The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Saturday, reiterated his earlier position that there was no going back on the naira redesign project and ruled out the extension of the January 31 deadline for the old N1,000, N500 and N200 to cease from being legal tender.
The President’s position was supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria, which insisted that the deadline would not be extended.
This is coming at a time when stakeholders, including the 36 state governors, the Nigerian Bar Association, the Arewa Consultative Forum and bank customers, are calling for a review of the policy and an extension of the deadline.
Buhari explained that the currency redesign was not meant to target innocent citizens, but corrupt people and terror financiers hoarding illicit funds.
He also assured Nigerians that the government would ensure that they and their businesses would face no harm from disruptions caused to the entire supply chain arising from the currency redesign.
A statement on Saturday by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said Buhari was reacting to reports of long queues of people waiting for hours for their turn to deposit old notes and get new ones.
The statement was titled, ‘Government will eliminate squeeze, chaos in currency swap, President Buhari assures’.
Buhari reiterated that the currency change was aimed at people hoarding illicit funds and not the common man.
He said the changes had become necessary to prevent counterfeits, corruption and terrorist funding as well as to stabilise and strengthen the economy.
The statement read in part, “While taking note that the poorest section of society is facing hardship as they often keep hard cash at home for various expenses, President Buhari gave strong assurances that the government would not leave them to their own fate.
“He reiterated that a number of initiatives by the central bank and all commercial banks are underway to speed up distribution of the new notes and do all that is necessary to forestall cash squeeze and chaos.”
The President’s explanation may have been in reaction to the position of the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, who last Wednesday alleged that the currency change and the lingering fuel scarcity were parts of plans to sabotage the February election and prevent his imminent victory.
Similarly, the CBN, on Saturday, insisted that the January 31 deadline for the validity of the old naira notes remained unchanged.
Refusing to yield to pressure to extend the deadline, the apex bank, via its verified Twitter handle, insisted that the deadline was sacrosanct.
Reposting a video of the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, from the just concluded Monetary Policy Committee meeting, the apex bank said, “Deadline for the return of old series of 200, 500 and 1000 naira notes remains January 31, 2023.”
Emefiele had said after the MPC meeting, “Unfortunately, I don’t have good news for those who feel we should shift the deadline; my apologies.
“The reason is because, just like the President has said on more than two occasions and even to some people privately, 100 days is more than enough for anybody who has the old currency to deposit it in the banks. And we took every measure to ensure that all the banks were and are still open to accept deposits.”
Echoing the President’s position, the CBN explained that the redesigned notes would solve the challenge of insecurity, especially kidnapping in the North-West.
The Director of Development Finance at the apex bank, Philip Yila, who was represented by Aliyu Ashiru, in Gombe State, explained that the policy would ensure sanity in the system.
The CBN team had before swapping old notes for residents visited traditional rulers of Lamido Akko in the Akko Local Government Area of the state, Umar Atiku; Mai Banganje; and the District Head of Tanglan in the Billiri Local Government Area.
“One of the benefits of redesigned notes by the Central Bank of Nigeria is to ensure integrity. We realised that overtime, there had been challenges in our cash management; a lot of challenges of insecurity border on people who hold money, people who kidnap and seek ransom from the people; enforcing the cashless policy will make it difficult for kidnappers to seek ransom, especially in North-West,” Yila said.
He noted that the bank thought it wise to set up high-powered teams across the federation to sensitise the public to the naira redesign policy.
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, however, pleaded with the CBN to extend the deadline, saying as much as the policy was welcomed; a slight extension would ease the discomfort of Nigerians
The Senate and the House of Representatives had also pleaded with the apex bank to extend the deadline by six months till July 31, 2023.
‘Buhari snubbed govs’
In Kano State, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, revealed that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), rejected the plea of the 36 state governors to review the naira redesign policy, especially the extension of the January 31 deadlines for the old notes to cease being legal tender.
Ganduje made this known during an interactive session with scholars, legislators, political leaders and the business community in the state at the Government House, Kano, on Friday.
The governor said he and his colleagues came under one platform without consideration for party affiliation and sent delegates to Buhari to let him know about the hardship caused by the new policy.
“Governors from all the political parties put heads together and sent delegates (to the President), but to no avail. Traditional rulers also followed the same path individually. But up till now, there is nothing in that respect,” he added.