the circumstances.
Here are the possible consequences if the CBN had succumbed to JPMorgan pressure and gone ahead with the devaluation using two-way forex market has suggested, naira value would be between 300 to 320 naira to a US dollar by now, inflation would have surged to double digit from 9.20 percent recorded in July, 2015. Cost of goods and services would jumped to a new height, followed by increase in unemployment as interest rate would have risen, making loan almost inaccessible for companies to finance capital projects. Overall, the decision would have created negative perceptions about Nigeria true economic growth (GDP), and subsequently, forced these same foreign investors backed by JPMorgan to safeguard their fund by withdrawing based on uncertainty and high risk after profiting from the decline.