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February 3, 2023

Naira notes scarcity hurting Nigerians —Fashola, Ahmed

Naira notes scarcity hurting Nigerians —Fashola, Ahmed

*Buhari unhappy over Naira redesign hardship—Ahmed

By Babajide Komolafe, Economy Editor & Johnbosco Agbakwuru, LAGOS

Works and Housing Minister, Mr Babatunde Fashola, and his Finance, Budget and National Planning counterpart, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, yesterday, lamented that the Federal Government’s Naira redesign policy is hurting Nigerians, with Ahmed saying President Muhammadu Buhari was unhappy with the hardship Nigerians are facing.

However, while Fashola said the policy needs to be reviewed, Ahmed said the “initial hardship is necessary for the economy.”

The duo spoke as a video of terrorists brandishing wads of the new notes went viral yesterday, with the CBN directing banks to pay the new notes over the counter, and not more than N20,000 per day.

The apex bank, which assured that queues at Automatic teller Machines, ATMs, would soon thin out, vowed to, in collaboration with the police and other security agencies, arrest and prosecute those selling and abusing the new notes.

Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso, also said yesterday that presidential candidates are bank owners and would, therefore, not be affected by the scarcity of the new notes.

The CBN has fixed February 10 as the new deadline for the swap of old naira notes, having initially fixed January 31 as the deadline.

Currently, many Nigerians have not been able to get the new N200, N500, and N1,000 notes, prompting a scarcity and attendant suffering in the polity.

Why policy needs review – Fashola

Speaking with Morayo Afolabi-Brown, a talk show moderator, on Wednesday on Instagram Live, Fashola said Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was fighting for Nigerians when he expressed concern about the scarcity of the new notes.

“I feel sympathy for the Nigerian people and what they have had to go through. Sometimes policies play out like this in the process of implementation, sometimes it all ends well and sometimes it calls for reconsideration and review,” Fashola said.

“In spite of the fact that the CBN has acted within the spirit and letters of its independence by law, it is important to remember that we serve the public and the public says it is hurting, it is important to take a step back and ask where it is hurting and how we can make it better. It must not be a matter of ego.

“All the credit must go to our candidate being one of the first strong voices, the first voice out of the candidates to speak out in Abeokuta.

“Though some were quick to say he was fighting Buhari or he was fighting his own party but it is his nature as a fighter for people. Our candidate hasn’t said don’t change the naira but it is hurting people. So the implementation needs a review,” he argued.

‘I wasn’t Tinubu’s puppet’

The minister said he was never a puppet to Tinubu while he was the governor of Lagos but he consulted with him because “of his experience.”

“When I was governor I realized that someone sat in my chair for eight years, that person is still alive, that person has had time to reflect, that person would have made mistakes and I told myself if I wanted to succeed I shouldn’t learn from my own mistakes, I should learn from his experience,” he said.

Buhari not happy over hardship caused by Naira redesign— Ahmed

On her part, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said  President Buhari is worried about the hardship the redesign of the naira is causing the people.

The minister, however, noted that the harsh realities faced by citizens due to the policy is a necessary price to pay for the long-term health of the economy.

Fielding questions from State House correspondents when she featured at the 65th session of the State House Ministerial Briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Mrs Ahmed said the current hardship, though temporary, is required to stifle corruption and gradually transition into a cashless economy.

The minister, who likened the current situation being experienced by Nigerians to a “patient having a wound or deep sore” stated that “the patient must submit to excruciating pain while undergoing treatment.”

She said the government is pleased that a sizable quantum of old funds had been mopped up, back into the banking system, which would in turn give the regulatory agencies control over the nation’s currencies.

Her words: “Of course we are worried, we are not happy that citizens have to queue and struggle to get their cash but this is a temporary situation.

“Let me give you an analogy, this situation can be compared to a patient having a sore and while treating the sore, you must apply some iodine or spirit which is usually very painful.

“It is something that needs to be done at this time. But the Central Bank has been responsive in terms of providing some extension and also some explanation that before the closing date, it is not all over. There are still opportunities for citizens as provided for under Section 20(3) of the CBN Act, for people to take their old currency to the CBN for redemption.

“Mr President is not happy that citizens are suffering but there is also the positive side to it, which is that a lot of currency has been mopped up back into the system.”

She also expressed surprise over the latest Moody’s report on Nigeria, which downgraded the long-term issuer rating of the government of Nigeria to Caa1 from B3, and changed the outlook to stable, on January 27, 2023.

“I want to also say that Moody’s report or downgrade came as a surprise to us because we had presented all of the work that we have been doing in stabilizing the economy.

