*Gives additional 10 days for return of old N200, N500, N1000
*Emefiele says N1.9tn of old banknotes so far returned
*Declares apex bank ready to exchange legitimately earned monies
*Lawmakers divided as Elumelu backs extension, Doguwa reiterates threat to arrest Emefiele
*Don’t succumb to political pressure, blackmail, former Lagos deputy governor tells president
* Analysts laud extension
Deji Elumoye, James Emejo, Udora Orizu in Abuja, Nume Ekeghe, Segun James and Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has deployed 30,000 super agents nationwide to enhance its cash swap initiative in the hinterlands, rural areas and regions underserved by banks in the country, just as it announced President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of the extension of the deadline for the return of old N200, N500 and N1,000 from January 31st, 2023, to February 10, 2023.
The deployment of the 30,000 super agents was also to ensure that the weak and vulnerable persons are able to take their monies to the banks before the expiration of the deadline.
Also, the apex bank, in compliance with Sections 20 (3) and 22 of the CBN Act, further offered a seven-day grace period beginning from February 10 to February 17, allowing Nigerians to deposit their old naira notes at the CBN after the February deadline when the old currency would have lost its legal tender status.
The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this in a statement he personally signed yesterday.
Also speaking with journalists in the president’s country home, Daura, Katsina State, yesterday, Emefiele said the extension of the deadline was to enable more Nigerians successfully change their currencies to the redesigned banknotes, reduce the risk of loss, especially among the underserved in rural areas.
However, while the Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives led by Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, applauded the CBN for listening to Nigerians and extending the deadline, the Chairman of the House Adhoc Committee on the Naira Re-design and Naira Swap Policy, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, rejected the extension, insisting that the CBN must comply with Sections 20, sub-section 3, 4, and 5 of the CBN Act.
But a former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, has called on the president not to fall for the blackmail and pressure from the political class on his decision regarding the naira redesign, describing the policy as a political masterstroke that would expose saboteurs of the economy and those milking the nation.
Furthermore, in the statement, Emefiele said the extension of the deadline was a gesture to allow for the collection of more old notes which are legitimately held by Nigerians and achieve more success in cash swaps, particularly in rural communities – after which all old notes outside the CBN lose their legal tender status.
Emefiele, in the statement released after meeting with the president to provide him with updates on the implementation of the currency redesign project, disclosed that since the commencement of the programme, the apex bank had collected about N1.9 trillion, indicating a 75 per cent success rate when compared with the N2.7 trillion that was outside the vaults of deposit money banks.
He added that about N900 billion was still being expected in the banking system.
He said Nigerians in the rural areas, villages, the aged and vulnerable have the opportunity to swap their old notes, leveraging the Agent Naira swap initiative as well as the CBN senior staff nationwide sensitisation team exercise.
He said aside from those holding illicit/stolen naira in their homes for speculative purposes, the CBN remained determined to give all Nigerians that have naira legitimately earned and trapped, the opportunity to deposit their trapped monies at the CBN for exchange.
Emefiele, appealed to Nigerians to work with the bank to ensure a hitch-free process for the implementation of the naira redesign programme, adding that the CBN staff are currently on mass mobilisation and monitoring together with officials of the EFCC and ICPC to achieve the desired objectives of the exercise.
Emefiele said, “From the onset of this currency redesign programme, we made it clear that for 19 years, the CBN hasn’t been able to conduct this important aspect of its mandate; whereas, this should normally have been done within five to eight years window.”
He said the central bank’s aim was mainly to make its monetary policy decisions more efficacious, adding that as a result of the recent policy interventions including the currency redesign and cashless policy. “we’ve started to see inflation trending downwards and exchange rates relatively stable.”
The CBN governor also pointed out that the apex bank aims to support the efforts of security agencies in combatting banditry and ransom-taking in Nigeria through the currency redesign project, stressing that the military is making good progress in this regard.
Emefiele, thanked Buhari for giving the CBN the approval to embark on the currency redesign exercise which the bank has not had the opportunity to undertake in the past 19 years.
He said, “Indeed, let me emphasise that only an incorruptible leader of the president’s stature can give such approval to the CBN.”
Also speaking to journalists in Daura, Emefiele said: “Our aim is mainly to make monetary policy decisions more efficacious and as you can see; we have started to see inflation trending downwards and exchange rates relatively stable.
“Secondly, we aim to support the efforts of our security agencies in combating banditry and ransom taking in Nigeria through this programme and we see that the military are making good progress in this important task.”
He added: “Ordinarily, when CBN releases currency into circulation, it is meant to be used and after effluxion of time, it returns to the CBN thereby keeping the volume of currency in circulation under the firm control of the CBN.”
According to Emefiele, to achieve effective distribution of the new currency, the CBN has taken some steps.
He said several meetings were held with Deposit Money Banks and they were provided with Guidance Notes on processes they must adopt in the collection of old notes and distribution of the new notes, including directives that new notes should be loaded in ATMs nationwide for equitable and transparent mechanism.
The CBN governor explained that the regulatory body worked with the media, print and broadcast, and the National Orientation Agency on sensitisation of citizens.
To ensure compliance, Emefiele said staff members, mostly Assistant Directors, Deputy Directors and Directors in Abuja were sent to all CBN branches nationwide to join the mass mobilisation campaign and monitoring programmes.
He said breaches of the programme had been reported to the EFCC and ICPC for further action.
