Monday, 5th June 2023

What exactly is wrong with naira redesign policy?

By Adolphus Aletor
01 February 2023   |   3:01 am
Three months ago, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, announced the policy to redesign the Naira.

President Muhammadu Buhari (left); Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari; Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele and Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. PHOTO: STATE HOUSE<br />

Three months ago, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, announced the policy to redesign the Naira.The denominations affected were N200, N500 and N1000. He had attributed the reason for the redesign to the shortfall between the money supply and money in banks, amongst other reasons. He affirms that over 80 per cent of the money supply is not in the banking system. He assures that the redesign will address counterfeiting, money laundering and other incidental vices. 

Soon after the announcement, there was an uproar from a particular population segment, while others gladly welcomed it. Amongst many others, they accused the Governor of not seeking appropriate consultation and necessary approval. The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, stated that her ministry was not informed and therefore not part of the decision. In what was to leave the Governor in the cold, President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed his approval and full support for the new policy amidst the Governor quoting the CBN Act 2007 that gives him authority to do so.

Critics had also argued the time frame given for the policy to lapse, claiming that the deadline of January 31st was insufficient. But President Buhari was to respond himself, assuring the critics that 90 days was sufficient for any citizen to aggregate cash at his disposal and get them changed at the bank. The CBN reported that depositors brought N1.0 trillion of the N2.73 trillion into the banking system. This is still below the target of 60% set by the CBN. Despite the President’s confirmation, pressure continued to mount on the Governor to shift the deadline, which was eventually done a couple of days back. 

As the new deadline draws closer and the Governor has insisted that it is sacrosanct, he has continued to face various challenges:
The declaration by the DSS that he was involved in terrorism financing. With this allegation, the DSS sought leave of the Court to take him for questioning, but the Court declined, citing the importance of that office and the potential backlash.
NASS invitation of the Governor to the Chambers to get him to change his mind. The Governor has not honoured this invitation citing vacation and other commitments for his absence. The NASS has advised the CBN to move the deadline to June 30th to avoid potential chaos that may arise due to scarcity of cash. 

The altercation between the commercial banks and the apex bank on the availability of the new notes. Banks have claimed that the CBN has not supplied sufficient quantity to meet demand. In contrast, the CBN has maintained that there is enough to go around and promised to investigate any potential diversion or hoarding.
There have been pockets of accusations through social media that the currency introduced by the CBN looked fake and was quick to run when in contact with water. Clips of people using unknown liquids on the money abound. In a swift response, the CBN defended the quality by running a campaign to educate the citizens about the security features of the new currency and confirmed that they were printed under global best practice. It is important to note that countries decide what their money will look like and the corresponding features. What determines fake is the deviation from those set features and not just the look and feel.

While some political actors have accused the Governor of being used to sabotage their political ambition, other politicians have hinged their reason on the plight of the ordinary citizen. They claim that ordinary citizens will suffer from a lack of cash.
However, a more significant number of the population applauded the introduction of the policy. It ranked it as President Buhari’s last stroke and a reflection of the Muhammadu Buhari that Nigerians voted into power. They assert that though the government have been largely unimpactful, introducing this policy was one thing the President should do for the ordinary person before leaving office in May 2023. They argued that the only people complaining are those with sinister intentions to use the cash stored in their private vaults to achieve their political ambition.
The critics’ position puts to enquiry the hullaballoo about Naira redesign in Nigeria. Why ignore the opinion of a significant part of the population for the concern of a few? The reality, however, is that these few control a substantial portion of the economy and are capable of influencing any policy, including using the machinery of the State to persuade or otherwise get the CBN to make a U-turn.
The day draws near, and the pressures continue to pile! The banking halls are not as chaotic as anticipated in a rush to drop old currency, and the ATMs face such force as is usual with nothing extraordinary. After all, you can only visit the ATM to the extent of what you have in the bank. The popular opinion on the street of Nigerian towns is that the policy should proceed as scheduled. But, unfortunately, you cannot put the decision into a popularity contest. 

In conclusion, as the fate of the Naira redesign policy hangs in the balance, the question on everyone’s lips is if the CBN Governor would sacrifice his comfort for the greater good of the people by backtracking on the policy to please the significant few.


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