Wailing on the Economy

I love to read books and that habit means I frequent bookshops a lot. However, since I resumed duties as a Senator, I have not had as much spare time as I used to have so rather than buy in stores, I buy majority of the books I read online. So you could imagine my shock when I tried to purchase some leadership and management books from a foreign bookshop online only to find that my account, which is well funded, would not work! Then I got an email from my bank explaining to me that due to the realities of our economy, my ATM card is being restricted. I was shocked!

At first I thought the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had incorrectly fingered me as a recipient of the fabled Dasuki money (I did not receive a dime and I did not solicit for such funds). But then a number of my friends reported similar experiences to me. Even at that, I could not believe that Nigerians could be precluded from spending their money as they deemed fit, until the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) news headline confirming my worst fears-Nigerian credit/debit cards are being restricted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)!

To say I was shocked would be an understatement! Forget about my books, what about people in more desperate circumstances than I was? This policy disproportionately punishes honest, hardworking and patriotic Nigerians who have domiciled their accounts, businesses and properties in Nigeria as a vote of confidence on their country. Many Nigerian politicians notoriously have foreign accounts and may not feel the pinch as much as ordinary Nigerians. And the thing is that it is precisely our politicians who have put us in this state and not the long-suffering Nigerian masses.

After I got over my initial shock, I made enquiries as to how people are copping with this economic blockade and I was moved to tears by the results of my findings. If you think that the naira is losing value solely because of the falling crude oil prices, you will be wrong. Part of the reason for the downward trend is a unique and new type of capital flight that has arisen in response to the realities of our forex restriction regime. You see, Nigerians, faced with the inability to use their ATMs abroad are heading to the Black Market, to buy foreign currency in unprecedented numbers and are then flocking to neighbouring countries like Benin Republic and the Republic of Ghana to open accounts there, because ATMs from Beninese and Ghanaian banks work overseas while those from Nigerian banks don’t. Imagine that!

Even if we must ban the use of Nigerian ATM card abroad, is it not better to take into account some realities before we implement such drastic measures? With the hugely successful Bank Verification Number (BVN) registration process, the CBN has the verified account details of all elected and appointed politicians in Nigeria. If at all we must ban, why not ban it for politically exposed people like me instead of ordinary Nigerians that depend on it? Do not punish regular everyday Nigerians for the wrongs of the political class! A lot of the small and medium scale enterprises that employ the majority of Nigerians, depend on their ATM cards to do business abroad.

What do Nigerians who are in foreign hospitals for life threatening illness do if they can’t access funds via ATM? What do Nigerian students schooling abroad and who depend on their parents to fund them via naira ATM do? How do bloggers pay for hosting if ATMs will not work on foreign sites? Is this the anti Social Media Bill via the backdoor? What do thousands of young Nigerians who promote their businesses to the world via Facebook/Twitter Ads do? #PunishpoliticiansnotNigerians!

These people are not just statistics. They are young men and women who trooped out in their millions to vote in the All Progressive Congress (APC) to power. And now how are they being rewarded? There is no fuel and when you complain you are told that former President Goodluck Jonathan is the cause of the fuel scarcity! Really? When electricity improved in June it was not Jonathan’s fault but when there is fuel scarcity in December, six months after he handed over, it is his fault. As our young people will say, issorai!

The sad thing is that while Nigerians are going through these hardships and trying to take it in their stride, their governors, who they look to for help, are threatening to reduce the minimum wage! At the time the new Minimum Wage Bill was signed into law by President Jonathan, the ₦18,000 wage was equivalent to $130. Today the minimum wage is worth only $75 and rather than thinking about how to raise it, our hovernors are conspiring on how to reduce it. It is like spanking a child and when the child is crying you begin taunting the child. How sad!

With this policy on ATM use abroad, those in power are making Nigeria into a country where the poor pay for the sins of the rich and powerful. Nigeria is going through tough times and what we need is a government that includes not one that excludes! Blaming all our woes on Jonathan is just escapism and a revision of history. If we need to conserve our reserves, there are practical and commonsensical actions we could take rather than this action, which seems rather knee jerk.

In a news story on Bloomberg, the magazine quoted Shoprite’s South African CEO, Whitey Basson, as saying the retailer’s seven stores in Nigeria sold more Moet & Chandon champagne than all the liquor shops in South Africa last year. May be you did not get me. Mr. Basson is not just saying that Shoprite sold more Champagne in Nigeria. No. He said that Shoprite sold more Champagne in Nigeria than all the stores in South Africa (including their competitors) combined! To put it in perspective, Shoprite has less than 20 stores in Nigeria and over 400 in South Africa! Now these are the foxes that spoil our economic vine!

