Tuesday, 01 November 2022 06:03

[OPINION] New Naira Notes and All Things New - Reuben Abati 

 

“My own brother!”

“What’s up men? Have you gone to deposit all the N200, N500, N1,000 notes that you have at home in the banks so you can exchange them for new notes by the deadline of January 31.”

“What is my business with depositing old notes in the banks? I don’t keep money at home. I don’t have the kind of money the Central Bank of Nigeria is looking for.”

“The CBN did not say they are looking for money. They simply want to manage money supply better. Out of about N3.7 trillion in circulation, more than N2 trillion is outside the banking system. The Central Bank wants to call in all of the N3.7 trillion, and then send it back into the system. This is something other Central Banks do every five or eight years. The last time Nigeria printed new currency notes was 20 years ago, and besides, the CBN is just doing its job.” 

“Listen to yourself. They just want N3.7 trillion brought back into the banking system. They are not looking for people who are likely to faint if they see a billion Naira cash. Did you not hear the President? He said the people they are looking for are people with illicit money. Those people who hide money inside overhead water tanks, in cemeteries and other corner-corner places. The people who speak in billions, and who cannot take their money to the banks. Government wants them to bring out the money. E no concern me. I no get any illicit money. Na dem dem.” 

“The cash component of money in circulation affects everyone. Even your small amount that you have at home, even if it is a few thousands, once it is in the N200, N500 or N1,000 denominations, you have to take it into the bank.”

“But I thought the Minister of Finance has said she is not aware of the policy and that it could have grave consequences.”

“The Minister of Finance does not know what she is talking about apparently. The CBN does not report to her. The CBN is in charge of monetary policy in line with Section 2 of the Central Bank Act of 2007. The Minister of Finance is in charge of fiscal policy, and in any case the Board of the CBN has among its members the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, and the Accountant General of the Federation.”

“But did the CBN Board discuss this plan to print new currency notes?” 

“I am not in a position to know. And well, what does it matter? The President of Nigeria has said that the CBN has his backing. Under Section 19 of the CBN Act, the Bank is required to request authorization from the President with regard to three things: its Annual Report, if it wants to invest outside Nigeria, and if it wants to make alterations to the currency. We have heard from the CBN twice that it acted within the province of the law. We have also heard the President publicly telling everyone that the CBN is in order. Please, who is Minister of Finance?”

“You mean who is the constituted authority?” 

“I leave that to you to decide”.

“But why the secrecy? Is it that these people don’t trust each other? I understand this same President did the same thing in 1984.We need proper alignment between fiscal policy and the monetary side of things”

“The country’s national currency is a matter of national security. It is not everything that you tell everybody before you take action. In this country, people are always looking for a way to cheat and game the system. If you disclose your plans, they can share with others and before you know it, your proposals will die even before they become policy.”

“Particularly those politicians who have hidden money away to do serious battle during the 2023 general election. We have seen it before: “dibo ko se obe o” meaning vote for our party and prepare a pot of soup today. Stomach infrastructure. Election sandwich. But in any case, politicians keep their money in dollars, not Naira.”

“Nigeria’s currency is the Naira, not the dollar. The dollarization of the Nigerian economy is an indication of fundamental problems in the management of our economy.”

“I will rather have dollar, please”

“But both are connected. The dollar is the primary reserve currency of the world, that is why when the US Central Bank, the Federal Reserve raises rates, the effect is felt globally. Those who have money keep dollar, and buy dollar, as a wedge against the Naira, and that is why immediately after the CBN announced the plan to redesign the three currency notes, the Naira immediately depreciated in the parallel market, in less than a week, it has moved from N778 to the dollar to N865 to the dollar, with implications for inflation. This is why many economists are nervous about the cost of the policy.”    t

“Ha. What a country!”

“What is funny?”

“The way Nigerians are experts in everything…If the subject is security, everybody is a security expert, if it is a legal matter, even my mechanic would argue that he knows better than judges, and now that the matter is the redesign of the new notes, everybody is now an economist, lawyer and analyst join on top!”

“But people have a right to express opinions about something that can affect their lives. Things like cost, effect on the Naira and the foreign exchange and why now? Because of politics, government is redesigning Naira notes close to Christmas and election?”

“I know, and I think that is why Sheik Ahmad Gumi says kidnappers will start collecting ransom in dollars and that government is about to commit economic suicide by asking people to deposit their money in the banks!”

“Sheik Gumi is an educated man. He is a medical doctor, a retired Captain of the Nigerian army and a respected cleric. But is he an economist?” 

“Are you an economist?”

“I don’t go about reading the mind of kidnappers.” 

“You don’t get the point. Where were you when Primate Elijah Ayodele of the INRI Church asked President Buhari to sack the CBN Governor because the plan to redesign some dominations of the Naira will not stop terrorism or insecurity. Is that from the Bible or the Primate’s personal opinion? Ah, this country! This was how one prophetess was also quoted copiously by a section of the media saying the reason there is flood across parts of the country is because the goddess of the river is angry.”

“This thing called free speech and its dangers.”  

“Let me ask you something? Can the Banks handle the massive pressure that the rush to deposit old notes in the banks will cause? Why is the allotted time for deposit and access to new N200, N500 and N1,000 notes so short? The last time the UK changed some of its currency notes, it gave the people up to one year.” 

