Ondo commissioner decries hardship induced by fuel crisis, naira redesign
As the crisis generated by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) naira redesign policy deepens, the Ondo State Commissioner for Planning and Budget, Pastor Emmanuel Igbasan, has described the policy as “poorly conceptualised, laced with implementation inefficiencies, and birthed at a very wrong time, resulting in attendant crisis and chaos across the nation.”
Igbasan’s views are contained in a statement he sent to The Guardian, yesterday.
He said that as an expert in fiscal matters, he decided to speak up because he was worried that if the crisis does not abate soon, it may trigger serious social unrest of unimaginable proportions.
On timing, he said: “Bringing up the policy at the twilight of this administration, in the middle of the political process and the allusion to the fact that one of the policy objectives is to stop vote buying, erodes the credibility of the intentions of the policy and justifies the political interpretation of the actions and intents.”
While saying that currency redesign is a laudable policy, he maintained that it should have been well thought out, and supported by national sensitisation.
According to him, the implementation should have first simulated and lessons learnt accommodated before going public.
“For example, the recent report that 133 million of Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor is an indication that the majority of those in that bracket are likely unbanked and depend on daily cash earnings for their livelihoods. Asking all of them to compulsorily migrate into the inefficient financial system overnight is to further compound their woes and it gives an open invitation to chaos as we are currently witnessing.
“The withdrawal of the old note from the system should have been done gradually and systematically in a bimodal fashion, giving enough time for the new notes to circulate while the old notes should be withdrawn just as mutilated notes are withdrawn from circulation without any hitch. The question CBN has not answered is: why the rush,” he said.
On the solution to the crisis, he said: “I want to call on the CBN to immediately stop this fire brigade approach of theirs and the failed attempt to portray commercial banks as saboteurs to cover their poor policy design and devastating implementation calamity. A major bank has closed most of its branches to safeguard the lives of its workers, while others are merely running skeletal services.
“The lasting solution will be that the CBN should print more notes and allow the two currencies to run simultaneously, while the cap of cash withdrawals should be lifted immediately. CBN should make the cashless policy attractive by addressing the fraudulent practices prevalent among deposit money banks through spurious and multiple deductions from customers’ accounts.
“Internet penetration, charges and the ICT infrastructure backbone should be accessed to determine its capacity to accommodate expected traffic explosion as demand for electronic services deepens.”
On the fuel crisis, he described the oil and gas sector in the country as “a river of mystery flowing with inefficiency and corruption.”
He said: “The question I would love to ask NNPCL is: ‘You export or swap our crude oil and import petrol. What happened to the various bye products of refined crude and who accounts for it.’”
According to him, the Federal Government got the whole concept wrong from the word go when they signed off the country’s patrimony to Shell in a dubious Joint Venture (JV), in which terms and conditions remain unclear.
“The unilateral privatisation of NNPC to the exclusion of Niger Delta states as shareholders is another illegality.
“The solution is that the regime of questionable oil subsidy and import monopoly by NNPCL must stop and government should hand off and allow market forces of demand and supply rule the sector.”
He said the crisis is intractable because government officials profit from the crisis, stating: “From sourcing dollars at the official rates, most of which find their way into the hands of roadside currency traders who take rent from the dubious dual exchange rate regime, to embedded sharp practices in oil import sector, creates the juice of corruption from where many people take their fill.”