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Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has written to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, calling for an urgent review of the Naira Redesign Policy.
The NBA in the letter dated January 23 and signed by the body’s National President, Mr Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, raised concerns about current and future challenges surrounding the implementation of the policy.
By the policy, old naira notes (N200, N500 and N1000) will cease to be legal tender in Nigeria from February 1, 2023.
With barely few days to the January 31 deadline for all old currencies in the above denomination to be deposited in banks, anxiety continue to mount with very limited number of the new currency in circulation.
While some people and businesses are beginning to reject the old currencies before the deadline date, banks are still dispensing the about to expire currencies.
Reacting, the NBA urged that due considerations and position of the law be followed, insisted that the law allows Nigerians to redeem their old naira notes at the CBN even after the January 31, 2023 deadline set by the apex bank.
The association recalled how a hasty implementation of a similar policy in 1984 by the then military government not only brought huge financial loses for individuals and businesses but eventually collapsed the economy and led to the toppling of the administration.
While acknowledging that the policy is laudable as it has the potential to stem corruption, votes buying and other criminal activities, the NBA President noted that “the necessary logistical, infrastructural and manpower support, required for the successful implementation of the policy are in short supply and should be greatly improved upon if they are to be leveraged for full implementation of the policy with minimal loss or economic hardship.”
In the letter, the NBA President expressed the telling concerns that there was no information in the public domain as to what would happen to the old currency in possession of Nigerians, by or after the 31 January 2023, stating that Section 20 (3) of the CBN Act provides that “notwithstanding Sub-sections (1) and (2) of this section, the Bank shall have power, if directed to do so by the President and after giving reasonable notice in that behalf, to call in any of its notes or coins on payment of the face value thereof and any note or coin with respect to which a notice has been given under this Sub-section, shall, on the expiration of the notice, cease to be legal tender, but, subject to section 22 of this Act, shall be redeemed by the Bank upon demand”.
He argued further that “any person who shall be in possession of the old notes which have ceased to be legal tender by 31 January 2023 is at liberty to approach the CBN and demand for the redemption of the notes and the CBN is under statutory obligation to “redeem” the notes.”
In view of the dearth of information in this regard, the NBA President added that “our recommendation, on this issue is that in addition to educating Nigerians on demonetisation itself, a campaign on what happens to old bank notes after 31 January should be launched so as to adequately inform the public on what to do and prevent or reverse the rising panic or agitations caused by concerns about the inability of Nigerians to swap their old notes for the new notes by 31 January.”