CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele
By Levinus Nwabughiogu, ABUJA
Against the backdrop of complaints by the banking public that banks are not dispensing enough of the redesigned Naira notes the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, has said that a total of 500 million units of the newly redesigned currency notes were ordered from the minting company.
Meanwhile, the apex bank has explained that its research has shown that operators of mobile money services, otherwise known as Point-Of-Sale, PoS, were comfortably accommodated within the revised withdrawal limits.
It also allayed the fears that the new cashless policy of the Bank would impede job creation.
Emefiele spoke through the deputy governor of the apex bank in charge of the Financial System Stability at the CBN, Mrs Aisha Ahmed, yesterday when appearing before the House of Representatives plenary session in Abuja at the instance of the lawmakers to brief them on the new monetary policies that had become controversial in some quarters.
He said that the timing for the implementation of the monetary policies especially the cash withdrawal limit not was neither here nor there, adding that the 90 days notice in the estimation of the bank was enough to get Nigerians sensitized.
He, however, informed that CBN was partnering the National Orientation Agency, NOA, and other similar bodies to fully create the needed public enlightenment on the new policies.
It will be recalled that the House had through a motion last week mandated Emefiele to cause appearance on the seemingly vexatious policies of the banker’s bank.
Ahmed, who took a barrage of questions from the lawmakers, said: “You asked a question. We ordered 500 million pieces of currency from the Mint. That is what has been ordered.
“You said this will mean that people will start losing their jobs because people would stop going to the banks. No, I think this will create more opportunity, not just for people working in the banks to retool. Technology change and innovation is a phenomenon happening all over the world. Of course, it is changing the types of jobs that people are doing. But it is also opening up new opportunities for them to do other things. So, I don’t see this as going to limit that. Indeed, the examples of agents (mobile bank agents) is a strong example that says that we created something, a platform, a business that was not there 10 years ago because we needed to solve a problem around ensuring that all areas in Nigeria were covered financially. That is just a small example of what technology can do. So, I don’t see this policy as making people lose their jobs.
Benefits outweigh risks
“You talked of fear of online banking and the issue around fake alerts. The truth is that for any initiative, there will be challenges. What matters is that the benefits must outweigh the risks. The CBN has an active consumer protection department that is looking at issues of fraud, issues of cyber security and issues of bank conduct in terms of how they charge customers and every time, we hold the banks to account when they flout those rules.
“You talked about the e-Naira and the regulatory backing. The e-Naira is a digital representation of the physical Naira. And so, it does have backing in law from our perspective. That is our answer to that.
“On counterfeiting, the question was if the sensitisation is not late. I think sensitisation is something that has to happen through it all. You cannot start with sensitisation and then leave it. Before the new note came out, we did inform the public and we started our sensitisation. Now that it is out and it is being used side by side with the old notes, we are continuing that sensitisation.
“I can quickly address the question about the National Orientation Agency. We are trying to partner the NOA in order to deliver the messages that we want to deliver to the grassroots. And we are not only partnering them. We are partnering many other stakeholders.
“In terms of timing, it is neither here nor there. I think we felt that 90 days based on what we know of official access points, availability of points for people to go and pay in their funds and the fact that we actually released the new notes earlier than planned, we felt that we were in a good position to conclude at the timelines that we gave. We are open to feedback and people’s views on that.”
Reduction in incidences of crime – armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism financing, advance fee fraud, graft, ransom payment and extortions, etc; deepening the Nigerian payment system through more innovation and cheaper costs; Financial inclusion, the route to scaling financial inclusion is through electronic channels. Mobile phone penetration in Nigeria is 152m (according to NCC).
EFINA survey shows that 81 percent of Nigerians excluded have mobile phones; USSD helps to overcome the need for internet
connectivity to smartphones; economic opportunities for small businesses and rural communities to facilitate trade and improve livelihoods, thereby boosting economic growth; more effective transmission of monetary policies; and overall growth, development and stability of the financial system
Naira Redesign: Why we don’t accept new notes – Traders
Responding to a question from a lawmaker on the duration of the policy, he said the policy was indefinite, adding that it was going on simultaneously nationwide.
He said: “This will be indefinite. This is it going forward, and you asked the question, will it be limited to some certain states? No. It will be nationwide.”
Earlier, the CBN governor, who traced the origin of the cashless policy to 2012, said that new frontiers had since been opened to give the financial hemisphere a facelift.
He said: “Our policy pronouncement on December 5, was a continuation of the cashless policy that we started 10 years ago and it was in recognition of the positive changes that have happened in the financial and payment system since the cashless policy was first launched. Some of these changes include one: a wide proliferation of financial access point. In 2012, thereabouts, we were still talking about bank branches as the only source of access to financial services.
“Today, we have a very robust payment system that include bank branches, branches of micro-finance banks, POS machines, ATM machines, agent banking, E-Naira and many other options. To be specific, between the bank and the micro-finance banks, we have 6,500 locations, 900,000 POS terminals, 14,000 ATMs across the country and 1.4 million agents nationwide and every single local government in Nigeria has agent represented. We also have a proliferation of electronic transactions. Just by way of quick example, in 2012, we had N48 billion in POS transactions. Today, we have N6 trillion in POS transactions.
