Feature- Currency Exchange- Birth Pains of Nationhood


by Ayo Akinfe


Nigerians have got to understand that the hardships they are enduring during this currency exchange programme is one of the birth pains of nationhood

[1] Nigerians are currently going through a torrid time as the country redesigns its currency the naira. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to national development. Every nation must go through these traumas

[2] Europeans went through far worse during World War Two and they came out much stronger for it. The sacrifices they went through made them a much stronger people

[3] Take our former colonial masters Britain for instance. For the duration of the war, they had to live with rationing, food queues and deprivations, all at a time when German bombs were raining down on them. In January 1940, the British government introduced food rationing. The scheme was designed to ensure fair shares for all at a time of national shortage

[4] Basic foodstuffs such as sugar, meat, fats, bacon and cheese were directly rationed by an allowance of coupons. Housewives had to register with particular retailers

[5] A number of other items, such as tinned goods, dried fruit, cereals and biscuits, were rationed using a points system. The number of points allocated changed according to availability and consumer demand. Priority allowances of milk and eggs were given to those most in need, including children and expectant mothers

[6] As shortages increased, long queues became commonplace. It was common for someone to reach the front of a long queue, only to find out that the item they had been waiting for had just run out

[7] Not all foods were rationed. Fruit and vegetables were never rationed but were often in short supply, especially tomatoes, onions and fruit shipped from overseas. The government encouraged people to grow vegetables in their own gardens and allotments

[8] Certain key commodities were also rationed – petrol in 1939, clothes in June 1941 and soap in February 1942. The end of the war saw additional cuts. Bread, which was never rationed during wartime, was put on the ration in July 1946

[9] It was not until the early 1950s that most commodities came ‘off the ration’. Meat was the last item to be de-rationed and food rationing ended completely in 1954

[10] One way to get rationed items without coupons, usually at greatly inflated prices, was on the black market. Shopkeepers sometimes kept special supplies ‘behind the counter’, and ‘spivs’ – petty criminals – traded in goods often obtained by dubious means. By March 1941, 2,300 people had been prosecuted and severely penalised for fraud and dishonesty.


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