“But they are external rating agencies that don’t have the real understanding of what has happened at the domestic environment”

The international rating agency, Moody’s Investors Service, also downgraded nine Nigerian banks, following its downward review of Nigeria’s rating last week.

She, however, urged Nigerians to look forward to the S&P rating due for release in a few days, adding that “ it is expected to present a better outlook for Nigeria.”

Presidential candidates not affected  by naira notes scarcity – Kwankwaso

Speaking on the scarcity of the new notes, Senator Kwakwanso said  his contemporaries are not affected by the naira redesign policy because “they are owners of banks.”

The former Kano State governor, who spoke on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme said, said politicians, particularly candidates in the next month’s elections, are unaffected by the policy.

According to him, the elite has an influence on banks in the states, and will not feel any impact of the currency scarcity.

His words: “We in the NNPP are not comfortable with the three months and even the 10 days they are talking about. Many people who are in Abuja who are in the comfort of their offices or homes wouldn’t understand what is happening outside there.

“What the government is saying has to do with people who would want to take too much money, like leaders and politicians. They don’t know that many of our colleagues, those who are contesting, especially the presidential candidates, and by extension all those in their parties, are owners of the banks.

“And not only that, people close to them have banks everywhere. So, they will lose nothing. PDP has governors, and APC has governors. Governors by now would have collected so much money from the banks in their states.

“If their friends have got banks, I’m sure one or two of them may have banks or own large shares in some of these banks.

“Some people in politics may for some strategic reasons be complaining but those complaining, I believe, is just a gimmick, I don’t believe that they mean it. We believe they don’t have issues.”

Viral video shows terrorists brandishing wads of new notes

Meanwhile, a notorious terrorist leader, Machalla Baleri, has been seen in a viral video displaying wads of new notes amid a scarcity of the currency.

Baleri, who spoke in the Hausa language in the two minutes 20 seconds unverified video clip, released online on Wednesday, claimed he has up to N10 million of the new naira notes.

He also claimed he has enough new naira notes to purchase more weapons.

CBN directs banks to pay new  notes over the counter

To cushion the effect of the scarcity of the new notes, the CBN has directed deposit money banks, DMBs, to commence the payment of the redesigned Naira notes over the counter, subject to a maximum daily payout limit of N20,000.

Director, of Corporate Communication, CBN, Osita Nwanisobi, disclosed this in a statement, adding that the apex bank will collaborate with the Nigeria Police, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU. to prosecute abusers and sellers of the naira.

He said: “The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has observed, with grave concern, the activities of persons who sell the newly redesigned banknotes and those who flagrantly abuse the legal tender by hurling wads of Naira notes in the air and stamping on the currency at social functions.

“We have equally noticed the queues at Automated Teller Machines, ATMs, across the country and an upward trend in the cases of people stocking and aggregating the newly introduced banknotes they serially obtain from ATMs for reasons best known to them. Also worrisome are the reported cases of unregistered persons and non-bank officials swapping banknotes for members of the public, purportedly on behalf of the CBN.

“We wish to state unequivocally that, contrary to the practice of these unpatriotic persons, it is unlawful to sell the Naira, hurl (spray), or stamp on the currency under any circumstance whatsoever.

  For the avoidance of doubt, Section 21(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007 (As amended) stipulates that “spraying of, dancing or matching on the Naira or any note issued by the Bank during social occasions or otherwise, howsoever, shall constitute abuse and defacing of the Naira or such note and shall be punishable under the law by fines or imprisonment or both.

“Similarly, Section 21(4) states that “It shall also be an offence punishable under Sub-section (1) of this section for any person to hawk, sell or otherwise trade in the Naira notes, coins or any other note issued by the Bank.

“Accordingly, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is collaborating with the Nigeria Police, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to address the unpatriotic practice.

“We, therefore, warn Nigerians, particularly those at social functions such as birthdays, weddings and funerals, to desist from disrespecting the Naira or risk being arrested by law enforcement agencies.

“While reiterating our commitment to Nigerians to ensure the effective distribution of the newly introduced Naira banknotes, we urge them to exercise patience as the CBN is working assiduously to address the challenge of queues at ATMs.

“In line with this resolve, the Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, has directed deposit money banks (DMBs) to commence the payment of the redesigned Naira notes over the counter, subject to a maximum daily payout limit of N20,000.

“We also admonish members of the public to embrace and adopt other payment channels for their transactions. The Naira is our legal tender and symbol of national pride. Therefore, let us respect it and handle it with care.”