“On electronic transfers, we had N3 trillion in 2012. Today, we have N300 trillion as at October, 2022. That’s a 7,000 percent increase. We have also seen an improvement in financial inclusion to 54.1 percent and lastly, perhaps, more importantly, we have seen the evolution of the Nigerian payment system on the global stage.
“Nigeria is judged 6th in the world for instant real payment and we are only behind countries like India, china, Thailand, Brazil and South Korea. We are the only African country in the top 10 and this has been as a result of some of the initiatives that have gone on. Also, electronic payment and realtime data payments have been estimated to contribute about 0.67 percent to our GDP.”
Advantages of cashless policy
Listing the advantages inherent in the cashless policy, Emefiele said it would curb terrorism financing amongst others.
“Mr. Speaker, we just want to reiterate the overall benefits of the cashless policy. It is to reduce cash processing cost, minting cost, the cost of destroying old notes and cost of moving the physical cash from place to place. All these costs are passed on typically to the banking public. Getting rid of these costs means that charges will be less on that respect. Also, this is an opportunity to promote Nigeria’s positive image from money laundering perspective. Even the recently passed anti-money laundering law has limits for cash for a reason because cash is usually the medium by which some of these nefarious activities are done.
“Suffice it to say that the advantages around protecting people from armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism financing goes without gainsaying. We will continue to be open, engage, listen as we implement this policy in response to the sentiments of Nigerians. It is not intended to disenfranchise anyone particularly those in vulnerable situations, in the rural areas, markets, it is meant to bring everyone into the significant economic opportunity that comes when you are fully included,” he said.
The CBN governor also noted the concerns raised by the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, on the point of law about the periodic briefings at the National Assembly before any new monetary policies could be enacted.
Reacting to the speaker’s question on how the policy would affect the people of Borno State, Emefiele said: “In Borno State, we have 16, 547 locations. We have 52 deposit money bank branches there and we have four microfinance banks and 16, 000 agents. So, in those different locations, they would have that access and if they need any further, because for instance there is no charge on lodgement. Any amount you want to take to the bank you can take.”
On the bank charges, the governor said that bank customers can only be charged when they exceeded the withdrawal limit, assuring that they would always be given access to their money in the banks.
Implications of cash limits
The CBN had announced a weekly withdrawal limit of N100,000 for individuals and N500,000 for corporate entities.
But on Wednesday, the CBN increased the limit to N500,000 and N5,000,000 for individuals and corporate respectively.
He explained that available data indicate that 94 per cent of all cash transaction falls within the new limit of N500,000.
He said 82 percent of corporate cash transactions fall below the new limit indicated for corporate bodies.
The implication, he said, was that about 84 percent of individuals would not be affected by the cash withdrawal limit.
He added that processing fee on the excess withdrawal would only be charged against the extra cash and not the entire sum.
Cash limit not politics
He said its policy of cash withdrawal limit was not based on politics, contrary to insinuations.
He added that the policy was sequel to critical thinking, research and other considerations.
He was responding to a question by Chinedu Obidigwe (APGA-Anambra), who wanted to know if the policy was aimed at favouring the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in 2023 general election.
Hee said that the policy was expected to create new jobs in the ICT sector, contrary to insinuations that it would lead to job lost.
POS operators are within limit
On the concerns raised over the implication of the cash withdrawal limits on POS operators, he explained that CBN’s research shows that at current volume of transactions in the mobile money agents platform, the revised cash withdrawal limit at N5,000,000 would fully accommodate transactions by the POS operators.
He said the CBN was aware that the POS had created a means of livelihood for about 4.4 million Nigerians.
He said every local government in Nigeria has mobile money agents.
“Going to the cash withdrawal limit that was issued in response to the feedback from Nigerians in response to the comments made by this revered chambers, we took those feedbacks on board. CBN mentioned that we will be flexible in the implementation of this policy in response to the stakeholders’ sentiments. We have since reviewed the limit significantly from N100,000 that we had per week to N500,000 per week for individuals; from N500,000 per week for corporate to N5 million per week for corporate.
“We have clarified the strategic importance of mobile money agents as important participants in the financial system because they play a key role in certain underserved segments in the rural areas and in certain markets areas and they as well would be covered by this new revised rule.
“We also looked at transactions for agents. So, transactions by Nigerians that go to the agent’s location and transactions by the agent’s themselves, the average cash transactions of agents is N2,184,000 which is clearly within the current limit.
“The average transaction per individual that walks up to an agent is about N18,000.
“What the policy is trying to do is to encourage more people to come into the formal payment system because of the numerous benefits that accrue. It means opening up our rural areas, the underserved areas to economic opportunity, to payment opportunity and connecting them into the formal system.
“During the COVID-19 period, we saw the negative impact of physical cash. No one could go anywhere. We couldn’t go to the banks. People couldn’t leave their homes. It was the electronic banking system that protected and served those below the poverty lines that had their livelihood at risk,” Emefiele said.
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