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Naira Scarcity: Government, CBN’s silence on Supreme Court’s order worsens consumers’ hardship –Report

Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of CBN (l) and President Muhammadu Buhari Launching the Redesigned Banknotes November 2022, in Abuja, FCT

*Experts, consumers lament the implementation of the Naira redesign policy has brought much agony to individual consumers, families and businesses as the new banknotes have remained scarce in circulation in the Nigerian economy

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

In view of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) silence and non-adherence to the latest Supreme Court of Nigeria verdict on the use of old N200, N500 and N1000 notes till December 31, 2023, consumers have continued to suffer amid the current socio-economic dislocations in the economy.

It is recalled the CBN, October 2022, had announced it would redesign the N200, N500 and N1,000 notes in the West African country.

Subsequently, the Bankers’  Bank introduced the redesigned banknotes into circulation November, ahead of the initial target of December 15 last year.

Old Naira notes

The CBN also initially, set January 31, 2023, as the deadline for use of the old Naira notes as legal tender.

The Supreme Court March 3 this year, ordered that old N200, N500 and N1000 should remain in circulation as legal tender till December 31, 2023.

The apex appellate court in Nigeria also nullified the Federal Government’s Naira redesign policy, subsequent pronouncement by President Muhammadu Buhari declaring that only old N200 notes should be released into circulation for 60 days as an affront to the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

ConsumerConnect had reported the Bank explained one of the fundamental reasons for the Naira redesign project is to strengthen cashless economy in Nigeria.

However, some financial services industry experts have picked holes in the CBN’s stated objective of the currency redesign project.

Dr. Muda Yusuf, economist, ex-Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and Executive Director, Centre for Promotion of Private Enterprises (CPPE), said: “Cash to gross domestic product, GDP ratio in Nigeria is currently 1.3 percent, with the country’s GDP currently at N202 trillion,” a report said.

Yusuf, who noted that businesses are suffering from the Naira policy, lamented the dislocation of the economy and suffering confronting Nigerian consumers on the currency redesign problems.

He wondered why the Federal Government and CBN are not addressing the outcry of Nigerians on the burning issue.

The implementation of the Naira policy has brought much agony to individual consumers, families and businesses as the new notes have remained scarce in circulation.

The CBN has not helped matters with its decision somersaults on the swap of the old with the new ones, according to report.

On legality of old banknotes in circulation

Despite the Supreme Court’s verdict retaining the validity of the old Naira notes till December 31, the Federal Government and CBN have yet to issue official notification to the Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to effect the spending of the old notes as a legal tender in the economy.

It was, however, gathered this unsettling development has worsened consumers’ economic problems, and  increased the growing confusion about the validity of the old notes among the populace.

Currently, the slogan among Nigerians is: ‘Do you have cash’ as cash crunch continues to bite hard, making day-to-day economic activities difficult, The ICIR report said.

What consumers are saying

Most Nigerians, including small-scale business operators, had to wait till midnight when transfer and bank networks are relatively stable to do their business transactions, amid scarcity of the new currency.

Ms. Nkemka Okeke, a young undergraduate whose mother deals in foodstuff business, said: “I help my mother to do the transfer to her customers many of whom she buys her businesses from.

“I had to wait till midnight everyday to transfer money to her main customers at ‘Oseokwodi market’ in Onitsha Anambra State.

“This would help her re-stock her business , otherwise she would be out of business.”

The student said most people had to buy the new currency at exorbitant prices to facilitate their movement around.

Okeke also noted that “as of now, we pay N8000 to collect N5000 of the new currency. This is not good at all for small scale businesses.”

She stated many businesses are gradually adapting to the new development, as some are currently procuring Point-of-Sale (PoS) machines as transfer glitches take its toll on businesses.

Relating her experience, Oluchi Mgbemena, a restaurant manager,  shared similar concerns as Nkemka.

Mgbemena also said: “I had to sort out transferring mechanism from my customers in order to buy  my foodstuffs from them.

“After sales, I had to keep late night to send their money for the next market day. Otherwise, you won’t get supply.”

She pointed out that those who come to market with cash are given priority, and at times buy goods on a negotiable discounts.

Eze Onyekpere, Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice and Development, observed the silence of both the CBN and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) on the matter signposts impunity and absurdity.

Onyekpere noted the fault gaps on the Naira swap policy, and expressed worry over authorities’ non-compliance with the  Supreme Court order.

He quipped: “What is happening is not just about the Central Bank of Nigeria, but of impunity and absurdity. Why is the President silent on the matter?

“The Attorney-General went to court on behalf of the Federal Government on this matter.

“Why has he not issued a public statement,urging the CBN to ensure compliance on the supreme Court Order?”

Onyekpere also frowned on the CBN Governor’s action, which he described as ‘reprehensible’.

Meanwhile, Rasheed Bolarinwa, President of the Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks (ACAMB), has not confirmed any official directive from the CBN on the usage of the old notes in the Nigerian economy, report said.

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