Currency swap crisis: If Buhari’s intervention fails, we‘ll come in again – Gbajabiamila




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 Speaker House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila has said the Green Chamber would have no option but to reconvene before the February 25 elections if the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) failed to address the hardships Nigerians face due to the currency swap policy.

He also said the House would come in again if nothing changes after President Muhammadu Buhari’s intervention to nip the fiscal crisis in the bud.  

President Buhari had at a meeting with the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) begged Nigerians to give him a seven-day window to resolve the currency crunch resulting from the cash swap policy.

Gbajabiamila

Notwithstanding the president’s intervention, Speaker Gbajabiamila said the House would continue to monitor the CBN’s implementation policy closely after its meeting with CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele on the issue.

A statement by the Speaker’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity quoted Gbajabiamila as saying this Sunday at a town hall meeting with some ethnic groups in Surulere, Lagos state.

Gbajabiamila said he was on the verge of signing an arrest warrant against Emefiele following his initial failure to appear before an ad hoc panel of the House.

He said: “The House of Representatives intervened on several occasions. We summoned the CBN governor the first time and again, but he refused to answer, because we had many hard questions for him.

“It was until I issued the threat of warrant of arrest before he came, and I would ‘ve signed that warrant; it would’ve been the first time in the history of National Assembly that a CBN governor would be arrested. I would’ve done it.

 “Many have argued on the independence of CBN, the autonomy of CBN. That does not make CBN above the law. The Constitution gives the House the power to issue an arrest warrant against anyone, we can summon anybody, and that was exactly what the House was going to do until the CBN governor came.

“So, we are watching, and we are monitoring very closely. If need be, we will reconvene the House, even though we’ve all been away for our elections. I will call the House back, if need be.”

On Tinubu

Gbajabiamila also said amidst the ongoing hardship, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, identified with Nigerians and faulted the implementation of the policy at this time, which necessitated the extension of the deadline for the collection of the old currency.

“On the currency swap, let me explain something to you. We are all very intelligent people. Many are suffering, we have paid your salary, and you cannot withdraw it; people cannot eat, what kind of thing is that? 

“But I have news for you. There’s one man who is running for president of this country, and that man has courage and audacity. This man came out boldly and identified the problem, that the fifth columnists, in cooperation with the PDP are the ones trying to sabotage this election. 

“Many have said he’s talking about Buhari, but he told them ‘no, I’m not talking about Buhari; I’m talking about fifth columnists.’ If you don’t know the meaning of fifth columnists, go and check your dictionary. Fifth columnists infiltrate people, they even infiltrate families, otherwise how do you explain this type of policy?

“The president, being a compassionate person that he is, has asked for a few more days to look at everything that is going on and see if anything could change. We pray that things will change. If nothing changes, we will intervene again, but be sure of one thing: that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu stands with you and stands with Nigerians in their suffering.

“He was the first to shout that what is going on? He has cried, he has begged, he has screamed that people are suffering, what did the PDP candidate say? He said, ‘no, CBN don’t listen to them; you must not extend this thing; let people continue to suffer.’ That is what the PDP candidate said. He said it publicly.

“So, you have the tale of two presidential candidates: one who stands with the people and says this currency swap must stop; the second one says,’ no, it cannot stop, it’s a good policy. CBN, don’t listen to him. Let the people continue to suffer.’ I leave the rest to you to determine who is with you and who is against you.”

Arewa youth slams Atiku 

 In a related development, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) has berated Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar for his call against extension of the naira swap exercise by the CBN. 

AYCF National President Alhaji Yerima Shettima tasked CBN not to listen to the PDP presidential candidate, but hearken to the calls by Nigerians feeling the heat of the naira swap exercise and suffering without access to their money.

The position was contained in a statement issued by the forum Sunday in Kaduna.

It said: “Our attention has been drawn to a viral news in which PDP presidential flag bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar turned against the calls for CBN to extend the deadline for its cash swap policy. While we feel duty bound to call the former VP to order on his politically-motivated stance, we wish to state that we are aware that the economy has suffered heavy, avoidable bruises. As at end-June 2022, available data indicated that N2.72 trillion out of the N3.26 trillion currency in circulation, was outside the vaults of commercial banks across and hidden in crude forms. 

