17 August 2015, Abuja – The Nigerian government has resorted to chopping down trees lining the streets of its capital to thwart black market money changers, one of a range of unorthodox measures it is deploying to defend its weakening currency.
On an August morning in Abuja, a labourer who said he was hired by the city government cut branches from a towering tree with a chainsaw. Nearby other workers hacked away at smaller trees with machetes.
Asked what they were doing, one, who did not want his name published, replied: “The government does not want the trees because people are doing illegal work under them”.
The man was referring to money changers from the north of the country who rest under the shade of the trees and sell US dollars, British pounds, and even Saudi riyals to customers hungry for hard currency.
Another worker who gave his name as Alex said: “People change dollars on the road here and it’s not supposed to be like that. People are supposed to go to the banks to do transactions”.