Muhammadu Buhari: again quotes discredited $25billion remittance figure

How much exactly did Nigerians abroad send home in 2018?

President Muhammadu Buhari at a meeting with a select group of Nigerians on Saturday night said the figure was $25 billion and praised them for the huge home remittances.

As at today, the World Bank-estimated remittance can fund Nigeria’s 2020 budget, which is $29 billion, with just a $4billion shortfall.

By so saying, Buhari has once brought to the front burner the controversy over what Nigeria earns from remittances by her citizens abroad. But was he right?

The figure Buhari quoted was bandied around for a long time last year until the Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele intervened and grossly deflated the figure to $2.6 billion.

World Bank reports even for 2019, regarded Nigeria as the 6th highest recipient of remittances in the world, second to Egypt in Africa.

The latest report by the bank, dated 16 October 2019 estimated remittances to Nigeria for the full year at $25.4 billion, while that for Egypt was put at $26.5 billion. India is the world’s highest recipient of remittances at $82.2 billion, followed by China $70.3b, Mexico $38.7, and the Philippines $35.1 billion.

In 2018, the bank similarly reported that Nigeria received $24.3 billion from its citizens in the diaspora. The figure for 2017 was put at about $22billion.(see tables):

PricewaterhouseCoopers, a global tax and consulting firm in its own report quoted a much more conservative figure saying Nigeria received $18.37 billion in 2019 and projected the figure could grow to US$34.8 billion by 2023.

According to the report, the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region received a small share of the global remittances in 2018, with Nigeria accounting for over a third of the regional inflows. Despite representing a small percentage of global flows, official remittances to SSA grew by 10% ($46 billion) in 2018.

In 2018, Emefiele was reported to have said that Nigeria received 30 per cent out of the $72billion sent to Africa. He said this at a workshop on remittance household surveys jointly organised by the CBN and the African Institute for Remittances (AIR).

He was represented by Mr Mohammed Tumala, Director Statistics Department. It was not impossible that Tumala put words in Emefiele’s mouth and what was said was Tumala’s own opinion.

In October 2019, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria disputed the figure as controversy erupted over where the huge money has been disappearing into.

Anthony Ani, an accountant and a former Minister of Finance had queried the huge sum alleged to be missing through diaspora remittances, alleging massive foreign exchange laundering in banks.

Ani explained that in 1995 the Ministry of Finance reviewed the country’s sources of foreign revenues and found that nothing was coming in from Nigerians in the Diaspora, whereas India and Jamaica were living on foreign exchange from their citizens abroad.

“The fact is that the Diaspora remittances are not retained in Nigeria and there is a collaboration between the CBN, Nigerian banks and Western Union/MoneyGram; in such an event, government must investigate the infraction, punish the money launderers, and recover all past Diaspora remittances retained abroad!”

It was at that moment that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) disclosed that the official inflows of the remittances of Nigerians living abroad to the country was $2.6 billion and not $25 or $26billion as being quoted.

As reported by Nairametrics, the apex bank cleared the air after some experts argued that amount had not really impacted positively on the economy.

Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, who queried the sources of the data being referenced by critics, dismissed the representations as fraught with inaccuracies as he alleged that some people appeared to have misrepresented the transactions that constituted diaspora remittances.

He explained that the data, purported to be from the World Bank had also been queried by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the CBN, as it did not reflect the actual amount of inflows from Nigerians living abroad.

“We are looking for the so called $26 billion diaspora cash because such cash will impact positively on our reserve. Understanding the methodology through which the data was sourced could provide an insight into why critics’ diaspora figures might be off the target.”