Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, yesterday, told the Diplomatic Corps that an extension of the February 10 deadline for the circulation of the redesigned N200, N500 and N1, 000 notes was unnecessary.
He spoke at the meeting on the redesigned Naira policy held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja.
Emefiele spoke on a day governors of Kano and Ogun states, Abdullahi Ganduje, and Dapo Abiodun, respectively, threatened to shut down banks in their states, if they continued to reject the old naira notes.
However, the CBN governor noted the challenges posed by the policy but assured that it would be brief since his team was working assiduously to address the issues it had thrown up, including the availability of the new notes.
He blamed the scarcity of the new notes on the activities of some unscrupulous bankers and members of the society, who were trying to sabotage the policy, warning that such people would be sanctioned along with Point of Sales, POS, operators imposing heavy charges on customers.
The CBN governor said: “PoS agents who are supposed to help are getting involved in these activities.
‘’We have EFCC, ICPC working with our monitoring team to arrest any PoS agent that charges any fee because we have made it clear that whatever is their fee, which is not meant to be more than N200 for any amount you exchange that we, CBN, will pay as part of our effort to lessen the burden of this problem.”
Some POS operators charge as much as 20 to 30 per cent of the amount customers withdraw in new notes.
He noted that some powerful public figures are trying to exaggerate the inconveniences arising from the policy but said there is no justification to create undue panic in the society.
According to the CBN boss, the “tension and elevated agitation are by our leaders who should be calming frayed nerves of the citizens.
‘’We believe the large proportion of these agitations are staged, they are sponsored propaganda or an exaggeration of the reality.”
FG to take position after Supreme Court ruling
The Federal Government yesterday stated that it will take decision on the legality of the old currency notes of N200, N500 and N1000 after the determination of the suit filed by some state governments at the nation’s apex court.
Three states, Kogi, Kaduna and Zamfara had dragged the Federal Government to the Supreme Court asking that the February 10 deadline by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, should be extended.
The court had fixed February 15 (today) to determine the suit.
Some Nigerians have accused the Federal Government and the CBN of contempt of court and are insensitive to the hardship many Nigerians are passing through as a result of the scarcity of cash.
But the Federal Government last night said that decision will only be taken after the determination of the suit in the Supreme Court.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said: “We wish to state that it is not true that the Federal Government or the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN have taken a preemptive action on the legality of currency as a legal tender in view of the pendency of the case before the Supreme Court.
“The position of the government and the CBN will be made known upon the determination of the suit coming up tomorrow, Garba Shehu said.”
Panic mop-up of Naira notes
On the queues at ATMs, he said: “We have also noticed panic mop-up of notes. The CBN has also noticed that some of our leaders are buying the notes and storing them for whatever purposes.
‘’We have also noticed that some Nigerians are capitalising on the time of transition to charging exorbitant fees. These selfish actions for personal monetary gains are causes of hardship for Nigerians and come at the expense of lives and livelihoods.
“The situation has substantially calmed down since the commencement of Over-The-Counter, OTC, payment to complement ATM disbursement and the use of super agents. There is, therefore, no need to consider any shift from the deadline of February 10.
“There are pockets of pressure in some areas. CBN has also noticed long queues at some bank ATMs and banking halls. While some of these withdrawal requests are genuine, some are simply reprehensible activities of miscreants who do not have intentions of making a withdrawal but seeking quick earnings just to queue up and sell their space for money but the CBN is working hard to shift resources to those areas in order to ease the tension.
“We will continue to issue and circulate new notes but once we get to our optimal level or slightly above, we will seek to put in place a policy that people must not keep money in their homes, they must return it back.”
Benefits of policy so far
The apex bank boss reiterated the benefits of the naira redesign, arguing that it had helped in reducing inflation and a moderating in exchange rates.
Emefiele appealed to the Diplomatic Corps and Nigerians to support the policy which, according to him, has become necessary in the monetary authority’s efforts towards curbing high inflation in the country.
He also said that the positive effects of the policy are already being felt in the economy, with inflation already trending downwards, stressing that it will go a long way in addressing challenges in the foreign exchange market.
“The policy will accelerate the cashless policy of the monetary authorities which has been in the works for many years, spanning different administrations,’’ he said, noting that the current inflation rate is being significantly driven by insecurity which had made it difficult for crop farmers to optimise their potentials, as well as, election spending, and the effects of the global market environment.
Banks, and business owners stop accepting old notes
It was gathered yesterday that banks and business owners in Abuja have stopped accepting the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes.
Those who attempted to deposit old notes in their banks were told to take such notes to the CBN themselves.
Business owners and filling stations also stopped accepting the old notes. But Emefiele noted that the nation’s economy is expected to grow at the rate of 3.6 per cent for 2023 and that both monetary and fiscal authorities will synergise to have the best outcomes for the nation.
472 CSOs hail Emefiele for standing firm
Meanwhile, no fewer than 472 civil society organisations, CSOs, in the country have hailed Emefiele for standing firm on the full implementation of the new naira policy deadline, tasking him not to shirk his responsibility of enthroning a sound economic policy for the country.
The groups, under the aegis of the Civil Society Central Coordinating Council, at a briefing in Abuja yesterday, claimed that Nigerians had started seeing the gains of the new naira policy of the Federal Government.
The group had, last week, passed a vote of confidence on the new naira policy and on both President Muhammadu Buhari and the CBN governor.
National Coordinator of the group, Obed Okwukwe, who read the prepared text, said the hitches of unavailability of cash for small businesses are not unconnected to sabotage.