The problem is not that we are drinking so much champagne, the problem is that we are importing the product and paying for it with our foreign reserve. I could understand if we were importing life saving medicines, but Moet & Chandon champagne is a luxury. In 2014, official records show that 768,131 bottles of champagne were imported into Nigeria at a cost of over $100,000,000. When you factor in the fact that one company, International Wine and Spirits, claims that it sold 1.1m bottles of champagne in Nigeria, it means that more of the product is being smuggled in through our porous borders than those coming in through official channels.

And who are the champagne drinkers in Nigeria? Certainly not regular Nigerians who are eking out a living using their ATM cards as a cashless form of skin business over the border.

No. It is the political elite again who are to be blamed. In the past 50 years, Nigeria has paid for maybe a million people to go on pilgrimage. Imagine if we had paid for a million people to start businesses instead! If we had done that, we would not be so dependent on oil rent. We would, like other nations, be dependent on taxes paid by a productive population who makes the things that they consume. We would have saved billions of dollars the state paid as air tickets, Basic Travel Allowance and other incidentals.

Not that I am against pilgrimages. If ones religion requires pilgrimages as a sacrifice then by all means go. But if government has to pay for your pilgrimage, then how is it a sacrifice? It is no longer a sacrifice. It becomes a holiday! I advise the present administration to swallow its pride and instead of vilifying Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, should consider consulting her for advise on how she was able to coordinate the economy in such a way that Nigeria enjoyed seven years of economic stability in which our currency maintained its value and workers were paid on time and regularly too. Propaganda can only sustain you for so long. Blaming others can only fool weak minded people for just that long. But over time, it will keep becoming clearer and clearer that the emperor is naked. May we never get to that stage.

My name is Ben Murray-Bruce and I just want to make #Commonsense!

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314 replies

  1. “I am Ben Murray Bruce, and I just want to make common sense”…
    The words that inspire the Nigerian youth. Education, is a powerful tool. As a matter of fact, education is the key to change. A key to excellence.
    I am happy, a “prophet” has risen in our generation. Not to make amends in the now, but to teach the youth to know his place in destiny, to help the youth avoid words like “had I known”…
    The train of success is moving, only to pick those waiting @ the various sub stations…
    With people like this, “the world” is a better place.
    Thank you sir, for being a role model.
    #Being inspired to be better
    #Making that impact
    #Mind rehab
    #We will get there….
    #Make that impact! Make that change!

    Like

  2. I see Obama when you talk sir. Thanks for giving us yourself as a role model.

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  3. Benbruce Baba ogbon. Am enlightened everytime I listen to u. May God strengthen u to do more for us in good health of mind and body

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  4. I think that Ben Bruce does not make common rather he exhibits very uncommon sense.

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  5. Part of Your piece made some sense until the end?… If okonja and your mentor SAVED and stood firm like OBJ Shebi the incoming team would have had something to fall back on!!! You talking bout mini mum wage etc?… If revenue falls what do you think is the next line of action in silver bird as an example ??… Anyway raising taxes on luxury goods would make economic sense…. If GEJ n co had done it the era of wasting the hard earned foreign exchange in buying private jets n co.. Would have been well thought before … Should we continue???…. Also this belly tightening is felt the third world over on economies that mostly depended on oil …. See Venezuela n co… So the issue as before is diversifying the economy n stopping any govt in power from squandering our commonwealth in times of plenty…. Dazzol

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    • If Buhari faces the economy squarely instead of junketing around you probably wouldn’t be complaining now. The same jets that Buhari in one his campaign promises said he ll reduced to revamp Nigerian airways (another story for the gods) so please pocket the blame game 😔😶

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  6. An interesting and encourging words to the failing spirits of nigerians. Thankyou

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  7. Sir what about the solar power u promised to bring up in the House.

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  8. sir I so much love u , u make me have more regards for education infact u what being NO: one citizen of dis country fuck other politicians who only hv interest in diminishing our economy

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  9. sir u r indeed a great man may God protect u UNTIL U SAVE NIGERIA FROM THIS STRESS THROUGH UR WORDS AMEN LLNP HAPPY BIRTHDAY! !! DADY

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  10. God bless you sir, for being factual

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  11. how i wish the advisers of president Buhari are hearing and reading and also applying the common sense

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  12. Quite interesting read. I’ve also followed your TV series and have gained a lot of insight from them. Keep keeping up.

