Despite Reps intervention, Emefiele says no going back on cashless, withdrawal limits
• Says Buhari supports policy • Policy will affect SMEs, Abuja Chamber says • We won’t be rigid on cash withdrawal limit — Emefiele
Emefiele, who stated this, yesterday, while speaking with State House correspondents after meeting behind closed-doors with President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura, Katsina State, assured that the apex bank would not be rigid on the policy following criticism from the Senate, business experts and some stakeholders.
On Tuesday, CBN had unveiled a revised cash withdrawal limits with a maximum of N100,000 cash withdrawal per week for individuals and N500,000 cash per week for corporate bodies, but the Senate faulted the bank on the grounds of timing, arguing that it might worsen the tight economic environment.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives directed CBN to rescind its decision on the revised cash withdrawal limits.
The green chamber, rather urged the apex bank to do more advocacy, enlightenment and sensitisation on small business holders across the country before issuing out policies and directives that may affect their business concerns.
This followed a point of order raised by a lawmaker, Mark Gbilah, who drew the lawmakers’ attention to the fact that the apex bank has the constitutional right to adopt economic policies it deems fit in the interest of the country.
But going by the controversies generated over the policy, the House in a unanimous resolution during plenary summoned the CBN governor to appear before it on Thursday next week and explain reasons for the policy.
The Senate had earlier summoned Emefiele to address the Red Chamber on Tuesday, next week.
The lawmakers said: “The House is aware that majority of small business owners in Nigeria are the major drivers of the nation’s economy and who are majorly residents of rural areas and carry on their businesses and activities in those far-flung rural areas.
“Majority of these small business owners transact their businesses in physical cash and are in most cases not inclined to the use of electronic banking system as most of them are either illiterate, half-educated or not learned at all.
“The House is disturbed that this set of Nigerians, who are the drivers of economy, will be seriously affected and their source of livelihood gravely impaired with these new directives of the CBN.”
Also, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), yesterday, said the new policy would affect Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs) in several big local markets across the country.
The chamber stated that the limitation on withdrawal would constrain business transactions, especially, as most businessmen rely on such withdrawal for quick business engagement from one market to the other.
President, ACCI, Dr Al-Mutjaba Abubakar, said apart from slowing down businesses within formal and the informal markets, the new policy also has the tendency to increase cost of doing business due to sanctions on withdrawal exceeding certain limits.
“The charges on excess withdrawal constitute new form of levy, which adds to the long list of levies on SMEs and the informal business operators,” he said in a statement.
Abubakar said the apex bank and other levels of government must be aware that small businesses in Nigeria are dying on a very alarming percentage.
“We solicit the understanding of policy makers to always engage the business sector on policies and programme that would affect them.
“Such exchange will enable policy makers to consider impact of proposed policies on businesses. Any oversight in holding such consultation may result in policy decisions that further emasculate small businesses, thereby deepening economic challenges facing the nation.
“On the implementation timeline of the new policy, we urge the Apex bank to allow more time for the commencement of this policy so that businesses have enough time to make the necessary adjustments,” Abubakar said.
Besides, stakeholders have expressed worry over the possibility of implementing hitch-free cash withdrawal limits in communities with ‘blind spots or poor network connectivity.’
BUT in his first reaction since unveiling the policy, the CBN governor explained that more and more countries that are embracing digitisation have gone into cashless era and that the policy is not targeted at anybody.
Emefiele, who said he visited Daura to greet Mr. President and to brief him about what is happening in CBN and the economy, revealed that President Buhari was very happy “and said we should carry on our work, no need to fear, no need to bother about anybody.”
He said the new policy of the apex bank is for the good and development of the Nigerian economy, adding that “we can only continue to appeal to Nigerians to please see this policy the way we have presented it.”
Responding to the objection of the Senate, he said, “well, the Senate of the Federal Republic is the National Assembly. They are legislative arm of the government and from time to time we brief them about what is happening and about our policies and I’m aware that they have asked for some briefings and we will brief them.
“But I think it’s important for me to say that the cashless policy started in 2012. Almost three to four occasions, we had to step down the policy because we felt that there is a need for us to prepare ourselves and deepen our payment system infrastructure in Nigeria.
“Between 2012 and 2022, we believe a lot of electronic channels have been put in place that will aid people in conducting banking and financial service transactions in Nigeria.
“We heard people talk about some of those in the rural areas and the truth is that even online banking has reached the grassroots. As I was coming out to Daura, I saw a kiosk that has super agent today.
“We have 1.4 million super agents that are all over different parts of the country, all local governments, and all villages in this country. Some of their names are already on the CBN website and we will publish all the names of all the super agents.
“And having super agent is different from the banks, microfinance banks and other financial institutions. Having 1.4 million of them is as good as having 1.4 million banking points where people can conduct services.
“We think, Nigeria as a big country, the biggest economy in Africa, needs to leapfrog into the cashless economy. “We cannot continue to allow a situation where over 85 per cent of the cash that is in circulation is outside the bank. More and more countries that are embracing digitisation have gone cashless.
“We will be reviewing from time to time how this is working because I cannot say that we are going to be rigid.
“But it is not to say that we will reverse, it is not to say that we will change the timing, but we could look at tinkering some amount to be a little bit higher or a little bit lower. We will do so because we are humans, we want to make sure that we are make life good for our people.
“We do not want to make life difficult for them. So there is no need for anybody to worry, the CBN is monitoring what is happening and I can assure everyone that we are up and alive to our responsibilities and we will do what is right for Nigeria and Nigerians.”
Speaking on the redesigning of naira notes earlier announced by the apex bank, Emefiele said: “I can only assure you that it will go round, let us just be calm. Luckily the old currency continues to be legal tender till January 31, 2023.
“So, I want to crack a joke, both the painted (new notes) and unpainted (old notes) will operate concurrently as a legal tender. But by January 31, the unpainted one will not be useful to you again, so please take it to your bank as quickly as possible,” he added.