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Tinubu, APC govs beg Buhari, Malami to respect S’Court

By Geoff Iyatse (Lagos), Odita Sunday, Terhemba Daka and Adamu Abuh (Abuja)
20 February 2023   |   5:00 am
Ahead of Saturday’s presidential poll, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to comply with the Supreme Court’s injunction aimed at easing the prevailing cash crunch in the polity.

Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) addressing National Youth Service Corps members at a pre-election training centre in Kubwa, Abuja… yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA 

• From Addis Ababa, Buhari calls for patience over naira hardship
• Banks not ready for N200 payment as cash squeeze enters fourth week
• Adi: Don’t reverse policy, expand cashless outlets
• El-Rufai instructs Kaduna MDAs to accept old notes
• Merchants mop up old N500, N1,000 notes
• Increase minting of N100, other lower denominations, security expert urges CBN

Ahead of Saturday’s presidential poll, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to comply with the Supreme Court’s injunction aimed at easing the prevailing cash crunch in the polity.

The position was widely endorsed by the party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and members of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), led by Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, after an emergency meeting held at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, yesterday.

APC’s National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, who briefed reporters on the outcome of the meeting held behind closed-doors, said it behooves the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to wade in on the issue.

Adamu said the call was aimed at alleviating the hardship Nigerians have been subjected to by the naira swap policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

He said: “A meeting comprising APC governors held today and the leadership of the National Working Committee (NWC) of our party was summoned and at the end of the discussion, we have resolved as follows and this resolution is without prejudice or whatsoever to the case that is lying at the Supreme Court on the currency redesign.

“We note very seriously that the programme and its implementation is causing tremendous difficulties to the people of Nigeria and to the national economy.
“We urge the AGF and the CBN Governor to respect the Supreme Court order of interim injunction, which is still subsisting. The meeting is urging Mr President to intervene in resolving issues that are causing these great difficulties to the economy.”

Among the APC governors in attendance were Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Muhammed Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), Biodun Oyebanji (Ekiti), alongside the deputy governors of Imo and Katsina states.

Adamu led the Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Aba Kiyari; Deputy National Chairman (South), Chief Emma Enekwu and the National Secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore to the meeting, which started at 2:30p.m.

Tinubu joined the crucial meeting of the party at 5:15p.m. Governors Bagudu Atiku (Kebbi) and Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos) later joined the meeting.
AMID ongoing hardship that has trailed the CBN’s new naira policy, President Buhari, yesterday, appealed for more patience from Nigerians five days to the general elections.

Sending a message home from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he attended the just-concluded African Union (AU) summit, President Buhari said he is fully aware of the hardship some policies of government, “which are meant to bring overall improvement to the country” had caused and appealed for further patience as the government takes appropriate measures to ease them.

“I am appealing to you to exercise further patience as we take appropriate measures to ease these hardships. God willing, there will be light at the end of the tunnel,” the President said in the video recording.

A faculty member of the Lagos Business School, Prof. Bongo Adi, said much of the clamour is a rage over nothing. According to him, CBN should rather concentrate on bringing vulnerable people into the digital payment system.

The economist said: “Most people have moved away from cash for a long time. The policy will not in any way affect the economy, except for people who live from hand to mouth and possibly do not have bank accounts. These are traders, transporters and others in the informal sector.

“Generally, if Nigerians had made efforts as they have done in the case of PVCs, they would have had debit cards and other digital tools for transactions. The challenge I see is that the man selling in a kiosk or the woman selling roasted plantain may not have a PoS to collect money. Those are the vulnerable people that should be taken care of. I will not ask the CBN to reverse the policy but it should identify scalable fintech solutions that can address the affected people.”

Five days after President Buhari approved the recirculation of the old N200 notes, deposit money banks (DMBs) have not received the supply of the denomination for payout to customers, The Guardian has learnt.

President Buhari, last Thursday, said he had approved the recirculation of the denomination for 60 days until April 10, while the old series of N500 and N1,000 notes ceased to be legal as at February 10.

The old N200 notes, The Guardian reported last week, would inject N222 billion into the economy and possibly ease the current cash squeeze, albeit slightly. Whereas the N200 bills were only seven per cent of the currency in circulation as at last year, while N500 and N1,000 notes made up N2.65 trillion or 82 per cent of the total N3.23 trillion physical cash in the economy then.

