Emefiele: Cash Withdrawal Limits Subject to Review, Deadline Remains Sacrosanct
*Says banks ready to commence issuance of redesigned naira banknotes
*Reveals N1trn old notes now in CBN, banks’ vaults
*Lawmakers summon CBN governor as Arewa, Middle Belt youths endorse new cash withdrawal policy
Deji Elumoye, James Emejo, Udora Orizu in Abuja; Nume Ekeghe and Nosa Alekhuogie in Lagos
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele yesterday clarified that the new cash withdrawal limits expected to be implemented from next month was not politically motivated, insisting that it was for the overall benefit of the economy.
He insisted that cash withdrawal limits is subject to review, the deadline of January 31st to deposit all old notes remains sacrosanct.
In addition, the CBN governor disclosed that deposit money banks were now in possession of the redesigned N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes and would start to dispense them to customers, earlier than the December 15 timeline initially projected.
Emefiele disclosed this to journalists after a meeting he had with President Muhammadu Buhari in his hometown, in Daura, Katsina State.
This was as the president reiterated his firm support for the central bank’s naira redesign project and well as the revised cashless policy which put a cap on the amount of physical currency that could be withdrawn at any particular time.
The CBN had on Tuesday introduced new cash withdrawal limits for banks and other financial institutions. The new policy followed its recent currency redesign project in which it had expressed concerns over the high volume of cash outside the banking system.
Under the new dispensation, the central bank among other limits, restricted the maximum cash withdrawal over the counter (OTC) by individuals and corporate organisations per week to N100,000 and N500,000 respectively.
The CBN had stated however that withdrawals above the thresholds would attract processing fees of five per cent and 10 respectively for individuals and corporate entities going forward. In addition, third party cheques above N50,000 shall not be eligible for OTC payment while extant limits of N10 million on clearing cheques still remains.
The new withdrawal regime further pegged the maximum cash withdrawal per week via Automated Teller Machine (ATM) at N100,000 subject to a maximum of N20,000 cash withdrawal per day.
But the House of Representatives yesterday directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to halt the implementation of the policy whose implementation was slated for January 9, 2023 and summoned Emefiele to appear before it next Wednesday.
However, Emefiele said Buhari expressed satisfaction over the steps being taken to put Nigeria at the forefront of digital payment innovations in Africa and the world at large.
“The president says he is happy and that we do not need to fear about anybody and that we should carry on,” Emefiele told journalists after he met the president.
Emefiele, insisted that contrary to speculations, the cashless policy was not targeted at anybody, adding that there was no going back on the policy.
The CBN governor also said the central bank would soon honour the invitation by the Senate to brief the lawmakers on its recent policy direction.
He insisted that the apex bank’s policies were in the interest of Nigerians and the economy, in general, adding that it was, “just meant for the good and development of the Nigerian economy.”
He said, “We can only just continue to appeal to Nigerians to please see this policy the way we have presented it. We will be reviewing from time to time how this is working; because we are not going to be rigid but it is not to say that we will reverse, or change the timing but whether it is about tweaking some amount to be a little bit higher or lower, we will do so because we are human and we want to make life good for our people.”
Emefiele added: “It is important for me to say that the cashless policy started in 2012 but on almost three to four occasions we have had to step down the policy because we felt that there is a need for us to prepare ourselves and deepen our payment system infrastructure in Nigeria.
“Between 2012 and now which is about 10 years, we believe that a lot of electronic channels have been put in place that would aid people in conducting banking and financial transactions in Nigeria.
“We have heard people talk about the people in the rural areas, the truth is that even online banking is working even in Daura, I saw a kiosk that has super agents today because of the way we felt that there is a need to deepen payment system infrastructure.
“We have 1.4 million super agents that are all over the country, in all local governments and all villages and I have told my colleagues, we are going to publish all the names of all the super agents.”
According to him, “Having super agents which are different from the banks and different from MFBs other financial institutions, having 1.4 million of them is as good as saying we are having 1.4 million banking points where people can conduct banking services and we think that Nigeria as a big country and the biggest economy in Africa, that we need to leapfrog into the cashless economy.
“We cannot continue to allow a situation where over 85 per cent of the cash that is in circulation outside the banks. More and more countries that are embracing digitalisation have gone cashless and I have said it at different fora that this is not targeted at anybody.”
He said the CBN remained alive to its responsibilities, and would do what was right for the country and Nigerians in general.
He said, “We do not want to make life difficult for them, there is no need for anyone to worry, the CBN is monitoring what is happening.”
On the new banknotes, Emefiele added, “I can assure everyone that it will go round, but let us be calm and be patient. Luckily the old currency continues to be legal tender until January 31, 2023. Both the painted and unpainted ones will be legal tender and by January 31 unpainted ones will not be useful to you.
“At the CBN we have taken more than half a trillion and the banks will also have around half a trillion; what we have done is to move more people into currency processing so that we can process as quickly as possible and from there, banks can move.
“The president says he is happy and we do not need to fear anybody and we should carry on.”
