The redesigning of banknotes planned by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is within the purview and constitutional mandate of the bank. It is part of the currency management function of the bank, aimed at protecting the integrity, value and respect of the naira. It can also go a long way in improving the financial stability and reduce the risk of counterfeiting the naira significantly.
This can also help the government to actualize the cashless policy in the country and assist in tracking, identifying, apprehending as well as arresting financial criminals that are hoarding humongous amounts of money for illicit and illegitimate purposes. It can as well enable the nation to reduce to the barest minimum, the over monetization of elections.
This redesign is also relevant and long overdue as stated by the CBN Governor in the press statement he gave in that regard. The governor stated that any central bank should redesign, produce and circulate new legal tender every five to eight years in accordance with global best practices. The naira has not been redesigned in the last twenty years. The policy therefore is apt if not for the timing as well as the harsh and severe economic realities in the land.
However, the information about the policy is scanty and inadequate, especially to the rural population which may lead to unwarranted rumour that may reduce the integrity of the policy. There is a need to enlighten, inform and educate the populace to raise their awareness on the exercise. There is also the need to put in place adequate facilities that can cater to the needs of the masses, especially those that are not captured in the banking system. Therefore, the CBN should also consider giving enough and timely publicity for the process to run smoothly, effectively and efficiently.
Apart from the global economic meltdown credited mostly to the COVID-19 pandemic, Russian-Ukraine war, and the regional instabilities, Nigerian masses are subjected to severe economic pressures due to insecurity, flooding, incessant depreciation of naira and low-performance of the economy. They are now in dire need of palliative and ameliorative measures to help them cope with the unfavourable economic conditions.
Due to the fact that majority of the Nigeria’s population are dwelling in rural areas where there is palpable dearth of financial institutions, proper measures should be put in place, given the timing, process and the procedure for changing the naira note; failure of which may further economically emasculate the already weak common man.
The federal government and CBN need to partner with the Ministry of Information, the media and the National Orientation Agency to reach out to all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria and inform the masses on how to change their old naira notes. Religious leaders, religious organizations, community leaders and traditional councils should be involved in disseminating the information to the masses, especially in the local dialects so they can understand better.
Moreso, the CBN in collaboration and cooperation with relevant financial institutions such as commercial banks should make adequate arrangements to take care of the rural population in this policy. Properly regulated money changing points should be provided, safe guarded, monitored and protected to enable the rural dwellers change their money without difficulty. Security agencies also need to be engaged to provide adequate security in these points to obviate, allay and eliminate fear of any possible attack on both the personnel and clientele.
These measures can improve the effectiveness, efficiency and integrity of the program. They can also ensure the inclusiveness of the process and curtail the negative economic implications on the common man.
Usman Aliyu Elnafaty writes from Bauchi