RingTrue By Yemi Adebowale
I often quiver whenever I remember the lives lost to President Muhammadu Buhari’s callous and useless Naira redesign policy/swap in the last three months. Take the case of Taiwo Oluwole (well known as Baba Bintin) an Ibadan-based radio presenter, who was desperate to get to the studio for his programme. He had money in his bank account but could not get cash to buy. This is the level Nigeria degenerated under Buhari. With the Naira scarcity, Nigerians are using Naira to buy Naira at a very high price.
Let’s flip back to Baba Bintin. Out of desperation, the man decided to walk to the radio station from his house, a journey of about 10 kilometres. He did not make it to the studio. The poor fellow slumped and died trekking to work in the early hours of March 11. Baba Bintin had enough cash in his bank account to take a taxi to his office but was denied access to his money by a hopeless policy.
Another heart-wrenching story is that of Oreoluwa Aina, a National Youth Service Corps member who was serving in Lagos State. She was one of those who died in the Lagos train/bus collision that claimed six lives. Daily, Oreoluwa took public bus to the Lagos Alausa secretariat where she was serving. But on this dark day, she had money in the bank but no cash. So, she trekked to the nearest staff bus pick-up point and boarded the bus heading to Alausa. Unfortunately, she did not make it to the Lagos State secretariat alive. Oreoluwa came to serve her father’s land in Lagos State but was rewarded with death, no thanks to Buhari’s heartless Naira redesign policy/swap. Late Oreoluwa’s father, Femi Aina puts it aptly: “The Naira scarcity led to my daughter’s unfortunate death.”
Nigerians have been experiencing unprecedented suffering and economic loss in the last three months because of the Naira scarcity. Buhari’s failure to amend the swap policy clearly shows that our president is coldblooded. When the Supreme Court plainly in an interim injunction on February 8 ordered the suspension of the February 10 Naira swap deadline, and also directed the continued use of all the old notes, Buhari refused to budge. Our President went on air on February 16 and invalidated the old N500 and N1000 notes, returning only the old N200 notes for a few weeks. What lawlessness!
The apex court eventually delivered judgment on the legality of the Naira redesign policy/swap deadline on March 3, declaring the policy unconstitutional and a violation of the fundamental rights of Nigerians as provided under the 1999 Nigerian constitution as amended. It also ordered the use of the old Naira notes alongside the new notes till December 31 of this year. It took our President 10 days before approving the implementation of the judgement.
There was no way the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele would move without Buhari moving. So, while everybody was waiting for calamity Buhari to “speak”, the Naira scarcity pain persisted. Haba! How can a President do this to his people? Government is about the people; it is about positively impacting the lives of citizens. I’m not sorry to say that Buhari enjoys seeing Nigerians wallow in pain.
The statement issued on behalf of the President by one of his media aides, a day before he bowed to the Supreme Court’s judgement, stating that the CBN had no reason not to comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court on the Naira redesign policy, is a ruse. The addition that Buhari did not instruct Emefiele, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, “to disobey any court orders involving the government and other parties,” is a shameless admission of guilt. So, why did the President not query Emifiele and Malami for failing to obey the judgement? For ten days after the judgement, this did not happen. This is hypocrisy of the highest order on the part of Mr. President. The CBN governor was obviously waiting for Buhari’s approval before issuing the directives allowing banks to comply with the judgement of the Supreme Court. This is the truth.
The aspect of the March 13 statement that Buhari is of the strong belief that we can’t practise democracy without the rule of law and that “the commitment of his administration to this principle has not changed,” is disgusting. That Buhari has been an absolute respecter of judicial process and the authority of the courts since his assumption of office about eight years ago? This is ludicrous. The Buhari government has a history of disobeying court orders. Just on March 2, he refused to obey the Supreme Court. The court’s interim order was a simple one: Put on hold the implementation of the Naira redesign policy pending the hearing and determination of the case brought by the state governors. Buhari disparaged the ruling.
We can all remember that the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky was detained for years by the Buhari government, contrary to court’s instruction. Also, the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki was detained illegally for over five years by this same government. There is a long list of court disobedience by the Buhari Government. So, which respect for the judiciary is Buhari talking about?
“Buhari rejects the impression that he lacks compassion. No government in our recent history has introduced policies to help economically-marginalised and vulnerable groups like the present administration.” That was how his media aide ended the March 13 absurd statement exonerating Mr. President from the failure to swiftly respect the Supreme Court’s judgement. What nonsense! So, Buhari has compassion and scores of Nigerians are dying from a policy he approved and he refused to rescind it?
