By Bassey Udo
Nigerians have continued to react to Wednesday’s announcement of plans by the Central Bank of Nigeria to redesign, print and circulate some of the country’s banknotes.
A cross section of the people hailed the apex bank’s decision as timely and well-thought monetary policy to strengthen the Naira and stabilize the economy, just as others stress the need for effective implementation to realise set objectives.
The reactions are coming just the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) applauded the move by the CBN to redesign and reissue the higher denominations of the Naira.
Announcing the plan for the reissue of the N100, N200, N500, and N1,000 denominations of the Naira, the governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele said the new currencies would begin to go into circulation throughout the country from December 15, 2022.
Regardless, he said the new and existing currencies shall remain legal tenders and circulate together until January 31, 2023 when the existing currencies shall cease to be legal tender.
Some Nigerians who commended the CBN for the policy decision said
Apart from its implications for monetary policy and corruption, the decision to redesign and reissue the Naira banknotes would affect 2023 politics, politicians and national security.
If the Emefiele said over 80 percent of currency in circulation are outside the commercial bank system, then the CBN is trying to use the policy to compel people who stock monies in their private homes to return them to the banking system, to relate the economy,” a Port Harcourt based economist and analyst, Justus Udogwu, said on Thursday.
Udogwu said in the run up to the 2023 politics, a lot of politicians have a lot of money at their disposal in the homes to finance their campaigns.
Again, he said the bandits use a lot the money outside the banking system to finance their banditry operations and other forms of insecurity, and adding that it was hig time they returned the monies in their possession outside the banking system.
For Kelvin Osita, a businessman in Abuja, although the decision by the CBN was ommendable, he was concerned with possible compromise with the implementation.
“This is a very good move by the CBN. This has a lot of implications if properly implemented. We are used to well thought-out, well designed, but poorly executed policies,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, has described the move by the CBN as “a well-considered and timely response” to the challenges of currency management which has negatively impacted the country’s monetary policy and security imperatives.
“The EFCC, the CBN and some other regulatory agenies in the financial sector have worked closely in the recent past to determine how best to stabilize 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”, Bawa said.
He called on operators in the Nigerian financial services sector, especially deposit money banks and bureau de change operators to work within the guidelines provided by the CBN to ensure seamless withdrawal of the old currency.
Bawa however warned that EFCC would closely monitor the process to ensure that unscrupulous players and currency speculators and their cohorts among the BDCs do not undermine the exercise.
He also charged banks to be alive to their reporting obligations and not assist unscrupulous customers in laundering suspected proceeds of crimes through their system.
The EFCC boss further pointed out that the objectives the CBN sought to achieve with the redesign and reissue of the higher denomination of the Naira notes, were in tandem with the objectives of the Money Laundering Prevention Prohibition Act 2022, which criminalizes the conduct of cash transactions above a certain threshold.
Section 2 (1) of the Money Laundering Act 2022 states: “No person or body corporate shall, except in a transaction through a financial institution, make or accept cash payment of a sum exceeding— (a) N5,000,000 or its equivalent, in the case of an individual, or (b) N10,000,000 or its equivalent, in the case of a body corporate. ”
The EFCC boss expressed optimism that the new currency measure would further boost Nigerians’ embrace of banking culture and encourage the acceptance of cashless transactions.
He recalled that the Commission had recently taken operational actions against currency hoarders in major commercial cities of Nigeria.
“It is therefore pertinent to issue this stern warning to Bureau de Change operators to be wary of currency hoarders who would attempt to seize this opportunity to offload the currencies they had illegally stashed away,” the EFCC warned.
Currency hoarders, he noted, readily made hoards of cash available for criminal enterprise, adding that the Commission would spare no effort to bring to book any financial services operator who runs afoul of extant laws and regulations.