“So, the cashless policy is inherently good, though there are calls for review of the CBN deadline that we must not ignore. Former VP Atiku’s call was out of place because it is coming on the heels of growing complaint about the kind of sabotage that is causing untold hardship to Nigerians over this policy. Atiku stands alone in his call on the CBN not to review the deadline. He is against prominent Nigerians who made passionate appeal for deadline review, notably the Sultan of Sokoto, the Senate and House of Representatives leaders and experts.

“What purpose will the current difficulties people are facing serve Atiku? Why would he rather identify with the need to let the difficulties faced by especially rural folks to continue and for how long? AYCF wishes to state that it will be suicidal for this nation to consider Atiku’s advice against a review of the CBN cash-swap deadline, because for any policy to succeed, it must have a human face and we believe CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele won’t turn against overwhelming public interest, like Atiku has just done. 

“The AYCF is therefore warning the ex-VP not to turn this policy into a weapon of political manipulation or political attention-seeking opportunity. He should forget about the continuation of a policy in the midst of loud calls for positive review for the sake of his selfish political and self-serving interests. We will not stop emphasising that Nigeria is never a Banana Republic. 

“We advice the ex-VP to concentrate on his presidential campaigns by showcasing what he has done to merit the votes of Nigerians and stop playing politics with our economic policies and associated challenges. We thought the ex-VP would tell Nigerians what he has to offer in fighting inflation and weak national currency.” 

 Afenifere tasks Buhari

 In a related development, Afenifere, the  Pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Sunday. said  Buhari’s seven-day request to resolve the challenge arising from  naira swap “is too long.”

Afenifere in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, declared that the seven days’ request tends to suggest that President Buhari “does not appreciate the enormity and the intensity of the pains Nigerians are going through all in attempts to obtain cash from their accounts in banks across the country.”

“Several lives have been lost already just as social and economic activities have been seriously paralyzed. For the nation to have to wait for another seven days is to say that the people can continue to go on suffering. That lives can continue to be lost and that businesses can continue to be crippled,” the statement said.

Afenifere further tasked President Buhari to “act fast because lives and economies of Nigerians are seriously in danger as a result of the difficulties in getting cash and fuel,” saying, the situation on ground presently “calls for urgent, well-thought-out and pro-people steps so as to quickly put an end to the avoidable sufferings of the people.”

“If the exercise had achieved 75 per cent success rate as at the end of January, why would the problem be so dire that people would be losing their lives a week after,” the statement further said.  

Frowning at the CBN governor’s   claim that “Nigerians in the rural areas, villages, the aged and vulnerable have had the opportunity to swap their old notes,” Afenifere said, “Why would there be so much anguish in the land?”

They urged the president to “come out boldly to instruct CBN to flood the banks with new notes and allow both the old and the new ones to continue to circulate for at least the next three months.”

Afenifere urged bank officials and others sabotaging the system to desist “because what goes around comes around.” 

Deposit banks beg Nigerians

Meanwhile, the Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks (ACAMB) has said the nation’s banks have taken additional measures to quicken the flow of naira notes into the financial system.

The association said some of these measures include deployment of extra technical supports for online payments, additional security at ATMs to ensure all-clock usage, technological back-up to reduce online downtime to the barest minimum, additional staff deployment to counters to attend to cash transactions and timely interbank and inter-branch networking to bridge any gap.

A statement issued by the association weekend and signed by ACAMB President Rasheed Bolarinwa, expressed confidence that these measures, in addition to efforts by the CBN, would result in greater ease of access and cash liquidity. 

It said the federal government and the CBN had reiterated similar readiness to address any constraint in the cyclical flow, including making adjustments, where necessary.  

While urging Nigerian banking public to exercise patience that normalcy would return to the banks soon, they called on them not to resort to any untoward behaviour against bank staff or banking facilities.

The statement said majority of Nigerian Banks “are publicly quoted, are owned by millions of Nigerians and provide employment to several millions of staff, who work 24/7 to ensure that the generality of Nigerians have reliable and secured, globally competitive banking services.” 

The association also pointed out that “the cashless policy is generally in line with the yearnings of the most Nigerians for the elimination of corrupt practices in financial transactions, adequate security and improvements in law enforcements and general integrity of the wealth creation process.” 

Listing the benefits of the policy, it said, “as shown by global evidence, cashless policy helps in curbing crimes such as kidnapping, banditry and official sleaze, among others,” adding that “cashless or digital transaction is also a boost to commerce and industry; as well as public finance.” 

The association also noted that “digitization of public finances of many states and at national level has led to phenomenal improvement in   revenue generation which forms the basis of improved infrastructural renewals Nigerians now cherish.”

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