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We lack capacity to print enough new notes – Emefiele

Amidst the cash crisis bedevilling the country and the expectations of Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari would resolve the matter in seven days as promised,…

Amidst the cash crisis bedevilling the country and the expectations of Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari would resolve the matter in seven days as promised, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said the apex bank does not have the capacity to print adequate new naira notes.

Emefiele made the disclosure on Friday when he briefed the emergency meeting of the National Council of State, sources who attended the meeting told PREMIUM TIMES.

On Friday, Mr Emefiele told the leaders that the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc (The Mint), suffers capacity constraints, resulting in the failure to print adequate new notes to replace the old N200, N500 and 1,000 notes.

“The Mint has run out of papers to print N500 and 1,000 notes. They have placed orders with a German firm and De La Rue of the UK (for papers) but they have been placed on a long waiting list, so their orders cannot be met now.

“The Mint had received CBN’s request to print 70million copies of the new notes, totalling N126billion to be pumped into circulation by today (yesterday), The Mint doesn’t have the capacity,” a source told PREMIUM TIMES.

Meanwhile, Mr Buhari was non-committal at the meeting and barely spoke, the source added. He left the meeting as the time for the Muslim’s Jummah prayer drew close and his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, took over.

Osinbajo said the president would take a decision.

Meanwhile, seven days after President Muhammadu Buhari promised to address the cash crisis that hit the country following the naira redesign and old notes swap policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the new and old naira notes have remained elusive, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

Last December, the Godwin Emefiele-led CBN introduced the new notes amid efforts to fight corruption, terrorism, counterfeiting and related crimes, with a January 31, 2023 deadline.

However, Nigerians have had a hard time getting the new notes amid scarcity and rising tension across the country, forcing the apex bank to extend the deadline by 10 days, which was due yesterday, February 10.

President Buhari had on February 3 implored Nigerians to give him seven days to resolve the cash crunch that has become a problem across the country from the policy of the CBN.

The president made the call while speaking to the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) who paid him a visit to seek solutions to the cash crunch, which they said was threatening the good records of the administration in transforming the economy.

Buhari, in a statement by his spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, noted that he had seen television reports on cash shortages and hardship to local businesses and ordinary people and gave assurances that the balance of seven of the 10-day extension would be used to crack down on whatever stood in the way of its successful implementation.

There has been a flurry of suits at the Supreme Court by some state governors, challenging the apex bank’s policy over the hardship the policy has brought on the people.

The apex court had issued an order asking the CBN and the federal government not to go ahead with the implementation of the policy pending the determination of substantive suits before it.

 

 No respite, 7 days after

But seven days after Buhari’s assurance, Nigerians have expressed disappointment over his inability to resolve the issue as long queues persist in banks across the country.

A meat seller at Agege, Lagos, Shakiru Alabi, said he knew President Buhari was not going to solve the problem within seven days.

He said, “From his body language, Emefiele is working for him. I was not expecting him to do anything. He should come to Lagos and see how people are suffering to get their money. People will leave their work to queue at banks from 5am to collect N2,000,” he lamented, saying the situation has drastically affected their business.

For Comrade Yusuf Ibrahim Yara, a resident of Kurna in the Dala Local Government Area of Kano State, the promise by the president failed due to improper coordination in his team.

Yara said he would not blame the president alone for the failure but his cabinet, who he said failed to understand and believe in the suffering Nigerians are facing as a result of the policy.

Another resident of Kano State, Abdullahi Usman, an engineer, said people had already given up and didn’t put much expectation on the promise by the president.

“I think the government lacks the sincerity of purpose. Instead of improving the economy, it has brought hardship,” he said.

 

 Re-circulate old naira, Council of State tells CBN

The Council of State yesterday backed the new currency redesign policy but advised the CBN to ensure the availability of naira notes to douse tension and ameliorate the suffering of citizens across the country.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, governors Darius Ishaku of Taraba State and Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, as well as the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, briefed State House reporters on the key issues after the Council meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Malami, who gave a summary of the meeting said, “The two major resolutions that were driven, arriving from the deliberations of the Council, are that we are on course as far as elections are concerned and we are happy with the level of preparation by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the institutions.