“I believe that is a legitimate thing to worry about. But you know your country. People will wait till the last minute before they begin to act. I think the CBN needs to do a lot more to enlighten the people. The deadline of January 31st can still stand, then after the election, government can announce an extension. That is the way I see it.”   

“But these new notes that everybody is talking about. Will the banks pay depositors with new notes? In this country, the only place you can see new notes is at event centres during weekend parties. People hawk the Naira the way they sell serviette papers and they do so at a premium. But you go to the banks, what you can get is mutilated, smelly notes. What can the CBN do about that? The threat to this economy is not just those parallel market dealers, but the mint Naira merchants on the streets.” 

“What I know is that it is an offence to sell the Naira like a commodity, mutilate it, deface it or step on it, but nobody enforces the law.”

“But I hear this time around, EFCC has read the riot act, that anybody that is found playing hanky-panky with money will be dealt with according to the law. In fact, EFCC officers will be deployed to all banking halls to monitor how people bring in money to the banks.”

“That’s funny. How many banks can the EFCC monitor? There is a reporting mechanism in place if you do money transactions beyond certain thresholds. Banks have structures in place to inform the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) or the EFCC. They only need to deepen their infrastructure. By the way, the CBN is hoping that through this exercise, it can deepen financial inclusion and intermediation.”  

“I hear the politicians have come up with a plan to delay the redesign of the denominations.”

“Tell me.”

“I understand that there is a case in court challenging the Arabic inscriptions on the Naira notes” 

“It is called Ajami

Ajami or Arabic. Some lawyers are saying all that needs to be done is to get an injunction to stop the CBN because until the matter before the court is determined, the proposed redesign of the notes will be sub judice.” 

“Court?”

“Yes, court.” 

“Okay, we are here. We will see. Have you not read that the CBN will not remove the Ajami on the Naira notes? They have been on that matter since 2020. They will still be on it by the time your grandson graduates from college.” 

“Well, bros, let us drop matter. I have discussed this matter so much I am beginning to think something is wrong with me. I don’t want to die in their war. If they want to change the colour of money, let them do so. Wetin be my own? I am more concerned about the future the 2023 general elections.  INEC has announced that the voters’ register now has 93. 5 million voters and that the register would be displayed and reviewed in 8, 809 wards and 774 local government areas from Nov. 12- 25. Quite a lengthy list of voters – about 9.3 million pages long.  How do I go through that?”

“I am sure you can. But what I find interesting about the new register is the demographics: 12. 29 million new voters added to the register out of which about 2.78 million were found to be illegal registrants.”

“INEC said 23 INEC officers aided and abetted the illegal registration. Those persons must be punished!”

“I agree but talking about the demographics, I was going to say that when you look at the breakdown, the largest number of registered voters are young people between the ages of 18 – 34- that is - 76.5% of the total, followed by women – 50.8% and students – 40.8%. It is thus clear that the 2023 general election will be determined by women and youths. And the major battle grounds will be Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Rivers and Katsina which have the highest number of voters. In general, the bulk of the voters are from the seven states of the North West. The political parties have a lot of work to do to mobilize the voters to prevent voter apathy. We must also ensure that INEC gets the Permanent Voters Cards ready for collection and that the people collect them. It is not enough for anyone’s name to be on the voter’s register. You must have your PVC and you must go out to vote on election day.”

“My own is that nobody should tamper with BVAS – the Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System that will prevent rigging and manipulation on election day.  The days of multiple voting should come to an end, and it is good that INEC has promised that this piece of technology and innovation, an advancement on the smart card reader, would be fully deployed to keep the riggers out.”  

“You are correct. On point.”

“I am always on point”.

“No, not always” 

“I am on point for example to say that the Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Iyorchia Ayu had no point boasting that he has the powers to stop Governor Samuel Ortom’s Senatorial ambition and that of others in the Party who may be interested in other positions. He also didn’t have to boast that nobody can sack him. That is provocative. The party Chairman, no matter the provocation should always try to unify his own base and not make divisive comments” 

“A man has a right to stand up for himself. Governor Wike and his allies have been bullying Senator Ayu for months. It is now his turn to cry out and fight back.”

“We’re talking leadership. No party chairman can boast that he will stop anybody. The Electoral Act 2022 spells out clearly how an elective office seeker can be stopped. It does not give any God-like powers to the party leader. Besides, a leader is like a refuse dump.  The refuse dump does not choose which garbage they throw on it.” 

“Is that a metaphor or a proverb? You better talk straight because the young people these days are not interested in any form of round-about thinking. Don’t tell them anything about words and palm oil. No. These ones are the Shawarma generation.  They were brought up with groundnut oil, not palm oil!”

“But just see how Wike has attacked the PDP party Chairman telling him that Governor Ortom was his guarantor without whom he could not have been party Chairman. Or Governor Seyi Makinde sending a representative to a meeting between Afenifere and the APC Presidential candidate in Pa Reuben Fasoranti’s home in Akure.”

“Please, I don’t want to comment any further on that Afenifere subject. Let Afenifere resolve their own internal crisis.” 

Afenifere is a conclave of elders. The elders will decide.”  

“This is a democracy.  They can decide for themselves as individual citizens and as persons who are entitled to one vote. But I abhor group-think, or herd mentality or any intimations of it.  People are free to endorse or not endorse whoever they want but the pillar of democracy is the right of the people to make their own informed choice, freely, without let or hindrance.”  

“I think I hear sef say that una Baba don go London again for medical check- up oh”

“My friend, are you okay?”

1926 times

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