Governor Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele has appealed to the House of Representatives to show understanding and allow the new cashless policy succeed in the interest of Nigeria’s economy.
Emefiele, who bowed to pressure, made appearance Tuesday before the Ad-hoc committee of the House on the intervention over the deadline set by the CBN for the old N200, N500 and N1, 000 notes to be exchanged for the redesigned ones.
He also assured that the apex bank would act in line with the law, to redeem the old notes at face value after the expiration of the new deadline of February 10, 2023, when they would cease to be legal tenders.
And expectedly, the assurance doused the heightened tension amongst the committee members who literally dropped their guards and heaved a sigh of relief.
The House had been angry with the CBN boss over his failure to honour its invitation, and threatened last Thursday to issue a warrant of arrest to the Inspector General of Police to compel his appearance.
Speaking on cashless economy during the appearance, Emefiele said: “There may be challenges at the initial time, there may be glitches here and there, but the ultimate beneficiary is the Nigerian economy. Please allow this policy to work.”
He said the continuous redemption was in tandem with the Act establishing the CBN; precisely Section 20 (3) of the law, stressing that essence of the policy was to mop up the old notes in circulation, adding that the CBN stood side by side with the House on the position of the law.
“We will provide all the reports as requested by the committee; we will also look at all the suggestions and respond. Overtime, we will come back at the long run and celebrate,” Emefiele stated when asked to furnish the committee with records of the new notes disbursement to the commercial banks.
He, however, did not respond to the question of when exactly the apex bank would allow over-the-counter withdrawal of the new notes across banks.
“Nigerians will not lose their money,” he declared, just as he sought the cooperation of the National Assembly to ensure the success of the programme.
While reeling out the steps taken by the apex bank to ensure the effective distribution of the new banknotes, he said about N1.9 trillion had so far been collected since the commencement of the exercise.
He said the currency redesign policy had so far recorded about a 75 per cent success rate, given the fact that many of those in the rural and underserved locations across the 36 states of the country have had the opportunity of swapping their old banknotes for the new series of the banknotes.
Emefiele, who was accompanied to the meeting by all the four deputy governors at the Bank, disclosed that the CBN had deployed about 30,000 super agents to work with its staff members currently in the hinterland to ensure the underserved and vulnerable members of the society were adequately catered for.
The CBN governor also disclosed that the CBN was working closely with relevant agencies of the federal government to ensure full compliance with its guidelines issued to the deposit money banks for the seamless distribution of the new banknotes.
Earlier, Chairman of the Special Ad-hoc Committee and House Leader, Ado Doguwa, expressed the support of the lawmakers’ support for the cashless policy, stressing that the House would assist the CBN in achieving its mandate in that regard.
While welcoming the CBN governor’s submission, Doguwa faulted his failure to furnish the panel with all the need details as early as necessary.
“If you had come with this explanation, there wouldn’t be need for this engagement”, he said.
POS operators in rip off
And from Enugu state, life is becoming unbearable for residents as the new redesigned Naira notes are hard to come by in the Enugu metropolis and beyond.
Investigation shows that even with the extension of the deadline for swap and change of the old notes to new notes as announced by the CBN, the currency has become scarce.
Most ATMs visited were not dispensing cash but those doing transfers had free access.
The First Bank branch at Zik Avenue ATMs were not dispensing cash and those that went to do withdrawal from the banking hall were only given N2000.
The branch manager of the bank said the problem was not theirs and directed our reporter to go to their main branch at Okpara Avenue.
“It is not our fault here. We are not permitted to talk to the Press but you can go to our main branch to find out from our information unit. We are only giving customers N2000,” the manager said.
It was gathered that the matter is even worse because POS operators are cashing in on the precarious situation to rip off the customers as they charge N100 for every N1000 be it for old or new currency.
“If you want N5000, you will give us N500,” a POS operator said and even at that many people were queuing to get the cash since ATMs hardly dispense cash.
Not daunted by the ugly situation, residents flocked banks to see if they can get money for their transaction.
As early as 7am Tuesday, eager customers lined up at the UBA branch, Agbani Road by Garriki Market, our correspondent gathered.
In Port Harcourt, Rivers state, Blueprint gathered that the naira redesign controversy might instigate a national crisis of sort if the CBN failed to act fast.
One of our correspondents reports that the scarcity of the new naira notes has generated a lot of uproar with some POS attendant being accused of collaborating with some commercial banks to hoard the flow of the new cash.
However, the subject changed when a popular supermarket in Port Harcourt (name withheld) got a different share of the anger of their prospective customers, as a young female customer was spotted struggling with some private security guards over the issue of paying with the old naira note.
