It is most unfortunate that pockets of protests have emerged across cities in Nigeria, all in disagreement with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) draconian approach to the implementation of the naira redesign which has resulted in a cashless society. I have always thought that allowing an individual to serve two terms of five years each as governor of CBN makes them a huge security risk, talk more of that someone being a leftover from the previous PDP government and a champion of numerous ill-thought policies reputed to cause difficulties.
In some parts of Nigeria today, citizens have resorted to use CFA Franc, particularly in towns close to foreign borders. This is indeed an affront on Nigeria’s sovereignty caused by the stubborn whims of a man trapped by his own bubble of taking his pound of flesh against an honourable process that produced an honourable man to lead Nigeria. It is an assault on Nigeria’s might and stature that citizens device solutions using currencies of neighbouring countries just to improvise ways to bypass Emefiele’s watery policy. This underlines the inadequacy of preparedness and thinking that went into the policy before it was rolled out, of course because it is deliberately more emotional than implementable.
When we listen to outcries over this policy, there are numerous common positions that are expressed, ranging from lack of basic cash to undertake day to day runnings to unavailability of online infrastructure to handle the enormity of migrating transactions and to attitudinal lags in banking relations. Nigerians have had to endure transaction failures, with little to no alternative means of settling bills, all because the CBN governor has defied global best practice by insisting that the policy must rid the entire country of old naira notes within the span of three months, which is possible to achieve but at the price of impoverishing people and destroying livelihoods and completely halting trade and commerce.
I will continue to insist that with every additional day that Mr Emefiele sits atop the chair as CBN governor, the country stands a huge risk of losing its economic gains, and at this point all of its gains, as citizens fail to understand how an ill-prepared policy is this intensely and quickly pushed down our throats. There is no justification for the speed with which this policy is pursued, especially as peer review shows patterns of near exact changes in various countries with similar economic and social situation as Nigeria. We are at a loss and in deep surprise as to the lack of depth and preparedness that went into the policy roll-out as all activities around easing the implementation of the policy have clearly labelled the entire exercise as an afterthought.
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Staff of the CBN are posted to commercial bank branches, policing the compliance with withdrawal limits of naira, alongside law enforcement agencies in a display of enormous waste of manpower. These are the kinds of occurrences that lessen the country’s productivity and cause stunted outlook for personnel. In addition to all of these, operators of money agency services have come under severe scrutiny as their lines of business may no longer be feasible to operate under the new conditions.
We cannot play deaf to the cries of the common man, as well as the cries of the elite. This policy is apparently a leveller in its apportionment of inconvenience, particularly due to the short span provided for full compliance. Governors Ganduje and El-Rufai have expressed their reservations as per the approach and shortage of sincerity demonstrated by the CBN; religious scholars have pleaded for a steadier and more considerate approach; traders and artisans have asked for more time as they have become cash-strapped and their trade is being suffocated. Yet an opposition party and its presidential candidate have argued fiercely in support of such a policy out of sheer wickedness. One then wonders what informs such a position even as citizens lament, but it is not a surprise as the party for the first time have found a glimmer of hope in Mr Emefiele’s antics.
Finally, the Nigerian president should listen to the honest voices of those speaking boldly, as against the whispers of masked palace marauders. It is untenable that a policy of government is celebrated by no one but the opposition and driven by no one but a leftover of the opposition. In plain terms, Mr Emefiele must not survive the fallout of this contaminated seed that he has rooted; he should pay the price of irreversible inconvenience, hardship and torture inflicted on Nigerian citizens by vacating his seat immediately.
Sulaiman is the member representing Gwale in the Kano State House of Assembly.