He is unmoved by the suffering and economic loss Nigerians are experiencing as a result of the Naira redesign, yet, he says he is compassionate. As at press time, despite the Supreme Court’s judgement, there were still long queues in banking halls and ATMs because the CBN has so far refused to push out old Naira notes in its vault to the banks. Where is the President’s compassion here? The little cash paid out by banks early this week were from the vaults of their different branches. The CBN, obviously under the influence of Buhari, is stalling the implementation of the Supreme Court’s judgement on the old notes.
Scores of Nigerians are slaughtered daily by Boko Haram, ISWAP, bandits, kidnappers and other terrorists without appropriate response from Buhari, yet, Buhari says he is compassionate. In almost eight years as President, I can’t remember “compassionate Buhari” visiting those who survived terror attacks or families of victims. When terrorists attacked the Abuja/Kaduna train, our President did not deem it fit to visit relations of those killed. I was not shocked. Even under his nose at the Villa, when terrorists killed five officers and men of the Brigade of Guards, on that day, our President simply jumped into his Presidential jet and travelled abroad. Under “compassionate Buhari,” Nigeria surpassed India as the country with the largest number of people living in life-threatening poverty in the world and became the poverty capital of the world.
Our compassionate President is unaware that Nigeria’s economy is grinding to a halt and has lost trillions of Naira following the over 70 per cent mop-up of cash by the federal government through the CBN. According to a Lagos-based economic think tank, these losses arose from the deceleration of economic activities, crippling of trading activities, stifling of the informal economy, contraction in the agricultural sector and the paralysis of the rural economy. There are also corresponding job losses in the hundreds of thousands. What a compassionate President!
If indeed, Buhari still has any compassion left in him, he should go and spend quality time reading this report on the negative impact of the Naira redesign released by the economic think tank, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE) last Sunday, and take steps to tackle the issues raised. The think tank estimates that Nigeria’s economy has lost about N20 trillion since the Naira scarcity started.
The report continues: “The protracted acute cash scarcity has not only crippled economic activities across the country, but is now a major risk to the livelihoods of most Nigerians. Millions of citizens have slipped into penury and destitution as a result of the disruptions and tribulations perpetrated by the currency redesign policy, especially the mopping up of over 70 per cent of cash in the economy.”
Few days before Buhari bowed to pressure, the Director of CPPE, Dr. Muda Yusuf declared: “Nigerians have never been this traumatised in recent history. The economy is gradually grinding to a halt because of the collapse of payment systems across all platforms. Digital platforms are performing sub-optimally because of congestion. The citizens are consequently left in a quandary.”
The Naira scarcity triggered riots and other forms of civil unrest nationwide, still “compassionate Buhari” was unperturbed. So, to say that no president in the history of this country has ever inflicted this much pain on Nigerians is truthful. Even when former presidents of this country went to Buhari and pleaded for the amendment of the brutal Naira swap policy, he was unyielding. The blood of Nigerians who lost their lives to the Naira redesign remains on his head. History will never forgive him.
A Word for Godwin Emefiele
The International Monetary Fund’s 2022 Article IV Consultation report on Nigeria is 29 days old today. Sadly, I have not seen any move towards implementing any of the suggestions made. The IMF made a number of recommendations, including a call for a review of the CBN Act 2007 to strengthen its autonomy, and governance and for the CBN to establish price stability as its primary objective. It also urged the CBN to resume the publication of its annual financial statements, as well as abide by international standards, while doing so.
The other recommendations that CBN’s financial autonomy should be safeguarded through clear statutory limits on credit to the federal government and the need to prohibit the bank’s quasi-fiscal operations/developmental lending activities are key. The IMF wants these quasi-fiscal operations phased out, warning that an excessive expansion of quasi-fiscal activities would worsen financial repression, weaken the credibility of the CBN’s price stability mandate, and intensify the tendency for fiscal deficit monetisation.
The IMF sadly noted in the Article IV Consultation report that “a safeguard assessment of the CBN was completed in April 2021 but progress on implementation of recommendations has been limited.”
My dear Godwin Emefiele, these IMF recommendations are vital if you truly desire a successful monetary policy for this country. Endless credit to the federal government by the CBN must stop. The era of the CBN funding the growing of rice and tomatoes must end. You must allow Nigeria’s industrial and Agric development banks to focus on their jobs.
Emefiele, you should start working towards amending the CBN Act 2007 in order to strengthen its autonomy. Your target should be the 10th Senate. The Senators have already emerged. You should start lobbying now.