The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) has hailed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over its move to redesign the N200, N500 and N1, 000 banknotes. In a statement on Thursday in Abuja by its Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, CNPP said, “Only politicians who intended to buy votes” and other equally ill-motivated elements would criticise CBN’s action.
Similarly, Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, on Thursday, reiterated his support for CBN’s decision to redesign some denominations of the naira. Bawa said some persons were hoarding and using the country’s currency to speculate on the foreign exchange (FX) market.
Former President and Chairman, Governing Council, Association of Corporate Treasurers of Nigeria (ACTN), Mr. Zeal Akaraiwe, described the decision of the CBN as the solution needed to bring in large amounts of cash into the banking system and enhance the effectiveness of the apex bank’s monetary policies. Akaraiwe expressed this view yesterday during a media briefing organised by ACTN to announce its 2022 Treasury360 Nigeria Conference and Exhibition, scheduled for November 17, 2022.
CNPP said in the statement, “Only politicians who intended to buy votes and financially induce electoral officials, the ignorant of the import of the policy or beneficiaries of proceeds of crimes, including drug barons and kidnappers, will kick against the move by the CBN.”
According to the umbrella association of all registered political parties and political associations in Nigeria, “The effort of the CBN to control the amount of money in circulation, where N2.7 trillion out of the N3.3 trillion currency-in-circulation was said to be outside the vaults of commercial banks across the country and are found to supposedly be held by members of the public, is of high risk for the country’s economy and her internal security.
“It is, therefore, obvious that many politicians, especially since 2015, amassed illicit wealth and depleted the national commonwealth to the extent that the currency in circulation has more than doubled since 2015, rising from N1.46 trillion in December 2015, to N3.2 trillion as of September 2022, according to the CBN data.”
Furthermore, CNPP stated, “Certainly, this is unacceptable in any economy controlled by sane financial experts. The CNPP is glad that the timing for this Naira notes redesign is right, as there is no better time than in an election year, especially where politicians have made vote-buying an alternative to convincing the electorate through their track records and capacity to govern beyond rhetoric as well as a commitment to selling the manifestos of their political parties during campaigns.
“In recent times, rather than candidates and their supporters working towards convincing electorates to vote for their preferred political parties, they resort to use of derogatory words against the opposition or fan the embers of ethnicity and religion.
“So, as dramatic as the move may seem, the CNPP is totally in support of the CBN and the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, on this policy initiative and hereby call on all security agencies, including the Department of State Services (DSS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the ICPC to redouble efforts to reduce insecurity and electoral corruption by placing all politicians contesting in the 2023 general election on perpetual surveillance.
“We urge the anti-graft units of all security agencies and commissions to use the opportunity created by the new and existing currencies exchange window from December to January 31, 2023, when the existing currencies shall cease to be a legal tender, to monitor illicit campaign financing, money laundering, terror financing, ransom to hostage takers and drug barons.
“In the same vein, bank managers should be banned by the CBN from any form of home delivery of cash to citizens and corporate organisations until after February 1, 2023 to ensure that the country reaps the gains of the CBN monetary policy.
“We urge the CBN to ensure that all exchanges of old notes with new notes should go through the bank accounts of the individuals exchanging large sums of money as part of efforts to track illicit funds, as such individuals and corporations can be made to explain how they came about the large sums of monies to security operatives, especially the EFCC.
“We, therefore, call on all well-meaning Nigerians, patriotic Whistle-blowers and security agencies to ensure that this lifetime opportunity leads to sanity in the Nigerian economy and the political arena as part of efforts in deepening democracy and reducing the number of drug lords and corrupt politicians in office from 2023 general election.
“We equally commend President Muhammadu Buhari for his approval of the planned redesign of the currency notes, especially at this time.”
Akaraiwe described the CBN decision as a crucial step in bringing back large volumes of money circulating outside the banking system.
Akaraiwe spoke at the conference to announce the ACTN conference, with the theme, “Getting Through the Uncertainties of Supply Chain Disruption, Currency Volatility and Inflation.”
Akaraiwe, who is also a member of the governing council of ACTN, said, “On a personal note, we all heard what the CBN governor said yesterday (Wednesday) on redesigning the currency and that is what we should focus on.
“The amount of cash in circulation outside the banking system is very alarming. And the CBN needs to take measures to police it. And redesigning the currency is one of the most efficient ways to achieve that. So, that is what they are doing. And I think, in terms of pulling money into the banking system, this is a good way to go about it.
“This is what the CBN is trying to achieve and I think this (redesigning the currency notes) is the best way to achieve it.”
Akaraiwe also explained, “What many people are not aware of is that there is a Decimal Law Act that says that if you’re going to redesign the currency, you must give at least three months’ notice. And the central bank has complied with that law.”
Incumbent President and Chairman in Council of ACTN, Mrs. Victory Olumuyiwa, said the association would continue to collaborate with CBN in implementing the apex bank’s policies.
