Wednesday, 7th June 2023

Give me seven days to address cash crunch, Buhari begs Nigerians

By Terhemba Daka, Abuja
04 February 2023   |   4:00 am
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday urged Nigerians to give him seven days to resolve the cash crunch that has become a problem across the country following the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to change high value naira notes with new ones.

Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari

El-Rufai: CBN Mopped Up N2tr. Printed N300 Billion
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday urged Nigerians to give him seven days to resolve the cash crunch that has become a problem across the country following the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to change high value naira notes with new ones.

This came as he expressed doubt in the commitment of the banks towards the implementation of the cash swap policy following the recent currency redesign.

He said: “I will revert to the CBN and the Minting Company. There will be a decision one way or the other in the remaining seven days of the 10-day extension,” the President assured.

The President was speaking to the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) who were in the Presidential Villa to seek solutions to the cash crunch, which they said, was threatening the good records of the administration in transforming the economy.

The President said the currency re-design would give a boost to the economy and provide long-term benefits while expressing doubts about the commitment of banks in particular to the success of the policy.

“Some banks are inefficient and only concerned about themselves”, said the President, “even if a year is added, problems associated with selfishness and greed won’t go away.”

He said he had seen television reports about cash shortages and hardship to local businesses and ordinary people, giving assurances that the balance of seven of the 10-day extension would be used to crackdown on whatever stood in the way of successful implementation of the policy.

The governors had told the President that while they agreed that his decision on the renewal of currency was good and they were fully in support, its execution had been botched and their constituents were becoming increasingly upset.

They told the President that as leaders of the government and party in their different states, they were becoming anxious about a slump in the economy and the series of elections that are coming, just as they requested the President to use his powers to direct the concurrent flourish of the new and old notes till the end of the year.

The President, however, told the governors that when he considered giving the approval to the policy, he demanded an undertaking from the CBN that no new notes would be printed in a foreign country and they in turn gave him assurances that there was enough capacity, manpower and equipment to print the currency for local needs. He said he needed to go back to find out what was actually happening.

Earlier, the governors elected under the umbrella of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where they appealed to President Buhari to allow both the old and new naira notes to co-exist to ease the suffering and bring succour to Nigerians.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, who spoke to newsmen in Hausa, alleged that while the CBN mopped up over N2 trillion of the old notes, it printed only N300 billion, which, according to him, is not enough.

El-Rufai, accompanied by his Kano State counterpart, Abdullahi Ganduje, explained that even if the CBN had wanted to implement the cashless policy, it should have printed a half of what it mopped up, for a start, which ought to be N1 trillion.

He said they told the President that the masses were suffering and traders were losing their goods due to lack of patronage. He particularly cited the tomatoes sellers that travelled to Lagos with their goods but all got wasted because people had no money to buy.

As a consequence, they appealed to President Buhari to reconsider his position on the new policy.

He said: “We the governors of the APC under the aegis of PGF have met with the President and informed him about the issue that is bothering us and the problems the people are going through because of the currency redesign policy. The President explained to us what they have told him and we have seen that the CBN and the Minting and Printing Company did not tell Mr. President the truth about the things that are happening in the country. What’s the truth?

“Firstly, we are told that they have mopped up over N2 trillion of the old notes and printed only N300,000 billion of the new notes. Why will you retrieve such an amount of money and then print only N300,000 billion? That is why there are problems; the money is not enough. If you also look at some state and local governments that don’t have banks and the problems they are facing from POS.  People don’t have money to buy things in the market, but they can’t go shopping, tomatoes sellers took their products to Lagos and could not sale till they spoiled. We have narrated all these issues to Mr. President and he said he would meet with CBN, other stakeholders, and even the deposit money banks.”

He will see what they will tell him before he takes a decision. But he didn’t indicate to us that this issue has ended. He did not tell us that he will extend it or not. He only told us that until he gets certain about what is going on. We have told him about things that are happening in our states and the trouble people are encountering.  Our fear is that if there is no solution to this, it may cause a crisis and affect the general election and the election may not even hold completely. The President said he would look into it.”

Asked what the governors want the president to do precisely, he added: “What we the governors want is to give an extension on this policy so that everyone can exchange his money. There is no how N300,000 billion will be equal to N2 trillion. N1 trillion should be printed not N300,000 billion. The money is not enough; that is the problem. Our advice is that both the old and new notes should be used until the old notes are gradually phased out. They should print new notes that will be enough. For now, they are not enough for circulation. Those who say the printed new notes are enough are telling lies to the President.”

Reacting to allegations that he was criticising the President because he was looking for a godfather, the Kaduna governor said:

“I don’t criticise President Buhari. I have never criticised President Buhari. It’s only those working with him who are telling him lies.

They don’t tell him the truth and they don’t tell him what the people are going through on these policies or decisions that are taken.

What President Buhari brought, we support it. We know the reason he wants to do something but this thing they are not doing it right and they don’t tell him the right thing. We the true followers of Buhari are not using him to get money for shopping, we are mandated to tell him the truth, and that’s what we’ve done. President Buhari himself knows me, he knows how we have been together, all these allegations I’m used to hearing them. Which godfather am I looking for? Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is our presidential candidate. We want him to win the election. I have told Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu 10 times I don’t want government work, I don’t want to work with him. He is the one saying he wants to work with them at all costs. I swear I’m bigger than saying he is my godfather. I’m not seeking work. I’m not seeking shopping money, what I am seeking is from God and not man.”