“We therefore appeal to all Nigerians to work with the Central Bank of Nigeria to ensure a hitch free the implementation of this very important process for program,” Emefiele added.
The CBN governor in respond to a question said the excuse of security threats pushed by the Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, had no bearing on the cash swap policy, which he said had achieved compliance and recorded huge success across the country.
His words: “I don’t understand the relationship between the CBN policy and security challenges in Kano State.”
He noted that all new currencies had security features that make it easy for tracking to bank branches, and the process had begun to deal with defaulters and those who breached the programme.
“Even if they are CBN staff, they will be sanctioned,” Emefiele warned.
House Minority Caucus Hails Deadline Extension, Doguwa Reiterates Threat to Arrest CBN Governor
Meanwhile, the Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives has applauded the CBN for listening to Nigerians and extending the deadline for swapping of the old naira notes for new ones by 10 days.
The caucus in a statement by its leader Hon. Ndudi Elumelu said the extension of deadline was a welcome decision, adding that it would ease the suffering as well as social and economic discomfort being faced by many Nigerians in accessing the new naira notes within the earlier stipulated deadline.
He applauded the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, for his intervention in persuading Buhari and the CBN to extend the earlier deadline in the national interest.
The caucus said, “As lawmakers and representatives of the people, our caucus commends the CBN for being considerate towards the wellbeing of Nigerians; which is the essence of democratic governance all over the world. His Excellency Atiku Abubakar’s patriotic intervention at this time further shows him as a compassionate leader who is always concerned and committed towards the wellbeing of Nigerians.
“He has again demonstrated his experience, capacity, and competence to get the system to work in the interest of Nigerians at very critical time.
“Our Caucus calls on Nigerians not to rest on their oars but to take maximum advantage of the 10 days extension to swap their old naira notes for the new ones. The Minority Caucus also urges the CBN to remain focused and intensify its sensitization efforts while putting every measure in place to assist Nigerians, especially those in the rural areas, to access the new naira notes.”
However, on his part, the Chairman, House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on the Naira Re-design and Naira Swap Policy, Doguwa, rejected the extension granted by the CBN.
Doguwa insisted that the CBN must comply with Sections 20 Sub-section 3, 4, and 5 of the CBN Act.
He said under his chairmanship, the committee would continue its work until it gets the demands of Nigerians addressed in accordance with the laws of the land.
Describing the extension as a mere political gimmick to further deceive Nigerians and worsen their economic and social livelihood, Doguwa said the CBN governor must appear before his committee or risked being arrested on the strength of legislative writs signed by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.
He also said the policy was capable of frustrating the forthcoming general election.
Doguwa said, “The 10-day extension for the exchange of the old naira notes is not the solution: We as a legislative committee with a constitutional mandate of the House, would only accept clear compliance with section 20 sub 3, 4, and 5 of the CBN Act and nothing more. Nigeria as a developing economy and a nascent democracy must respect the principle of the rule of law.
“And the House would go ahead to sign arrest warrant to compel the CBN Governor to appear before the Adhoc committee. Security agencies and their operations especially at the states level are generally funded through cash advances and direct table payments of allowances to operatives during elections.”
Don’t Succumb to Political Pressure, Blackmail, Former Lagos Deputy Governor Tells Buhari
Nevertheless, Buhari has been called upon not to fall for the blackmail and pressure from the political class over the naira redesign project.
Former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, said this in an exclusive interview with THISDAY yesterday, adding that the federal government’s decision on the naira was a political masterstroke that would expose saboteurs of the economy and those milking the nation.
“We are victims of corruption. Those who have illicit money on their hands that they cannot change should go and explain how they got the money and what they were doing with so much money in their homes,” she added.
She insisted that the currency redesign was in the best interest of the people even as she urged Nigerians not to allow themselves to be used as cannon fodders by unscrupulous politicians by going on the streets to protest.
“Buhari is finally living up to the expectation of Nigerians by living up to his promise to fight corruption. People should not protest; the currency change is in our interest,” she added.
According to Ojikutu who was the Deputy to Chief Michael Otedola as governor from 1992 to 1993, said although Buhari was starting the war against corruption a little late, the latest move would clean the endemic corruption killing the country.
APC PCC Commends CBN over Deadline Extension
Also, the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has commended the CBN for extending the deadline.
APC PCC Director, Media and Publicity, Mr. Bayo Onanuga in a statement issued yesterday, said the extension would enable Nigerians especially those in rural and remote areas to have more time to change their old notes and avert the panic that would have followed.
The campaign also commended the presidential candidate of the party, Bola Tinubu for his forthrightness in addressing the concerns of Nigerians at his campaign rally in Abeokuta last week.
It said Tinubu didn’t take the easy road by shying away from what would have caused serious inconvenience for our teeming masses.
The ruling party said Tinubu showed leadership and compassion for the welfare of Nigerians, at the most appropriate time.
Onanuga said: “We want to commend the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele for listening to the voice of well-meaning Nigerians on the exigency of extending the deadline for change of old N200, N500 and N1000 naira notes to the new ones.
“Following difficulties experienced by Nigerians across the country from getting the new notes via ATMs and over the counter from banks, many Nigerians especially requested for an extension of the 31 January, 2023 deadline. We welcome the 10 day extension of the deadline and the additional seven days of grace.”
Onanuga also commended Buhari for approving the extension and for his leadership and statesmanship.