G-10 Govs mopping new notes
Noting that money moves in cycles, he said the scarcity of cash being witnessed by Nigerians was because state governors are mopping up the money and stopping it from circulating.
He said: “Since the implementation of the new Naira policy, Nigerians and indeed the system have started seeing the gains. Except for the hitches of the unavailability of cash particularly for small businesses, which is caused by sabotage from those who do not want the policy so they can continue with their illicit trade, other major indicators show that the impact of the policy on our economy is quite positive.
“Also on security, the impact is being felt as kidnappers now know that there is no cash to pay for ransom. In our electoral process, it is now obvious to Nigerians that it is only the vote buyers that are complaining.
“This policy is facing a syndicated attack from a group of governors who we have termed the G-10 Governors.
“These governors have vowed that this policy will not see the light of the day. They are willing to go the extra mile, including making our country ungovernable and undermining constitutional governance and bringing the entire country to a halt, all for their own reasons.”
The prepared text read in part: “The CBN had announced that it deployed N300 billion in cash as the first tranche of cash it disbursed. We all can agree that the money was hijacked and did not trickle down to the people and the people who took hold of it from the commercial banks have not brought it out to circulate.
“They are withholding the money,, using various means including deploying agents who use multiple ATM cards to withdraw the money, colluding with their bank agents to continue to trap the moneys in the banks and buying off cash from business places that ordinarily make huge cash transactions like petrol stations, supermarkets and department stores.
“This has made some of these businesses insist on only cash payment as the profit they make from the sales of the Naira covers for the loss of business from those who do not have the cash to pay.
“We have uncovered a grand plot by 10 governors, who have resolved to make Nigeria ungovernable for President Muhammadu Buhari if he refuses to reverse the new Naira policy.
“It is amazing to note that the governors behind this plot were the same governors who, a couple of years ago, took advantage of every opportunity to praise President Buhari to high heavens.
“However, obviously because the second tenure is coming to an end, these governors now believe that the President is not deserving of their respect. That is quite hypocritical. It means all they were showing the President was sycophantic solidarity, hence we must, therefore, remind them at this point in time that President uhari is and still remains the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria until May 29, 2023, and not one day before.
“Unfortunately, these governors have switched allegiance to a new godfather, not minding that he is yet to win the Presidential election. They are willing to dare constitutional governance and do anything including creating anarchy just to enthrone him and achieve their narrow political ambitions. Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State as you all know has announced that once their candidate wins, they would cancel the new Naira policy.
“Our intelligence shows that there will be intensified cash-scarcity drama across the geopolitical zones. People will pretend to collapse, people will go naked. There will be pre-arranged fights and many other things to press home their demands.
“Many people have been activated to make this happen. Groups have also been mobilized to daily report at various bank ATM locations to always stand around and help create the impression and make it look like there are crowds at the banks who are not being attended to.
“Scenes will be created and this is expected to put more pressure on the system and lead to the abandonment or reversal of the policy.
‘’It must be noted that this policy has succeeded in reducing the financial recklessness, money laundering and vote buying capacities of these governors, hence the ferocious fight they are giving the policy.
‘’If, like they say, their concern is the suffering of poor citizens in their states, one would now ask: Why have they not thought out any ideas that could make the policy work? Why are they only interested in ensuring that the policy is abandoned or killed?
“In case they do not know, Nigerians are happy that this policy has hit them hard and curtailed their excesses. Nigerians are totally in support of this policy and for now, the governors can cry all they want, the policy lives and the old naira notes are gone for good.
“Their plot to instigate businesses to shut down and go on strike, claiming cash scarcity, will fail as Nigerians have seen through all these. The storyline that has been spun that the cash scarcity was designed to make their candidate look bad is a false narrative; these 10 governors are behind the scarcity to force abandonment.”
Reject old notes, face sanctions, Ganduje, Abiodun threaten banks
Indeed, Kano and Ogun state governments have warned that they would not hesitate to revoke operational licenses of major business owners or take action on anyone who refused to accept the old naira notes as a means of transaction in their states.
Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State, who handed down the warning in a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Internal Affairs, Malam Muhammad Garba, yesterday, said the old naira notes were still legal tender.
He said the Supreme Court was emphatic on its interim injunction on the issue of old naira notes, which would continue to be used as legal tender hand-in-hand with the new ones until gradual and final phase out.
The governor noted that it had come to the notice of the government that some business owners, such as supermarkets, malls, banks, restaurants, hotels, traders in markets, filling stations, and motor parks, among others, were in the habit of rejecting the old naira notes for business transactions.
Ganduje said this non-acceptance by some selfish individuals was worsening the already tense situation exacerbated by non-availability of the new naira notes.
“Business and economic activities are seriously affected by the naira redesign and unfortunately, some self-centered individuals are cashing in on the situation to cause further hardship on the people by not accepting the old naira notes during transactions,” the statement added.
He said the people had suffered enough hardship and the state government would not fold its arms and allow a few selfish elements to worsen the situation.
Similarly, Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun, threatened to shut down any commercial bank operating in the state that refused to accept old naira notes.
Addressing market men and women at Itoku Kampala market in Abeokuta, as part of his re-election campaign in Abeokuta North Local Government Area, yesterday, Abiodun frow-ned on the action of the banks. He noted that since the new naira notes were not available, commercial banks must accept the old notes to ease the suffering of the people, urging the people to remain calm, assuring that his government was working assiduously to ensure that the present situation was brought under control.