In a related development, the CBN has assured bank customers that its cash withdrawal policy would not prevent depositors from having access to their money.
It also urged Nigerians to make use of other alternative channels to transact their business.
The Director of Payment System Management, CBN, Musa Itopa Jimoh, who spoke on Arise News Channel, said it was important to make clarifications to Nigerians that CBN was not preventing anybody from taking their money.
“If you go to a bank to withdraw money, it is possible, we only push a threshold. There are other options by which you can take the money, it is not only cash that you can access your money. It can be accessed also in electronic form.
“Today, business outlets are begging banks to come and deploy PoS terminals. In fact, there are some shop outlets when you go there, they will designate a specific point for cash payment, every other point is electronic payment.
“So, the CBN has not prevented any Nigerian from taking your money from the bank. We are only saying we want to go cashless; we want to build our payment system; a detailed financial inclusion makes our financial system very stable.”
On his part, the Director, Banking Supervision Department, CBN, Haruna Bala Mustafa said the policy wasn’t politically motivated in any way, stressing that the CBN remains apolitical. He maintained that no pressure was being put on the apex bank.
He said the cash restriction policy was in line with the discharge of the statutory responsibility of the apex bank.
He further explained that the policy was to enhance the efficiency of the payment system, support economic growth and monetary policy transmission.
“We want Nigerians to reason with us as this is all about them. There is bound to be that kickback but I can assure you that in one or two years down the road, we will look back and say ‘yes, we are happy we took this decision.’ “We need to make this sacrifice for the benefit of our country and at the end of the day, it is all about the Nigerian people, it is going to enhance the efficiency of our monetary policy,” Mustafa concluded.
Lawmakers Order CBN to Suspend New Cash Withdrawal Limit Policy, Summon Emefiele
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has directed the CBN to halt the implementation of the new cash withdrawal policy slated for January 9, 2023 pending compliance with the provisions of the Act establishing the apex bank.
The lawmakers also summoned CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele in accordance with the provisions of the Central Bank Act to brief them on several policies of the bank in recent times, particularly the new currency redesign and the withdrawal limit policy.
The lawmakers expressed their opinion while contributing to a motion of urgent national importance sponsored by Chairman House Committee on Power, Hon. Magaji Da’u Aliyu.
Aliyu had while moving the motion, said the new policy by the CBN should not be allowed to stand, saying it would adversely affect the Nigerian people, especially those running small-scale businesses.
According to him, while the country was trying to come to terms with the decision to redesign the currency, the CBN was coming up with yet another policy that will adversely affect the masses without proper advocacy.
But, the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu supported the CBN policy, saying it would help curb banditry, kidnapping and reduce the incidence of corruption.
Elumelu advised that the motion should be stepped down, till the Committee Chairman of Banking and Finance brief the parliament on if the CBN Governor had briefed them.
However, Hon. Mark Gbillah raised a point of order on the provisions of the Central Bank Act, saying the CBN was yet to explain to Nigerians how the redesigning of the Naira was funded, as there was no approval of such expenditures by the national assembly.
Corroborating his comment, another lawmaker, Hon. Aminu Suleiman described CBN new policy as draconian and heartless.
He urged his colleagues to look into the CBN Act and see how they can diminish their powers to prevent situations like this.
Consequently, the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila who felt convinced after confirming from some members of the relevant Committees of the House on the absence of Emefiele, therefore heeded to the prayer of the substantive motion and ruled that the CBN governor should be summoned to brief the House on December 15.
Arewa, Middle Belt Youths Endorse CBN’s Withdrawal Limit Policy
On the contrary, the Northern and Middle Belt youth leaders have endorsed the cash withdrawal policy.
In endorsing the policy, they expressed the conviction that it would help the nation achieve credible election, economic growth and aid the anti-corruption fight.
The youth leaders who gathered in Abuja under the auspices of Arewa Consultative Youth Movement and Middle Belt Youth Forum were led by the Co-Convener, Comrade Meliga.
In a communique released to journalists after the meeting, Meliga called on members of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly as a whole to resist plots by those it described as corrupt and unscrupulous politicians to use them to halt the laudable policy.
The communique read, “We are glad to inform Nigerians and friends of the nation that Arewa and Middle Belt youths have endorsed this new well thought-out policy of the CBN. We have no doubt that the new policy will help the nation achieve credible election and economic growth as well as aid the fight against corruption.
“In endorsing this policy, we are mindful of the fact that politicians who specialise in vote buying are mobilising and plotting day and night to discredit President Muhammadu Buhari and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, over the policy. But Northern and Middle Belt Youths are hailing Buhari and Emefiele because we know and believe that the policy was formulated in public interest.
“In the long run, it is clear that this policy will fight vote buying and money laundering and expectedly, the corrupt ones among us will not like it to succeed. We therefore call on Nigerians to be wary of those who are bent at ensuring that they stop the policy for their selfish interest. As youths, we are watching. We will not hesitate to name and shame those who have resolved to stop the policy by all means.”