By ORIAKU IJELE
The recent further devaluation of the naira is orchestrating mass exodus of citizens of Benin Republic back to their country, Saturday Times, has reliably gathered.
Nigeria, which was a safe haven for many nationals of West African countries, using CFA as their currency, has lately become unattractive, following the crash of naira against major world currencies. This has made the currency, once the pride of the sub region very unattractive for business people.
A visit to some locations in Lagos where the nationals of Benin Republic were living and plying their trade like Agege, Iyana Ipaja, Badagry and Ojodu Berger revealed that the last straw that broke the camel’s back happened after the current devaluation which left N1250 exchanging for one US dollar.
As at November 3, 2023 CFA200 exchanged for twice the value of the naira, a huge contrast to what it was in 2015 and earlier when the exchange rate attracted many citizens of these West African nations who moved in to work in order to earn naira that would fetch them huge rates at their home fronts. This trend had seen nationals of Togo, Benin, Niger, Mali and others moving into Nigeria to take up menial jobs like cobbling, tailoring and the likes in the hope that their incomes in naira would fetch them huge harvests by the time they are converted to CFA. But this is no more.
A Beninese who has been working as an okada man in the Ojodu Berger area of Lagos, who identified himself as Dayo told Saturday Times that his bike riding business was not as profitable as it was some years ago. According to him, many of his colleagues have gone back in the past couple of months and he was also considering taking the same steps, because his income in Nigeria had become ‘depleted’ in his hometown.
“Life in Nigeria is not what it used to be. Before now, we were happy anytime we make one naira, because you could easily convert it in your mind and know how huge it is in Cotonou. But it is no longer like that today. When you make it, your mind first goes to loss. Because of that so many of my brothers have gone back. Many more are planning to go and I have similar plans too. In all honesty, apart from the exchange rate, life is harder in Nigeria today than it was before. Prices of food are still cheaper in Cotonou, so I do not blame anyone who is leaving Nigeria. Even Nigerians are running away from their country, so why do we need to remain here”.
Saturday Times however gathered that those who are less willing to move back to their country are mostly those involved in building and construction, especially, tiling and plumbing. During an encounter with one who identified himself as Bolu, he told the paper that bulk of his jobs comes from clients from the S’East and that this makes him less interested in going back. “It is true that naira has lost so much value lately which is discouraging to some of us from Benin, working here, but I still prefer working here. The reason is that my work is steady here, especially in Anambra where I have constant contracts. The money may have lost value but the fact that it is regular, makes it attractive for me. I will not get regular patronage in Benin like I get in Onitsha and Awka. So I will still remain here. But I am considering moving my family by 2024 if this continues, so that I can be visiting them from time to time.”
Efforts at redeeming the value of naira by the Central Bank of Nigeria have been largely fruitless and only a month ago, the World Bank listed naira as one of the worst performing currency in the continent of Africa, alongside the kwacha, used by Angolans.