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Naira Redesign: Why did the Senate roar? Naira Redesign: Why did the Senate roar?
by Ovi Magazine Guest
2022-11-25 08:25:00
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Naira Redesign: Why did the Senate roar?
By Tunde Akande

CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele announced by a jolt on October 26 that he had secured the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to redesign three denominations of the naira, 200, 500 and 1000.

Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele, has never been a man of action, like Charles Chukwuma Soludo and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who does not brook corruption from any quarter however high. And Godwin Emefiele said so the moment he was picked to replace Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who later went on to become the 41st Emir of Kano and later deposed also. Emefiele said he would not dabble in politics in obvious reference to Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who had taken up the politicians including Goodluck Jonathan who was the president then. And so Emefiele kept a low profile until he went to celebrate clandestinely his 60th birthday among some Nigerian billionaires in the Caribbean Islands far away from Nigeria. Emefiele also entered the Nigerian public glare when he declared he would join the contest for the presidential nomination of the ruling APC. How and why, he thought he could replace a non-performing President Muhammadu Buhari, himself not being a performing CBN governor in an economy that has totally collapsed in the hands of the two of them is difficult to fathom. Some have suggested that Emefiele was perhaps buoyed by the humongous wealth being the CBN governor. He replied that by his 35 years of work as a banker, he should have the resources to contest the presidency.

Anyway, Godwin Emefiele is again in the news for an action that might give him a little redemption for his past tardiness. He announced by a jolt on October 26 that he had secured the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to redesign three denominations of the naira, 200, 500 and 1000. He had reasons for wanting to do that; one was that the naira had not been redesigned in the last 20 years whereas it is customary to redesign a country’s currency between 5 and 8 years to save it from counterfeiting and keep it crispy. But the most important reason, he didn't call it that, but the public grew to make that opinion after just a few days of the announcement, was that of the 3. 7 trillion naira in circulation, 2. 7 trillion was not in the vaults of the banks. In short, 85% of all the currency in circulation was outside the bank vaults. So where could they be Nigerians asked. They were in the hands of two groups as various photographs on social media showed; politicians and government officials who had stolen them and stashed them in soak-away pits buried them under the ground or locked them up in rooms in their houses because they could not take them to banks. Doing that will expose their theft since a law compels the banks to declare large deposits made to them to the EFCC, the anti-graft agency. The second in the group are the bandits who have been kidnapping Nigerians and taking ransom from them in millions of naira. What Emefiele told Nigeria by implication is that about 2.7 trillion naira were in the hands of kleptomaniac politicians and bandits. That's almost all of the economy of the nation in the hands of thieves, official and unofficial. Nigeria must be a special country.

But this positive action of Emefiele is being resisted by powerful Nigerians. First to resist is the Minister for Finance, Budget and Planning, Zainab Ahmed who announced to a senate committee looking into the 2023 budget of her ministry that she was not in the picture of things being done by the Central Bank. She knew that there will be some advantages to the policy but that there are also consequences to it. Emefiele was quickly rescued by the president who announced that he approved the policy as the law says. Other experts have also said the CBN is independent and so it could do what it did without informing the finance minister. Others also wonder why the minister could have feigned ignorance of the policy since her ministry has a representative on the board of the CBN. Some others conclude that perhaps the redesign policy may affect the government’s social intervention policy since they were the ones carrying cash all over the country, especially the North and giving it to the poor in the name of Buhari's social intervention programme. Some cash could have been stashed away by the humanitarian workers which Emefiele's policy is now threatening.

But if Emefiele overcame the subtle attack by the finance minister, another which promise to be greater waited for him at the Senate. On the floor of the chambers that its members call ' hallowed' but which Nigerians think it's anything but hallowed, some senators at the moving of a motion for legislative support for the naira redesign policy by the chairman of the committee on Banking, Insurance and other financial institutions, Senator Uba Sani, rose spiritedly to massively attack the policy, Whether the Senate could stop or not the CBN because of its independence is not clear but Emefiele had now come within the chambers housing the suspected holders of the 2.7 trillion currency that is outside of the bank vaults - the politicians. Not less than six senators rose in a very rowdy session to kill the naira redesign policy: Alli Ndume, Barau Jibrin, Chukwuka Utazi, Abiodun Olujimi and Betty Apiafi. Their argument ranges from happenings in the rural area which they say is underbanked and that the poor could lose money if the policy goes on implemented at the short notice and whether the policy is desirable at all.

Senator Uzor Orji Kalu took the unofficial leadership of those who want the policy dead. He was reported to have led an intense and raucous opposition which took the deputy senate leader, Ovie Omo - Agege ten minutes to bring to calm. He told his colleagues that the deadline should be extended to 31st April 2023, a move interpreted by some commentators as one calculated to give the politicians all the time to spend all the huge money they have stashed away for the election. Orji Kalu further urged his colleagues to 'ignore the CBN policy and let the country damn the consequences". "Damn the consequences," you wonder what consequences. Definitely, Kalu knows there are dire consequences one of which is that most of the money of the nation is in the hands of a few politicians and bandits and is not circulating to reflate the economy but they could be damned to please these powerful few. Also, the consequences that the bandits will continue to have money to buy weapons for their war against the common people in Nigeria could be damned since those powerful few have jets to fly them above and beyond the operations of the bandits. Some have suspected that some of these politicians are behind the bandits and maybe shielding them.

On her part, Senator Betty Apiafi said that the policy has to be reconsidered in view of the fact that the bandits have said they would be demanding their ransom in foreign currencies if the CBN goes ahead to redesign the naira. That the redesign will render the huge money now in the possession of the bandits valueless and thus curtail their activities is an advantage that may not make sense to the senator and her colleagues. The likely official conspiracy must be seen in the likelihood that it was Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, who has served as a go-between the bandits and who had been negotiating amnesty for them with the government that first said the bandits will make recourse to foreign currencies if the naira is redesigned, something which bandits began to do. Now a serving senator has joined Sheikh Gumi in his view. What then is behind all these attacks on naira redesign? A genuine and people-oriented desire or the need to save self among the power holders in Nigeria?


Tunde Akande is both a journalist and pastor. He earned a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.

First published for METRO

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