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  13. I BELIEVE IN YOUR DREAM SO MUCH ,Your words are full of inspiration,it gives me hope for the future .thanks sir.

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  14. interesting love ur writeup,may God help us to help ourself.pls sir hope the fraudstars has not hike ur facebook account sir,pls clear air on premer osas courier company,that re send msg for a gift from you,as a reward for following and liking ur page during ur last birthday,is this directly from you my senator

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  15. Distingiushed Senator, am always pleased with your socio political thoughts and comments about our Country. An example is the recent one on Buy Nija. Really it makes common sense. But what does not make sense in all of that is that you totally ignored the affordability syndrome. Simply put, a good percentage of the Nigerian masses including the middle class cannot afford our fresh fish and obasanjo Nija made chickens, as a matter of fact they cannot even afford simple hygienic accommodation not to talk of having backyards to plant tomatoes and rear chicken as you advised. My advise Sir, is that we need to apply comon sense in implementing the so call ban on importation of food items so that we don’t end up killing Nigerian with malnutrition and starvation because we need to grow the economy. After all, who are we growing the economy for?

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  16. Sir, keep it up d number one seat is ur place, am ready to work 4 u like I did 4 president M. Buhari, but sir I wnt u to think of d best political party b4 the time. Thy Lord will see u true IJMN Amen.

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  17. Thank you sir for this enlightening article.

    The only downside is how do we produce locally in the current environment??
    I have been fighting to open a new-age advertising company in both Lagos and Abuja since January 2014 and till date, I have not received full government approval just because they were expecting me to go with the usual paper banner adverts!
    The electricity situation is also sad. How do you produce when you’ll end up spending most of your revenue on generators and fuel?

    We hope the government can create a conducive environment. We, the youth will take-over from there by creating jobs and opportunities for ourselves.
    Then we can say #BuyNigeriaToGrowNigeria

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  18. Hello. Sir
    A very-well researched information.but like I would always say,if the children in the house are plagued with problems ranging from hunger to disease the first set of people to hold accountable are the parents,before we deal with the disobedience of the children.this is because,they have a greater pedigree in dealing with issues and have advanced foresight of problems.
    It is not news that the ruling class has continued to embarrass and even prey on the masses right in front of foreigners;since the slave trade era.they plundered there fellow brothers and sold them off for sily things like mirrors,guns and the likes.so, our ruling class behaving stupidly,in the face of reason did not just start today.but then,a top-down approach to tackling our country’s corruption and mental disease is also a practicall way out.in the human body,the most valuable part is the brain.if other parts are affected,the body can still wiggle its way out of its problems but immediately it affects the brain,the body system shuts down either instantly,or progressively.it is the same with businesses and corporate organizations,as well as government.
    If the Ruling class and the corridors of power is sanitised then we can seek the cooperation of the masses and stakeholders subsequently.getting the massess to cooperate has a major challenge of dealing with large numbers of people.but getting the nigerian ‘brain’ to function well has more challenges that may be likened to exorcism used by a priest to save a demonized soul.some in the ruling class don’t want to step aside even when they know they are not doing well.infact,a lot of them.they feel its their birthright.and that is why western governments advocate that traditional monarchies should be strictly seperate from modern constitutional governments so that they would not run the country like a kingdom where ideas are less tolerated and officers don’t want to vacate their offices.
    After dealing with the brain issue,then we can seek the cooperation of the masses.senator fashola was excellent at this during his tenure as governor of lagos state.
    I applaud your effort of trying to warn the governmment of its excesses.its like trying to warn a seriously sick person that not attending to his or her health issues or ‘peeling his or her wounds’ indiscriminately could knock him or her out for good.but unfortunately,most animals can’t see in colour.only black and white.thanks a lot sir,and keep up the good work sir.

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  19. Distinguished Senator sir, I am an author and have used some of your text in the book and need your consent. Please sir let me have your email address to send the excerpts to you for your perusal and Consent. This is the only stumbling block to publishing the book at the moment. Please help sir. Ahmed Shehu Awak PhD, Google me sir.

