Emefiele’s Somersault and the Painful Backlash of Naira Redesign and Cash Swap
In one of our recent editorials, we pointed out that the Nigerian Central Bank’s policy on the redesigning of the nation’s currency was badly timed with the hasty directive and expiration deadline of the old notes.
In fact, we aligned with the minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed, on the need for the Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele, to discuss with the minister on the economic implications of the policy, especially how it would affect ordinary people.
Instead of doing the needful, Emefiele threw caution to the wind and convinced—or rather confused—President Buhari who gave the nod and stamp of authority for immediate redesigning of the currency.
Today, we are vindicated by what has become a boomerang and a painful backlash of the hasty policy on the citizens.
Before we are misunderstood, we state clearly that currency redesign and the like are the discretion of apex banks like the CBN in all countries for the economic well-being of its citizens.
But the current Nigerian currency redesign came as an imposition and witch-hunt and not as a normal economic measure, which would have made the entire exercise a gradual and silent process.
It should be noted that this is not the first or second time Nigeria has changed or redesigned its currency.
The current exercise has brought with it pains and suffering for the less privileged and the downtrodden, who only feed on the little they generate daily or on nothing at all.
With the deadline to deposit money in the banks, they had a hectic time doing so while the CBN, an agency of the federal government, could not meet up with the demand or cash swap for the new notes.
We heard how various banks personally capitalised on the exercise to make money by hoarding the new notes and diverting the same to their agents who sell them with very high profit margins.
Many vulnerable citizens like the aged, the sick and the disabled have had their money stolen by agents who pretended as helping hands.
Many who hardly afford their daily drugs with money provided for them by sympathisers or relatives are gnashing their teeth over the ill-prepared policy.
The point of sale (POS) agents are making brisk business with the new currency provided to them undercover by unscrupulous, rogue and dishonest bank staff who hoarded the money.
Traders, civil servants, politicians, religious organisations and many other groups are groaning under the weight of the hasty policy.
While federal lawmakers were threatening to issue a warrant to arrest the CBN governor for failing to appear before them to explain the woes he brought upon the entire nation, the same Emefiele capitulated after insisting there was not going to be an extension of the deadline.
We want to observe that the policy has failed in all ramifications, save for the normal ATM and cash transfer options available long time ago. We do not think anything has been achieved with the so-called redesign and cash swap. Not when criminals and other undesirable elements were first to access the new currency and display them for sale in the open market, daring security agents. So also with yahoo boys who spray and abuse the new notes as displayed on footage gone viral on social media.
With the twin evils of petrol and currency scarcity across the country, this is not the best time for the citizens. Something urgent must be done to save Nigerians from profiteers and racketeers who have hijacked the economy.
It is scary that practically everything in Nigeria has been commodified and commercialised, including human life. There is no sign that they (criminals and economic saboteurs) will lose their grip on the economy anytime soon.
The Central Bank of Nigeria under Godwin Emefiele should go back to the drawing board to review its monetary policy; otherwise, it will plunge the nation into unprecedented crisis.