Trust Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele, to bungle a task as simple and routine as replacing old currency notes with new, redesigned ones.
The man and the apex bank he heads have been all over the place on this Naira redesign policy; and it would have been funny if it wasn’t so tragic and far-reaching.
Only today, I left my desk to purchase some petrol for the generator, seeing as there hasn’t been a flicker of electricity in my neighbourhood for two weeks. The petrol station didn’t have a POS machine. The attendant dutifully pointed me to a bank ATM adjoining the gas station. I needed N10,000 worth of petrol, so I punched N15,000. I was expecting new Naira notes to file out of the machine. Alas!!!
What emerged from the ATM were old, dampened N500 notes. All 15k of it. Now, this is five days before these same notes cease to be legal tender, according to Emefiele and all the eggheads at the CBN.
I’m certain that the same scenario will play out tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after the day after tomorrow; and perhaps before the deadline day of January 31, 2023.
Millions of Nigerians would be stuck with old Naira notes past the January 31 deadline through no fault of theirs, because, take my word for it, banks will keep loading those ugly machines of theirs with old notes up until deadline day.
What are Nigerians supposed to do when banks are dispensing old notes every time they use an ATM? What are they supposed to do when they are told from across the counter that the new N200, N500 and N1,000 notes are scarce because the CBN isn’t dispatching enough to the deposit money banks? Print their own currencies?
Yet, Emefiele has been so tone deaf about all of these. He resides in this marbled echo chamber from where he emerges to address Nigerians occasionally in a condescending, rankling tone.
The man has inured himself from what ordinary Nigerians are saying about the paucity of the new notes. During the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting of the bank two days ago, the CBN Governor once again blamed Nigerians for his own glaring, staggering incompetence.
On those calling for the deadline for the mopping up of old notes to be extended because they haven’t been able to lay their hands on the new ones, Emefiele was characteristically churlish, blunt and inconsiderate:
“Unfortunately, I don’t have good news for those who say we should shift the deadline,” he said, deadpanned. “The reason is because just like the president has said on more than two occasions, and even to people privately, for us 90 days…we feel in fact 100 days is enough for anyone who has the old currency to deposit the money in the banks.
“And we took every measure to ensure all the banks were open or remained open to receive all old currencies. We called on the banks, we said ‘not only are we asking you to extend your banking hours so that you can receive old currencies, but we are also asking you to keep your doors open on Saturdays.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the banks did not have any reasons to even keep their banking halls open on Saturdays, neither did they see the kind of rush that they anticipated. So, we do not see any reason to begin to talk about a shift because people could not deposit old monies into their banks,” the CBN Governor said.
The above remark is yet another example of how policy makers choose to remain far detached from reality because they wouldn’t be bothered to conduct a market research or commission a team to do a boots-on-the-ground survey on their policies.
Emefiele’s ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ approach on this issue that affects every facet of Nigerian life is reprehensible, to put it mildly. Fresh from a vacation and hibernation as the Department of State Security (DSS) encircles him over allegations bordering on terrorism financing, you’d expect the CBN Governor to be at least reasonable, circumspect and humble.
ALSO READ: CBN, MINT Co. has no capacity to print enough currency notes needed in Naira redesign – Sources
What has so far happened with this Naira redesign policy is that the apex bank is saying one thing and doing another. Emefiele and the CBN never got their acts together on this one. The CBN hasn’t sufficiently furnished the banks with the new notes. Which is why there is so much buck-passing between the deposit money banks and the apex bank.
And it will be foolhardy to ask Nigerians to stop using old notes when bank machines and every POS operator out there are still handing out old currency notes to members of the public, hours before deadline day.
At this point, no ATM or bank should have the old notes in their vaults or coffers. But here we are!
There are millions of Nigerians who will be caught napping and who will still have old notes with them past Emefiele’s deadline. This writer foresees a mad rush to banking halls on deadline day as Nigerians nationwide try to get rid of the old notes they had been given by the same banks only hours prior. Is this really how to implement a policy that affects every facet of our national life? I don’t think so.
And to think that all of this was totally avoidable.