By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) Godwin Emefiele shared his thoughts with state house journalists shortly after the unveiling of the redesigned high denominations naira notes recently approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He spoke on the rationale behind the naira redesign and the likely benefits to economy and citizens
Why we came with the policy to redesign naira
The practice worldwide is that currencies should be redesigned or replaced or reissued every five to eight years. But for Nigeria, we have not had the opportunity of redesigning and reissuing currency in the last almost 19 years.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, by law has a mandate to reissue and redesign currency for the country and for the Nigerian people, every five to eight years. And I want to hope that after the event of today, the Central Bank of Nigeria can just take it as part of its programmes to see to it that every five to eight years, the currencies are designed or reissued.
It is because mainly the central bank should be able to have control full of the size of currency in circulation, that is the sole mandate of the Central Bank of Nigeria, because it has implications for monetary policy management in the country.
There is no need for anybody to think that this programme is targeted at anyone.
Like you heard the President speak in the chambers, he said that this discussion to redesign and reissue this currency started earlier in the year.
We took painstaking efforts in looking at the pros and cons and the reasons when and why it should be done. And the President in his wisdom, decided that yes, it must be done.
In the past, I have to confess that attempts by the Central Bank of Nigeria to redesign our ratio currencies have been resisted. And that is the reason I also read in my speech, that is only a president of the esteem and statute of President Muhammadu Buhari that could have done this.
And I want to seize the opportunity to appeal to members of the public that there is no need for any insinuations, giving the impression that this is targeted at any individual there is no attempt at that. We’re doing our work and we would continue to do our work.
The EFCC chairman told us that some governors are trying to frustrate this new policy and we also read a particular presidential candidate withdrew N40 million to share at a community. What are your plans to ensure this policy succeeds?
Like I said earlier, our policy of redesign and reissue is not targeted at anyone. But of course we have the laws and we will indeed be more intense in ensuring that the provisions of the law and our CBN regulations about the size and volume of currency that people can carry, or hold or withdraw we will insist that this is done going forward.
In other countries like USA, if you want to withdraw $10,000 from the counter, you will be interrogated, you will fill numerous forms, they will even track the use of that $10,000 cash that you are withdrawing. Or you want to withdraw £10,000 from the counter, they will refuse and if you insist then you will fill forms.
The problems we have had in the past is that we say this is a cash economy. There is no economy that is inbuilt thinking that it has to be cash economy. The world has moved away from predominantly cash to cashless economy. And I think Nigeria and the Central Bank of Nigeria is prepared at this time to move towards a cashless economy. And that is the reason why with the reissue of these notes, we will insist that cashless would be nationwide. We will restrict the volume of cash that people can withdraw over the counter.
If you need to withdraw large volume of cash, you will fill uncountable forms. We will take your data, whether it is your BVN, your NIN so that enforcement agencies like EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) or ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission) can follow you and be sure that you are taking that money for good purpose. As a country, Nigeria is the biggest country both in population and economy in Africa and we have to ensure that we do things the right way that also positions us as leader in Africa and one of the leading countries in the world. We must do things right and l think it would start from today.
Some groups recently called for an extension of this policy implementation. What will you be telling them given the time is too short?
Well, it is in their minds when they said the time is too short. We will not go with them on that destination. What we are saying is this, we announced this programme October 26th, 2022 and we have said that from today, this currency that is reissued will be legal tender in Nigeria and all over the world wherever it’s going to be accepted. So we believe between October 26th, 2022 to January 31st, 2023, we believe that is more than 100 days. Like the president has said, if you have cash it should not take you more than 100 days to be able to deposit it in your bank and take whatever little quantity you need for use.
We have made adequate arrangement, and the banks have been told that they will keep their currency processing centres open from Mondays to Saturdays even to late hours every day. We have also offered that the Central Bank of Nigeria currency processing centres across all 36 states including Abuja, 37, will be available to process cash from Mondays to Saturdays.
It might interest us to know that on a daily basis, the deputy governor operations calls the banks, the CBN currency processing centres to find out if there are queues or if there are some form of congestion about people depositing cash. There has been none. We have also made available through our agency banking arrangement people in the villages can use PoS and their stores to receive and pay cash.
In 2018, we had 86,000 touch points of agency banking, as at October that is last month, the number of those who have financial system touch points are 1.4 million. So there is no local government that you don’t have agent bankers that can do this on our behalf. So it’s as good as saying we have over one million points or branches of banks where you can deposit or take your cash to. There is no reason for anyone to say he cannot access cash or be able to pay his take into a bank. So we are not going to go with those people on their journey to say that time is short. In our wisdom and the wisdom of Mr. President time is not short. We have more than ample time to do so.
How do you intend to address the issue of counterfeiting of currency in circulation with these redesigned notes?
Let me tell you this, these notes cannot be counterfeited because of the security features in them, nobody can counterfeit them. What you could only find will be people making photocopy of these notes. If you follow due process to check the authenticity of a currency, take them through the UV (ultra violet) light, you will find that this currency cannot be counterfeited. The best you will find is photocopies. What I am trying to say is that to reduce that incidence of counterfeiting or photocopying, that is why we are saying that the CBN must now without waiting every five to eight years redesign and reissue these notes so that those thinking they can take advantage of the system by counterfeiting will know that the game is over for them.
How much has been mopped up so far?
Like I told you, those kind of volume we don’t like to disclose. Like we told you, N3.23 trillion is in circulation and out of that N2.72 trillion is outside the bank vault. And we will insist that those N2.72 trillion must return to the bank vault by January 31, 2023. If you chose to hold it after January 31,2023, it will become useless in your hand. That’s all.