Buhari fails to keep his word on naira scarcity | The ICIR


SCARCITY of the new Naira notes has persisted despite the promised action by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Many Nigerians remain in queues at automated teller machines (ATMs) mounted in banks and a few other locations across the country in search of the new notes.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced the new N200, N500 and N1000 notes into circulation on December 15, 2022, and announced that the old notes would cease to be legal tender from January 31, 2023. 

The decision compelled the citizens to take the old notes on them to banks hurriedly, but they have since been struggling to get the new notes.

Following pleas and protests by Nigerians, the apex bank extended the deadline till February 10 and said people with the old notes could take them to the bank to exchange for new ones or save them after the deadline.

Despite the deadline extension, the currency swap has caused multi-dimensional harm to businesses, households and individuals, with the 2023 general elections kicking off on February 25.

On February 3, the President pledged to take a crucial decision on the matter after meeting with the governors elected on the platform of his party – the All Progressives Congress (APC).

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The governors met him to express their frustration over the scarcity of the new naira notes.

Buhari took no measures as the seven days he requested elapsed on Friday, February 10.

He, however, met with the National Council of State in the State House, Abuja. The Council comprises former and current Nigerian leaders.

At the meeting, the Council endorsed the naira redesign policy but urged the CBN to make more mints of the new notes into circulation to alleviate the suffering faced by the citizens over their scarcity. The Council also advised the apex bank to release the old notes into circulation if it could not make the new notes available.

Except the Presidency claims the meeting or Council’s position is Buhari’s promised intervention, The ICIR reports that the President made no other known decision to cushion the effects of the currency crisis.

In the first week of February, many banks could only issue N1,000 at their counters. Some gave out bundles of N5 notes.

Many ATMs had no cash, and people queued for hours, hoping they would get some money.

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Point-of-sale (POS) operators have been charging as high as ten-fold what they used to charge their customers – a development that has worsened the crisis.

Despite efforts by anti-corruption agencies, namely the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to compel banks hoarding the notes to release them to the public, the scarcity has persisted.

The scarcity has led to protests by Nigerians in Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Akwa-Ibom and Delta States.

Three APC governors, namely Nasir El Rufai (Kaduna), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), and Bello Matawalle (Zamfara), approached the Supreme Court to halt the currency swap.

They expressed concern over the consequences of the CBN policy on people in their states.

In its ruling on February 8, the apex court issued an exparte order halting the plan.

Meanwhile, after the Supreme Court ruling, Buhari’s government approached the court to dismiss the suit.

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Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He’s a good governance and decent society advocate. He’s the ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected]

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