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  20. My distinguish Senator Ben Bruce, in as much as I like ur common sense revolution, u must av d understanding dat dis govt needs time to set things right, as it inherited compounded problems and to correct a dislocated economy like ours, d effect must be felt by everyone, as we all av benefited one way or d other from d corruption of d past govt considering d high profile corruption we’ve been witnessing recently, which adversely and greatly contributed to d battered economy. As an eonomist, even a layman need not be told dat Okonjo did not do anything spectacular with d economy when she was d finance minister, she ws only able to sustain d economy bcos oil price ws favourable then unlike now. She as d integral part of d previous govt av d greatest opportunity to turn d fortunes of dis country around but instead they chose to pocket all d excess money realised from sales of crude oil. Definitely, everyone knows dat Okonjo do not av answers to Nigerian economic problem but instead she has query to answer. Thank you, God bless Nigeria!

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  21. Senator Ben Murray Bruce is a blessing to the upcoming Nigerian generation. Pls teach other selfish and greedy senators what it means to represent people with selfless motives

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  22. You always touch my heart with your write up,but one thing I respectfully disagree with you sir is consulting our former minister of finance,I would have blame our economic downturn on her but there is no point now.as a financial expert they know there is always time of glut in every business,is how it was manage during the boom in business that will determine success.I call that mismanagement of the economic.Nigeria have a better chance of diversifying the economic without any hinderance during the rise in oil price.I still believe in the governmemt of Buhari,May God help our leaders.

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  23. Thank you Senator BEN MURRY-BRUCE. Indeed another MARTIN LUTHER has rise to preach hope, positive change and common sense in our mother land NIGERIA and AFRICA.I am a youth and I am really inspired by ur dreams. I believe in ur dreams .GOD bless you

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  24. May God continue to strengthen you sir.I really get enlightened Everytime I Listen to You

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  25. Wow
    These are great words
    Inspiration to the Masses

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  26. Am always absolutely inspired when ever you altar any word sir and I believe Nigerian’s also do cos you speak reality, you speak facts and you speak words of wisdom thank you sir for your good works

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  27. The commonsense that u give out is more than enough to build, if majority are ready to move it on.

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  28. Well done senator..i just hope this gives common sense too citizenz out there,sir u ar role model#may God continue tu bless u…Amen!

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  29. If only God would continue tu bring fought men lyk u into Nigeria …hope this gives common sense tu citizens out there…May God give u d grace nd strenght to continue with ur works.

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  30. You are the only true politician we’ve had in a while. God will punish these money-worshipping politicians. They are possessed.
    I was just looking at one man at d filing station; apparently he was rich, arguing seriously dat we, the masses, are the cause of Nigeria’s problems bcos of black market, yahoo-boys, and corruption in every facet of the economy.
    I was just looking at him no ni

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  31. Take this to the Senate

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  32. good article senator, i believe this a way of getting Nigerians engaged in the realities before us and also a reorientation mechanism which would change our various perception and mentality. thank you sir

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  33. You are a gr8 man sir, and you make so much sense!!! I ve been following ur post and I ll say dat u ar the solution our country needs… I wish I can just meet you even if its for 1min it will be a great honour. My name is Agu ifeanyi s and I jst want 2 make common sense #sorry I ll have 2 adopt that line#

    Like

  34. Good day sir, I have an idea on this your buy naija to grow the naira. If you can float it as an NGO, I believe we can go far. My number is 08033499006

    Like

  35. Thank you,you are indeed the man of the people,when leaders speak this way it gives me hope.

    Like

  36. Goodevening sir I really appreciate your speech I am Nengi Fidelis from bayelsa state twon brass. Nigeria dont value us why I am say this is because When I was worinking with SPDC we carry out an E I A work on 14 communities precisely twon brass egweama beletiama Lia ma Ogonibiri Okumbiri Okumbiribeleu sangana Odioma Okpoama Ewoama Obioku Ibidi I came to understand that the problem with us in the coast line in bayelsa state is greed and When I work with environmental resources management we carry out Brass LNG displacement studies on 118 communities and I came to understand that the problem with us is hatred and When I came to work with nigerian agip oil company I came to understand that man is evil why because the level of corruption in the oil sectors is too much you dont know who to trust or who to believe on ten months no salaried and When you go on strike they threatening you how can a matriculated Naoc staff Still owns a contract in the oil company instead of given it to the indigenous contractors that is the major reason why they are owing workers salaries so nigerian cannot change until we change from our bad ways I like you and I really appreciate you and I really want to work with a trusted nigerian like you. Please keep your good work in the lives of the widows and orphans.

    Like

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