Olumuyiwa explained that the Treasury360 Conference and Exhibition was inspired by the corporate treasury practitioners’ commitment to making “positive and impactful contributions to the global relevance of our Nigerian business economies while strengthening our growing nation, Nigeria (sic).
“This conference is the first in the series of strategic engagements to inform, educate, highlight, partner and deliver on what will become the foundation for growing the relevance of Nigerian business economies with a focus on our global relevance (sic).
“The importance of a forum like this underscores the important role of corporate treasurers to overcome these challenges and accelerate the pace of change in 2023 and beyond. You will all agree with me that this opportunity to seek and implement pragmatic solutions cannot be overstated.”
Olumuyiwa also announced that Deputy Governor, Economic Policy, CBN, Dr. Kingsley Obiora, would be the special guest of honour at the forthcoming conference, while Chief Executive Officer, FMDQ, Mr. Bola Onadele, would be the conference’s keynote speaker.
Emefiele, who announced the resolve of the apex bank to redesign the banknotes at a media briefing on Wednesday in Abuja, had said the redesigning of the notes would affect the N200, N500, and N1, 000 denominations.
Emefiele pointed out that the change was sequel to the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari and circulation of the new banknotes would commence on December 15, 2022. He said the development was also aimed at checking the increasing ease and risk of currency counterfeiting evidenced by several security reports, and the increased risk to financial stability as well as the worsening shortage of clean and fit currency, with the attendant negative perception of the central bank.
Emefiele said there was significant hoarding of naira notes by members of the public, with statistics showing that over 80 per cent of the currency in circulation were outside the vaults of the commercial banks. He said as of September 2022, a total of N3.2 trillion was in circulation, of which N2.73 trillion was outside the vaults of the banks, describing the development as unacceptable.
Emefiele had also urged bank customers to begin paying into their bank accounts the existing currency notes to enable them to withdraw the new banknotes once circulation begins mid-December 2022. The CBN governor said for the purpose of the transition from existing to new notes, bank charges for cash deposits had been suspended with immediate effect. He added that no bank customer should bear any charges for cash returned/paid into their accounts.
Currency Redesign Welcome Development, Bawa Insists
Bawa described the plan by the central bank to redesign the country’s currency as a welcome development. The EFCC chairman said this while answering questions from reporters after defending the agency’s 2023 budget before the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes.
He said, “We welcome the policy. It is a good thing that the country is redesigning its currency now. How can you have an effective monetary policy, when you don’t have control of 85 per cent of your currency?
“People are hoarding and using it to speculate for foreign exchange. By coming with this policy, the government is trying to curtail that and ensure that those people that are bringing back all these monies, whether legitimately or illegitimately,” were monitored, “and then the law will take its course.”
Bawa dismissed the alleged plan by Internet fraudsters to stage nationwide protests against the anti-graft body, saying such action would not stop the commission from fighting against cyber-crime.
He stated, “These are Nigerians from my own constituency – the youthful constituency. They should join me in fighting the scourge of cyber-crime. It bleeds my heart when they are doing some things that ordinarily they should not do.
“We are working. It is part of our mandate to fight cyber-crime and advance fee fraud and those are things we have been doing. We are working in conformity the law.
“As at the 22nd of October his year, we have succeeded in securing 2,847 convictions and over 70 per cent of them had to do with the issue of cyber-crime.
“The activities of these cyber criminals is tarnishing our image by the day. Across the Atlantic, people are trying to see us as a cyber-crime infested country, which I believe we are not, and it is based on, maybe, the high number of the population that you tend to see that we are doing one or two things in that area.
“But we are working. We are not deterred. We will continue to do what we have to do. I am pleading with them that they shouldn’t be doing things at this part of the transition of the country in terms of elections and in terms of government’s effort in trying to see that the country is back on track.”
The EFCC boss also promised to collaborate with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in order to curb vote buying during the 2023 general election. He said the commission would work closely with INEC to ensure strict compliance with the Electoral Act by the politicians.
According to him, “The Electoral Act has already made provisions for what is financially acceptable in campaign financing and I think that is the law of the land.
“Nigerians are law-abiding and the EFCC is working towards ensuring that all of that is complied with by all Nigerians and politicians and we are working with INEC and other stakeholders to ensure that happens.
“We will continue to do what we have to do. We are trying to be sure illegitimate funds are not finding their way into our own electoral processes.
“And for those that are buying votes, we will continue to arrest them. We will walk hands in gloves with INEC to ensure that they are prosecuted.”
Bawa had on Wednesday applauded the move by the CBN, describing it as “a well-considered and timely response” to the challenge of currency management, which had negatively impacted the country’s monetary policy and security imperatives.
He had said, “The EFCC, the CBN and some other regulators in the financial sector have worked closely in the recent past to determine how best to stabilise the country’s monetary policy environment.
“It is heart-warming that the CBN has demonstrated courage in taking this bold decision, which I believe will bring sanity to the currency management situation in Nigeria.”
Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos