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Aisha Buhari’s foreign exchange side business

President Muhammadu Buhari’s wife, Aisha, is widely derided on social media as “Aisha Bureau de Change” due to rumours that she is involved in Nigeria’s roaring black market trade in foreign currency.

According to the rumours, well-connected people such as Mrs Buhari, receive significant allocations of foreign currency from the Central Bank of Nigeria on comparatively low rates of exchange with the naira and then sell on to black market traders, usually from the north of the country aka “abokis, at huge profit. The naira is currently trading officially at 320 naira to the dollar, but from 430-450 to the dollar on the black market.

What is not widely known is that Mrs Buhari was involved in this business long before her husband became president in May 2015. All biographies of the president’s wife mention her beauty salon, therapy and cosmetology business. However, a close associate of Mrs Buhari’s informed that the beauty business was just a front for the “forex business”.

Mrs Buhari owned two beauty salons in Kaduna and Abuja from which her trading in foreign currency was conducted. The associate said that her “main business” was “forex”, with the salons providing convenient cover.

Mrs Buhari shut down her beauty salons after her husband became president, but her trading in foreign currency is said to have gone up in gear. With her husband as the boss of the Central Bank governor Godwin Emerfiele, Mrs Buhari is guaranteed weekly allocations of foreign currency at a reduced exchange rate. The Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, described this practice in August last year as: “We have created our own billionaires since 2015 from foreign exchange subsidy.”

Sanusi added: “For instance, when the CBN [Central Bank of Nigeria] was selling dollar at 197 naira and people were buying at 300 naira, if I sit down in my garden and pick up my phone I would have enough people to call in the industry to get 10 million dollars at officials rate and sell at 300 naira and make a profit of over 1bn naira and if I do that four times in a year. For doing nothing I would have earned 4bn naira”.

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