But the relief expected from the injection of the old N200 notes could be delayed by what some bank sources described as logistic challenges.

On Friday, bank premises were crowded by impatient customers, who had expected the financial institutions to start paying out the denomination following the President’s address. But their hopes were dashed as bank officials told them they had yet to receive supply from their head offices.

At the weekend, different bank sources feigned ignorance of the process of getting the cash delivered at different cash points. A few of them vaguely blamed logistic challenge for the delay in moving the money to different branches.

A banker told The Guardian, yesterday, that he “is not aware of the availability of N200 bills and whether customers could get the notes at banks this week.”

There was also confusion at the weekend when CBN refuted media reports that it had directed DMBs to accept old notes. Several banks threw their doors open for customers who had old notes to deposit on Saturday.

CBN Director, Corporate Communications Department, Osita Nwanisobi, in a rebuttal, said: “Members of the public should therefore disregard any message and/or information not formally released by CBN to the effect that CBN authorised the deposit money banks to collect the old N500 and N1,000 notes.”

Despite the regulatory position, a banker told The Guardian: “I am aware that banks continue to accept the old notes. They will probably continue to accept it; there is confusion though, which is the reason some banks have stopped providing any information to customers on the subject.”

Nwanisobi was reached for some clarification on the current status, especially on the timeline for returning the demonetised notes and how soon the banks were expected to start paying N200 old notes, he was yet to respond at press time. The grace period for the old currency deposit was February 17.

Director-General of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), Dr. Muda Yusuf, said the “confusion is inflicting additional pains on already traumatised millions of innocent Nigerians seeking to return the old notes.

“Amid the chaos, which the badly implemented policy has created, it is evidently impractical for CBN offices to properly handle this process of receiving old currency notes, which are still in abundance in the hands of millions of Nigerians. There is only one branch of the CBN office in each state of the federation and the FCT. It is practically impossible for CBN to manage this process without subjecting citizens to another round of harrowing experience.”

He pleaded with CBN to allow the old notes to be deposited at the commercial banks to ease the current pains and ordeal of returning the old notes. The process, he said, should be “simplified to accommodate millions of rural dwellers, the informal sector players, over 30 million unbanked Nigerians and several millions that are not literate.”

The former DG of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) added that the current guidelines, which require filling of forms on the CBN portal and generating codes do not reckon with millions of illiterate Nigerians coupled with the Internet accessibility challenge.

Despite the confusion and accusation of violation of court order, Kaduna State government has directed its ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to ensure that their collection agents continue to accept both old and new notes “in line with the subsisting order of the Supreme Court.”

The state government stated this yesterday in a notice signed by the Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Communication, Muyiwa Adekeye. Kaduna is among the first three states that dragged the Federal Government to court over the exercise, while its governor, Nasir el-Rufai, is among the strongest critics of the policy.

Currency traders have started profiteering from the impasse. Merchants, who buy old currencies at 50 per cent discount, have started combing the streets of Lagos since Saturday in search of those with old cash they have not returned to banks.

One of the merchants, identified as Emmanuel, who was approached by our correspondent, said he had no knowledge of what his principal needed the old money for. Emmanuel paid out-of-pocket for small transactions while he referred individuals with large sums to his boss.

In a related development, a private security consultant and Managing Director of Badison Security Limited, Mr. Matthew Ibadin, has called on CBN to increase the minting of N100 notes and other lower denominations like N50, N20, N10 and N5 notes and pushed them into circulation to ease the currency squeeze. Ibadin also suggested a return to the use of coins for other lower denominations like N2.

Addressing newsmen in Lagos, the security expert noted that in spite of what he describes as temporary hardship, availability of lower denominations of the naira in circulation would add some value to our currency and by implication, the economy.

He further stated that with more availability of lower denominations in circulation for business transactions both in urban and rural areas, there would be value addition to the currency, thereby, reducing inflation and ease with which corrupt politicians and public servants siphon and stash away bulk of higher denominations.

He added that the much availability of higher denominations in circulation had unarguably led to high demand by kidnappers in ransom as it was possible to keep millions of higher denominations by many Nigerians.

Conversely, he said: “A high degree of unavailability of N1,000 and N500 notes would make kidnappers have a rethink in their demand for ransom.”