The window for exchanging old naira notes for new ones has closed, as reported by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which announced yesterday that the deadline of February 10 has passed.
It also cited a number of other causes for the difficulties in getting access to new notes, including “our leaders who are buying and keeping the notes” and “reprehensible conduct of miscreants” at bank facilities.
However, the CBN pledged to make “suitable optimal amounts of currency of N500, N200, N1000 denomination and even the existing N100 note, N50, and N20 to promote economic activities” available.
The bank also said it once notified President Muhammadu Buhari that anti-graft agencies were responsible for the large volume of cash in the hands of wealthy Nigerians.
CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele stated this when he met with members of the diplomatic community in Nigeria at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja to explain the rationale behind the currency redesign and its fallouts.
Emefiele admitted there were “pockets of pressure in some areas” which, according to him, were “substantially calming down since the commencement of Over-The-Counter (OTC) payment to complement ATM disbursements and the use of super agents.”
He added that with OTC payments, ATM disbursements, and super agents’ involvements in cash payouts, “there is, therefore, no need to consider any shift from the deadline of February 10”.
But Emefiele said the tension and agitations over the policy were “staged and exaggerated.”
“Tension and elevated agitation are by our leaders who should be calming frayed nerves by the citizens.
“We believe that the large proportion of these agitations are staged, they have sponsored propaganda or an exaggeration of the reality,” he claimed.
The CBN boss alleged also that “miscreants” desperate to make easy money contribute to the rowdiness seen outside the premises of some banks.
His words: “There are pockets of pressure in some areas but the CBN is working hard to shift pressure and resources to those areas to ease the tension.
“On 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 seek quick earnings just to queue up and sell their space for the money.
“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 catalysing the time transition to charge exorbitant fees, these selfish actions for personal monetary gains are causes of hardship for Nigerians and come at the expense of lives and livelihood.
“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 to the banks.”
Emefiele said the optimal amount of cash that ought to be in circulation by the reckoning of the CBN should not be more than N700 billion and not N2.7 trillion that was outside the financial system.
According to the CBN boss, the N2.7 trillion constituted a threat to the economy.
He said: “The cash in circulation is undermining the economy. N2.7 trillion in circulation is not healthy.
“The optimal volume of cash for Nigeria should be around N700 billion; it is therefore not acceptable that N2.7 trillion is in people’s hands.
“I will recall my private discussion with the President and with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman (AbdulRasheed Bawa).
“I asked Mr President, do you know why there is so much currency outside? And the President said ‘no, tell me why.’
“The EFCC chairman looked at me and I said in the last five or six years, the CBN came up with a policy that we said that banks must report what we call suspicious transactions.
“What we found in the course of investigating them, those who thought that they were being investigated for those suspicious transactions began to abandon the banks and began to build vaults in their homes.
“That is the reason we’ve seen currency outside the banking industry at N2.72 trillion out of N3.32 trillion.”
Emefiele frowned at “PoS agents getting involved in unholy activities” and warned that anti-graft agencies would go after them.
“We have made it clear that whatever 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 associated with our policy,” he added.
On the gains recorded so far from the naira redesign and its corresponding policy add-ons, Emefiele said: “ Today, the limited circulation of the new naira notes has forced the hand of speculators and we are beginning to witness some stability.
“The initial pressure is projected to further moderate as the implementation of this policy takes off and a wider understanding of the system is achieved.
“The policy is typically expected to cause deflation in the market as less cash only reduces currency outside the bank and money in circulation.
“The accompanying decline in money supply will first slow the pace of inflation as you can see.
“We have started to witness inflation trending downwards following general price stability in all genres of the market, including goods for goods and financial Products.
“For instance, analysis shows that effective implementation of the policy will by itself scrap four percentage points off the current level of inflation as it steadily slows inflation rate to 18 per cent by the mid of 2023.”
Also yesterday, CBN Branch Controller in Bauchi State, Haladu Andaza, reiterated the apex bank’s readiness to receive the old naira notes by February 17 based on certain conditions.
The conditions include filling out a form in the CBN’s portal, generating a code, providing a telephone number, basic personal information, account details and the amount to be deposited.
Andaza said: “Customers are free to come to the bank and deposit old notes which they cannot do at the commercial banks anymore because the currency has been seized to be a legal tender since the 10th of this month. “Consequently, the management of the CBN decided that those customers will have a sigh of relief by coming to the CBN offices in all the 36 states of the federation and Federal Capital Territory ( FCT) to deposit their money.”
Ondo residents protest at CBN office
Some residents of Akure stormed the Ondo State branch of the CBN to protest their inability to swap old naira notes in their possession.
One of the protesters, who gave his name as Francis, said commercial banks refused to collect the old notes from them.
Policemen were later drafted to protect the facility with some CBN officials informing the protesters that commercial banks had been contacted to accept their old notes.
Policy implementation political, says Wike
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike insisted that the naira swap policy was politically designed to inflict hardship on the masses.
Wike, therefore, called on the Federal Government to ameliorate the suffering of the people.
“We are in a difficult situation now. It doesn’t matter what anybody may say. The truth must be told at all times.
“Nigerians are suffering now and as a people, we owe that responsibility to cushion the level of hardship that Nigerians are facing, we are not to worsen the situation,” he said.
The governor spoke during the presentation of a letter on his nomination for the “award of Independent Man of the Year 2022” in Port Harcourt.
Wike, in a statement by his Special Assistant, Media, Kelvin Ebiri, said people were not necessarily opposed to the naira redesign but worried about the implementation.
He said those who insist that the policy would curb corruption and eliminate vote-buying were not sincere.
“The whole thing is political and that is not what it is supposed to be,” he said.
The governor added that persons advocating internet banking fail to take into cognisance that the vast majority of Nigerians, particularly those in the rural areas, do not have bank accounts.