The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has insisted that there is no going back on the January 31 deadline for the old naira notes, as they will cease to be legal tender in the country.
The CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele reiterated the apex bank’s stance after the Monetary Policy Committee meeting in Abuja on Tuesday.
Emefiele also insisted that enough time had been given to Nigerians to swap their old naira notes for new ones.
This is as he also said that kidnapping and ransom-taking had reduced since the three banknotes were redesigned.
Many Nigerians have however lamented the unavailability and scarcity of the new notes, decrying that banks up till today, were still giving out the old naira notes to customers with the deadline only a few days away.
Meanwhile, the CBN in its efforts to ensure that everyone is carried along embarked on a cash swap programme nationwide to enable those in the unbanked areas to exchange their old notes before the January 31 deadline, however, excluding Lagos and Abuja mobile money/Point of Sales operators from the programme.
The CBN also recently ordered commercial banks to immediately stop over-the-counter withdrawal of the new notes and load their Automated Teller Machines with the redesigned naira notes to boost its circulation.
On the complaint that some Nigerians in the riverine and upland areas do not have access to banking activities to deposit the old notes, Emefiele said CBN has 1.4 million touchpoints of its super agents across the country to conduct cash exchanges for them.
“We cannot allow them to be banked in their homes. They don’t have the licence to build bank vaults in their homes. They should bring those cashback to CBN because they are undermining monetary policy. They are keeping those monies to speculate against our currency and they are making our work difficult in CBN,” Emefiele stated
However, despite the efforts of the apex bank, bank customers have continued to lament the scarcity of the new notes
In a related development, The PUNCH reported that the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, summoned commercial banks over the scarcity of new naira notes.
The Managing Directors/Chief Executive Officers of the banks, under the auspices of the Bankers’ Committee, are to meet with an ad hoc committee of the House to be chaired by the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, on Wednesday (today).
Senate Seeks Extension of Deadline, Cash Limit
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday called on the CBN to extend the cash withdrawal limits and the deadline for the use of the old naira notes from January 31 to July 31, 2023.
The upper chamber also urged the CBN to open an exchange window where people that do not have bank accounts can deposit their old notes.
The Senate’s resolution was sequel to a motion by Sen. Sadiq Suleiman (APC-Kwara) during yesterday’s plenary.
Suleiman recalled that the Senate, in its resolution on December 28, 2022, had earlier called on the CBN to extend the use of the old notes from January 31 to June 30, 2023.
He said the apex bank had insisted on stopping the use of the old naira notes by the end of January, lamenting that there was not enough new naira notes in circulation and calling for the date to be extended to July 31.
He said: “Experiences around the world have shown that such abrupt decisions, if not controlled, usually creates chaos. The Senate should extend the use of the old notes to July 31,” he said.
Supporting the motion, Sen. Ibrahim Hadejia (APC-Jigawa) said that the call for extension was for the benefit of their constituents and not for personal benefits.
“In my constituency, no Automated Teller Machine (ATM) is dispensing the new notes,” he said.
Similarly, Senator Adamu Aliero (PDP-Kebbi) said that the policy would inflict untold hardship on people living in the rural areas.
“The CBN governor should be invited,” Aliero said.
Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa (PDP-Bauchi) said that the extension was necessary otherwise there would be chaos.
Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP-Ekiti), who ssid in her local government area, about 90 per cent of the people have not seen a glimpse of the new naira notes, called on the apex bank to “look away from the elections.”.
She said that if the date was not extended, it would lead to collateral damage which would not augur well for the economy.
Senator Mohammed Ndume (APC-Borno) called on the Senate to use its oversight responsibility on the CBN to order the apex bank governor to extend the date.
He said that the power of the Senate should not be played down, as he called on the senators to stand firm on the call for extension.
Senator Sam Egwu (PDP-Ebonyi), who was the only senator that opposed the motion, said: Nigerians do not have the culture of keeping their money in the bank.
“It is in Nigeria where cash is used arbitrarily; other countries use electronic means. Nigerians are just averse to change,” Egwu said.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in his comment, said that most of the senatorial districts did not have banks.
“In rural Nigeria, there are no banks and people transact businesses with cash more often.
“There is no doubt that we must have a window for exchange. We must have policies by the CBN to have bank branches established in rural areas. We need this extension for the most ordinary Nigerians,” Lawan said.
The CBN had on October 26, 2022 announced plans to redesign the 200, 500, and 1,000 naira notes. Sequel to the announcement, President Muhammadu unveiled the redesigned naira notes in November 2022.
The scenario was the same in the House of Representatives as the lawmakers decried the scarcity of new naira notes as the deadline to phase out the old notes draws nearer.
The House resolved that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should review its January 31 validity period for the old notes and extend the deadline by six months.
To this end, the House set up a 14-man ad-hoc committee headed by the House Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, to interface with the CBN and Banker Committee today (Wednesday).
The meeting will ascertain the availability or otherwise of the new naira notes, which the CBN said were available.
The resolution was a sequel to the consideration and adoption of a motion of urgent public importance moved by Sada Soli.
Sada in the motion urged the CBN to review the cashless policy, noting that the deposit money banks in Nigeria do not have what it takes to achieve the policy.
While agreeing that the cashless policy is in tandem with global best practices, Soli lamented that the CBN had refused to listen to the cry of the people to extend the timeline of the currency swap.
According to him, “the rigidity of the policy may affect the economy; therefore, the apex bank should keep its policy closer to reality. The policy, though good, will not be fair on the new government and will impact negatively on the macroeconomy”.
The House, however, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene on the deadline issued by the CBN.