CBN Headquarters in Abuja
By Tobi Soniyi, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Ndubuisi Francis and Linda Eroke
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), again, defended Thursday, its plan to restructure the nation’s currency and the planned introduction of N5000 note.
It said one of the reasons it is doing so is to stop the payment of royalties to contractors whose patent rights are part of the features of the existing banknotes.
CBN’s Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Ugochukwu Okoroafor, who spoke at an interactive session with journalists in Abuja, said as part of activities to mark the nations’ 50th anniversary, the bank had decided to print some new notes only to discover that some of the patent rights used in such currencies belonged to contractors.
He disclosed that President Goodluck Jonathan had given his consent to the planned restructuring on November 19, 2011 after the board of the apex bank endorsed it.
According to him, although the National Assembly is currently in recess, an informal channel of communication had been opened with the lawmakers to address the concerns over the planned currency restructuring, adding that once the legislators resume on September 17, a formal interface would commence.
He declared that while the CBN had received the ‘message’ from the Senate and the ‘conciliatory stand’ of the House of Representatives, it has so far not acted beyond it mandate as prescribed by extant laws, including the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA).
On reports that N40 billion would be required to achieve the currency restructuring, Okoprafor said it was unthinkable to spend such an amount of money when the exercise would entail printing new notes to replace destroyed ones.
The Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, expressed Presidency’s support for the CBN’s plan to introduce N5000 note and to redesign the existing currency notes.
Gulak who spoke Thursday while receiving a women group, Gender Justice and Equity Initiative, led by Mrs. Nana Modupe, said the Presidency had approved of it after subjecting it to sound economic analysis.
However, more opposition to the planned introduction of the N5000 note came from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The NLC urged the National Assembly to immediately impress it on the CBN to suspend the plan in the interest of the economy.
It said it would unite with civil society groups to resist any policy that will mortgage the future of Nigerians.
It also urged President Goodluck Jonathan to probe the tenure of former Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, and speed up the resolution of all outstanding labour issues in the power sector.
NBA President, Joseph Daudu, in a speech at the association’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Abuja, also faulted the plan to introduce N5, 000 note.
He described the N5000 policy as a shallow scheme.
According to him the proposed N5, 000 note will further weaken the naira and promote corruption.
He also reacted to the refusal to allow some lawyers to attend the Annual General Meeting saying that they should have been allowed to enter because they did not need to pay fees to attend the AGM.