According to some eyewitnesses, trouble started when a cashier gave her balance with an old naira, while she refused to take that of her customer, adding that she refused their proposal, insisting that the deadline of the ban is just about a few days ahead.
The popular supermarket stopped receiving the old naira notes, but was giving out the old note after transaction, to their customers, a situation that sparked off anger amongst their customers who blocked and refused to accept the old notes from the supermarket.
It took the intervention of some security operatives to bring the situation under glory.
The situation however differs across the state, especially in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas.
Meanwhile, the Acting Vice Chancellor of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt (IAUE) Prof. Okay Onuchuku, has defended the CBN’s action.
The varsity administrator said the new cash policy is to mop up excess cash flow in the system, adding however that it must be done with good intention to accommodate those at the rural level.
He also called for enough enlightenment and advocacy for the public and people at the rural level to fall in line with the policy, adding that whatever action carried out by the CBN’s governor is peculiar because, CBN is supposed to be autonomous of its own.
CBN uncovers N4m in Ogun
Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Nigeria, Tuesday, said it uncovered N4 million of new naira notes mismanaged by a commercial bank in Ogun state.
It also accused commercial banks of sabotaging the efforts of the CBN in making the new naira notes available.
The Deputy Director, Banking Supervision Department, CBN Lagos, Kayode Makinde, disclosed this to newsmen while leading a team on the monitoring exercise in Ogun.
Makinde said this week would be the third week of the monitoring exercise in the state in an effort to ensure compliance to the directives of the CBN as regards issuance of new notes.
He said the CBN should not be blamed for scarcity of the new naira notes but the commercial banks.
He disclosed the team uncovered that a commercial bank mismanaged new naira notes given to it, adding that the bank involved and its officials would be sanctioned appropriately.
“This is the third week of ensuring strict implementation of our directive as regards issuance of new notes. We have banks, agents and super agents circulate new notes in the economy. The experience has been mixed, we saw some trying to hoard new notes, we compelled them to upload into ATM terminals, others had poor cash management.
“From our experience, CBN should not be blamed but commercial banks for scarcity. We caught some of them, with new notes in their vault, we compelled them to upload to their machines. We told them that instead of trying to ration, upload the ones you have and contact your central cash Management unit which has direct access to CBN.
“We came across instances of sabotage on the part of operators, we will take the case up and will be dealt with appropriately.
“We have given directive that they shouldn’t pay out new notes via the counter but other notes, some of them did that and ran out of cash. Some of the branches deployed resourceful cash management skills and they never ran out of cash while other experience cash run out and are still waiting for their source.
“We came across one of them that couldn’t account for almost four million naira of new notes and appropriate sanction will be placed on them,” Makinde said.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA) Tuesday disclosed that its intervention on behalf of Nigerians for an appeal for a reconsideration and review of the implementation of the demonetization policy was apt, saying it saved the affected old naira notes from ceasing to be legal tender.
NBA President Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, made the declaration while speaking at the state of the nation press conference held at the NBA House in Abuja.
The event followed a national dialogue on the state of the nation organized by the legal body.
While reeling out reasons for its intervention during its address, the body indicated that its action stemmed from the nationwide consultation and observation of the difficulties being encountered by Nigerians in the implementation of the demonetisation policy of the CBN.
“We took the initiative on behalf of Nigerians to appeal for a reconsideration and review of the policy. We wrote a letter to CBN and other relevant government offices including a visit to the Minister of Finance.
“Incidentally, today would have been the last day when the affected naira notes would have ceased to be legal tender,” Maikyau said.
In another development, the body expressed its readiness to deploy the instrumentality of the law to ensure that no ex-convict is allowed to contest the forthcoming presidential election.
The body noted that though some of the leading candidates in the impending presidential election have been accused of complicity in drug trafficking and corruption, it said such allegations have not been supported with any evidence of conviction.
He said: “As far as we are concerned, they remain allegations that have not been proven against the threshold set by the law.
“The alleged involvement in drugs and corruption are mere allegations that have not been proved. If anyone has evidence of conviction of any of the presidential candidates, please make it available and we will take it up from there.
“It is a constitutional requirement that if there is conviction the person stands disqualified. Even the Electoral Act also has provisions that make anyone with a history of conviction ineligible to stand for election.
“So, we will be glad to see any evidence and we will employ the instrumentality of the law to make sure that no convict stands for election in this country.”
Maikyau also said the NBA would institute disciplinary action against any judge or lawyer involved in the manipulation of the judicial process to favour any politician.
“Members of the Bar who misconduct themselves while participating in the resolution of electoral disputes will face disciplinary action at the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) and the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC), where Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) are involved”, the NBA added.
The body thereafter commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for extending the period for collection of Permanent Voters Cards.