THE Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) maintains there is no going back on its January 31 deadline for the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes to expire as legal tender.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, reiterated the apex bank’s stance after the Monetary Policy Committee meeting, today.
Emefiele, seemingly unbothered about wide concern on unavailability of the redesigned naira notes, argued that the apex bank had given the people enough time to swap their old naira notes for new ones.
To him, kidnapping and ransom-taking had reduced since the three bank notes were redesigned.
Many Nigerians have been lamenting unavailability and scarcity of the new notes, saying banks were still giving out the old naira notes to customers, with the deadline barely a week away.
Some automated teller machines our correspondent visited today were not even dispensing any note. At the Stanbic IBTC on Ijaye Road, Ogba, and the Zenith Bank at Ogba Aguda, both in Lagos, the machines had no money in them. There were five empty machines at the Zenith Bank branch and three at the Stanbic IBTC.
Also, there was no naira note in the two ATMs at the Zenith Bank branch on Acme Road, Ikeja-Ogba.
Meanwhile, the Senate at plenary today urged the CBN to extend the withdrawal date of the old naira notes from January 31 to July 31.
Moving the motion, Sadiq Suleiman, (APC Kwara), recalled that the Senate had resolved on December 28, 2022 to urge the CBN to extend the use of the old notes from January 31 to June 30, 2023.
Suleiman said there should be worry the apex bank had insisted on terminating the use of the old naira notes by the end of January.
He said there were not enough of the new naira notes in circulation and as such, moved a motion that the date should be extended to July 31.
He said, “Experiences around the world have shown that such abrupt decision, if not controlled, usually created chaos.”
Supporting the motion, Senator Ibrahim Hadejia (APC-Jigawa) said that the call for extension was for their constituents, and not for their (lawmakers) personal benefits.
Hadeija said, “In my constituency, no Automated Teller Machine (ATM) is dispensing the new notes.”
Similarly, Senator Adamu Aliero (PDP-Kebbi) said that the policy would inflict untold hardship on people living in the rural areas.
“The CBN governor should be invited,” Aliero said.
Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa (PDP-Bauchi) said that the extension was necessary otherwise there would be chaos.
Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP-Ekiti), who said about 90 per cent of people in her local government area had not seen a glimpse of the new naira notes, called on the apex bank to “look away from the elections.”
Olujimi said that if the date was not extended, it would lead to collateral damage, which she believed would not augur well for the economy.
Senator Ali Ndume (APC-Borno) called on the Senate to use its oversight responsibility on the CBN to “order the CBN governor to extend the date.”
Saying that the power of the senate should not be played down, he called on the senators to stand firm on the call for extension.
Senator Sam Egwu (PDP-Ebonyi) was, however, the only senator who opposed the motion.
“Nigerians do not have the culture of keeping their money in the bank,” Egwu said.
“It is in Nigeria where cash is used arbitrarily; other countries use electronic means,” he added.
In his remarks, the Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, said that most of the senatorial districts did not have banks.
He said, “In rural Nigeria, there are no banks and people transact businesses with cash more often. There is no doubt that we must have a window for exchange. We must have policies by the CBN to have bank branches established in rural areas.
“We need this extension for the most ordinary Nigerians,” Lawan said.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.