Story by Dili Utomi.
There is a general feeling of frustration and hopelessness among Nigerians owing to inflation and the attendant high costs of goods and services. The situation is further compounded by the low level of production and the dependence on imported goods which have also been impacted negatively by various factors. We sought the opinion of a businessman who engages in import/export as well as the retailing of goods to give an insight into the experiences of people in his trade on the subject matter.
Comrade Chinedu Ukatu is a member of the Ndigboamaka Progressive Market Association an umbrella body of all the major markets in Lagos and also a member of the Lagos Markets Advisory Council, he gave a candid assessment of the situation.
When asked to give a true picture of the level of businesses in the markets now and to state if sales have increased, he answered in a give-it-back-to-you manner “I should throw back the question to you, you are putting on a white shirt, how long ago did you buy the shirt and have you recently bought another shirt. You can gauge the situation in the market with your own experience as a Nigerian and a journalist”.
Comrade Ukatu said that even a blind man knows that as far as the economy is concerned, it is nothing to write home about especially as it concerns the foreign exchange. He noted that he feels not happy when they are refered to as the informal sector of the economy as they are mainly the drivers of the economy. He indicated that people hardly go to the markets to purchase goods as the prices are high and the prices are high because the exchange rate keeps going higher almost every week, the dollar to naira rate is now about 1 to 800 and of course this greatly affects the level of imports and the price of the imported goods, we are an import dependent economy, he added.
We asked Comrade Ukatu what he thinks of the government’s decision to redesign the naira, his answer is that he does not really see the purpose of the decision as the reason for this decision is still very unclear to him. “Perhaps, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria needs to give clearer and unambiguous explanation to us all so that we can really understand the intents. If they have not been able to check the circulation of cash in the economy before, why should we believe that they have the good intention to check and control it all now, like I said, their reason is still too unclear for me to speak about it all”.
Comrade Ukatu was asked to give advise to Nigerians as well as government as far as the activities in the economy is concerned, he said that “There is nothing more for us to do as a people other than to channel our energy into production, that is the only way and the magic wand to our economic prosperity because again, we need foreign exchange to import and we see the rate at which the exchange rate is shooting up. On the part of the government, they should create the enabling environment, they should take care of energy, provide other physical infrastructure so that we can meet up with the international best practices and be able to compete. When the government puts the right infrastructure in place, we will have better manufacturing sector, but right now everything is not going well as both importation and local production turn out expensive goods owing to the dearth of infrastructure, so our government should wake up. Just take a look at our four refineries, they have become moribund over time, the government should sell them off to private investors so that they can manage it all well and let us have the advantage of having working refineries”.
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