The House of Representatives has rejected the February 10 deadline for the phasing out of old currency notes announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria on Sunday.
The House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on New Naira Re-design and Naira Swap Policy on Sunday described the new date as a mere political gimmick to further deceive Nigerians and worsen their economic and social livelihood.
The development came as anger spread across the country over the scarcity of the new notes with several bank customers becoming stranded due to lack of access to the new notes. Retailers and traders have been rejecting the old notes amid long queues at ATM galleries across the country.
However, announcing the new deadline for the phasing out of the old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes on Sunday, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), gave permission for the deadline to be extended to February 10 after his recent meeting with him.
He also gave additional seven days to enable Nigerians to deposit their old naira notes after it ceases to be legal tender on February 10.
Recall that the CBN had earlier fixed January 31 as the deadline for the exchange of old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes.
Before extending the deadline, the apex bank had refused to shift grounds despite coming under severe criticisms and significant pressure from the National Assembly, politicians, banks, customers, and key stakeholders.
The CBN governor had also failed to appear before the House four times, prompting the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Tuesday, to declare his readiness to issue a warrant of arrest against him if he fails to appear before its committee last Thursday.
Gbajabiamila said the lawmakers would reconvene on Tuesday (tomorrow) to take an action against Emefiele and other bank chiefs who failed to honour the house’s summons.
CBN Extends Deadline
In his statement, however, the CBN governor stressed that the currency redesign programme was necessary to enable more efficient monetary policy decisions alongside curtailing banditry and ransom-taking.
Emefiele said that for 19 years, the CBN hadn’t re-design the naira, whereas, he said, this should normally have been done within a five to eight years window.
Enumerating the merits and benefits of the re-design, Emefiele said, “Our aim is mainly to make our Monetary Policy Decisions more efficacious and like you can see; we’ve started to see inflation trending downwards and exchange rates relatively stable.
‘’Secondly, we aim to support the efforts of our Security agencies in combating banditry and ransom-taking in Nigeria through this program and we can see that the military is making good progress in this important task in Nigeria.”
He noted that out of the N3.23tn currency in circulation and N2.7tn currency in people’s homes, the apex bank has retrieved N1.9tn with N900bn yet to be collected from those hoarding the notes.
He noted, “Ladies and Gentlemen, available data at the Central Bank of Nigeria has shown that in 2015, Currency -in circulation was only N1.4tn. As of October 2022, currency in circulation had risen to N3.23tn; out of which only N500bn was within the banking industry and N2.7tn was held permanently in people’s homes.
“Ordinarily, when CBN releases currency into circulation, it is meant to be used and after effluxion of time, it returns to the CBN thereby keeping the volume of currency in circulation under the firm control of the CBN.’’
“So far and since the commencement of this program, we have collected about N1.9tn; leaving us with about N900bn the CBN governor said.
He said that the president approved a “10-day extension of the deadline from January 31, 2023, to February 10, 2023; to allow for the collection of more old notes legitimately held by Nigerians and achieve more success in cash swap in our rural communities after which all old notes outside the CBN losses their legal tender status.
‘’Our CBN staff currently on mass mobilization and monitoring together with officials of the EFCC and ICPC will work together to achieve these objectives.”
He added that there will be a seven-day grace period after the new deadline.
“A seven-day grace period, beginning on February 10 to February 17, 2023, in compliance with sections 20(3) and 22 of the CBN Act allowing Nigerians to deposit their old notes at the CBN after the February deadline when the old currency would have lost its legal tender status,” he further disclosed.
The CBN governor appealed to Nigerians to work with the bank to ensure a hitch-free process for the implementation of the programme.
Emefiele also noted that the CBN regularly meets with banks to provide them with guidance in the collection of old notes and distribution of new notes.
He said that there is an ongoing nationwide sensitisation through collaboration with the National Orientation agency to reach Nigerians across multiple channels.
According to him, 30,000 Super Agents have been deployed to assist in the cash swap initiative in the hinterlands, rural areas, and regions underserved by banks.
The CBN governor further said that its staff, particularly assistant directors, deputy directors and directors have been deployed for mass mobilisation campaigns and monitoring programmes, adding that there is an ongoing collaboration with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission to monitor the implementation of and compliance to stipulated guidelines.
Also, the CBN Ilorin branch, Kwara state on Saturday assured residents of the state that, no one would be denied of having access to the new naira bank notes so as to boost the economic transformation of the country.