June 10, 2023

New naira: Listen to voice of reason, NGF tells CBN

By Anjorin Babatunde.

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum has called on the Central Bank of Nigeria to listen to the voice of reason and follow the rule of law in its pursuit of the naira redesign policy.
This is as the Forum assured Nigerians that it felt their pains and is “determined to employ all legitimate channels to ease the situation.”
The NGF stated these in a communiqué signed by its chairman and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, and issued at the end of its meeting held on Saturday in Abuja, according to a report by Premium Times.
The Forum warned that the country might be at risk of a recession following the naira redesign policy of the CBN.

The NGF called on the Federal government “to respect the Rule of Law and listen to the voice of reason expressed by Nigerians and several other stakeholders including the Council of State, before the damage to our economy becomes too great to fix by the next administration.”
It added that “we express our sympathies and support with Nigerians who are experiencing great difficulties under the current CBN naira re-design and cash withdrawal restrictions policy.”
The governors said the CBN was pursuing an “aspirational policy of going cashless” and a “currency confiscation programme”, and not the naira redesign policy provided for in the CBN Act.

“It has become necessary to make a distinction between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Naira redesign policy backed by Section 20 (3) of the CBN Act, 2007 and the aspirational policy of going cashless, both of which are mutually exclusive at this time.

“It is our considered view that what the CBN is at present pursuing is a currency confiscation programme, not the currency exchange policy envisaged under S20(3) of the CBN Act, 2007. Currency confiscation in the sense that the liquidity provided to the general public is grossly insufficient due to the restrictions placed on the amount that can be withdrawn regardless of the amount deposited.”
The NGF also expressed worries over how the CBN is undertaking the policy, saying, “The current approach of the CBN raises concerns about the respect for the civil liberties and rights of Nigerians as it relates to their freedom to use legitimately earned income as they so wish. The Forum believes that to deploy a cashless policy and deepen digital transactions, the best practice around the world is to create a suite of incentives to attract customers; rather than a draconian approach as we have witnessed in the last three months.
“The argument by the CBN for what it describes as the astronomical increase in the currency in circulation as the basis for this policy is not supported by its own data. According to the CBN, the currency in circulation increased from N1.4 trillion in 2015 to N3.23 trillion in October 2022. The Bank appears not to have taken into consideration the increase in the size of the country’s nominal GDP over this period, the doubling of consumer prices, rising population, and the impact of the humongous Ways & Means advances to the federal government by the Central Bank of Nigeria over this period.”
The Forum added that, “In the circumstances, it is safe to draw either of two conclusions – the CBN data may be incomplete or in fact, Nigerians may have done exceptionally well in the transition to a cashless economy. In addition, considering the sizeable informal sector in the nation, the amount of banknotes created in exchange so far by the CBN implies it vastly underestimated the economy’s actual cash needs.”
The governors noted that, “The inability to use the new notes has had far-reaching economic effects, leading to the emergence of the naira black market, severe food inflation, variable commodities prices based on the method of exchange, and long queues as well as crowds around Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and banking halls across the country with individuals hoping to get a fraction of their money in new notes to meet their daily livelihood. The country runs the risk of a CBN-induced recession.
“While we acknowledge the submission of the Attorney General of the Federation that the Federal Government will comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court which calls for the halting of CBN’s plan to end the use of the old currency notes, we are yet to observe changes in the financial system. Consequently, we call on the Federal Government and the CBN to respect the Rule of Law and listen to the voice of reason expressed by Nigerians and several other stakeholders including the Council of State, before the damage to our economy becomes too great to fix by the next administration.”

The NGF stressed that it would consolidate the legal reliefs pursued by some states in the country over the naira redesign policy.
“Members rose from the meeting agreeing to direct their Attorneys General to review the suit at the Supreme Court with a view to consolidating the legal reliefs pursued by states,” it stated.

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