“Also, the naira redesign policy stands, but the Council agreed that there is the need for aggressive action on the part of the CBN as it relates to implementation, by ensuring adequate provision with regard to the supply of the naira to the system.”

Also, Governor Ishaku said members of the Council of State advised President Buhari, who chaired the meeting, to ensure that the CBN makes provision for the availability of naira notes in the country to cater for the needs of the poor.

He said deliberations on the new currency redesign policy took more time because of hardship across the country.

Ishaku said members of the Council mostly expressed concern over the implementation of the policy after a briefing from the governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele.

He said the CBN governor was advised to make new naira notes available or re-circulate old ones to ease the suffering of Nigerians.

He, however, added that the president would take a final decision, having received advice from members of the Council of State.

 Kano, Ondo join gale of Supreme Court cases against policy

Meanwhile, the governments of Kano and Ondo states have filed separate suits before the Supreme Court against the federal government in respect of the policy.

In a suit number SC/CS/200/2023, the Kano State attorney-general, through his counsel, Sunusi Musa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is asking the apex court to declare that the president of Nigeria cannot unilaterally direct the CBN to recall the new N200, N500 and N500 old bank notes without recourse to the Federal Executive Council and the National Economic Council respectively.

The state government, among other things, prayed the court to issue a mandatory order reversing the federal government’s policy to recall the N200, N500 and N1,000 notes from circulation, saying it is affecting the economic well-being of over 20 million of Kano citizens.

The applicant is also seeking a mandatory order compelling the federal government to reverse the naira redesign policy for failing to comply with the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

The Ondo State Government also filed a suit against the federal government at the Supreme Court over the CBN’s directive on the limitation of cash withdrawal from banks.

In the suit filed by the state’s attorney-general, Charles Titiloye, the apex court was asked to stop the implementation of the policy.

 

 INEC, IGP assure Council of readiness for elections

Speaking further, Ishaku said, “The INEC chairman briefed the Council of State on their preparedness for the forthcoming general elections. The Inspector-General of Police also told the Council that they were equally prepared for the elections.

Also, asked if there would be any deadline for the president to proffer solutions to the problem of scarcity of new naira notes, Femi Adesina said, “The deadline is a judicial matter.”

Malami, however, gave assurance that President Buhari would be guided by the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. He added that though the matter is in court, both parties were still open to an amicable resolution.

Yesterday’s meeting was attended by former heads of state and presidents, including General Yakubu Gowon (retd), General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd) and Goodluck Jonathan. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo joined online.

Others who joined virtually include the governor of Sokoto State and chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Aminu Tambuwal; governor of Kebbi State and chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Abubakar Bagudu; the governor of Plateau State and chairman, Northern States Governors Forum, Simon Lalong, among others.

 

CSOs speak

Speaking on the development, the executive director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, said the organisation knew that the February 10 deadline would pass without any resolution to the cash crisis.

He said President Buhari and the CBN governor had never been prepared to solve the naira crisis.

“As a result, the president’s seven-day promise was just one of many broken promises that have become a feature of this government. Therefore, even if the deadline is extended 20 times, Buhari and Emefiele will still be unable to find a solution, especially now that they are more confused than ever.

“Worse, the president has refused to listen to any advice or voice of reason from any source. Even his closest friends, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank advised him to postpone the deadline, which he refused.

“It is inexcusable that President Buhari continues to turn a blind eye while the country burns due to the unpopular naira redesign policy, which is seriously affecting the health of the economy and sending hundreds of citizens to premature graves on a daily basis,” Zikirullahi said.

 

 Petty traders in dilemma over old naira notes in Jos

Petty traders in Jos, the capital of Plateau State, were Friday thrown into confusion on whether or not to accept old naira notes from their customers as February 10, the deadline by the CBN on the collection of old naira notes.

The traders said they were rejecting the old notes in order not to lose their capital.

The confusion by the traders began a day before the February 10 deadline announced by the CBN governor, when he said people should use the opportunity to deposit their old naira notes before the expiration of the date.

Jamilu Abubakar said, “Honestly, we are in a difficult situation. When I came out in the morning I refused to collect the old notes from my customers, but I later started collecting it when I listened to the news on the issue. But even with that, we don’t have a clear direction on the naira notes. Today, the federal government would say something and comes out to say another thing tomorrow.”

Lawn Sarkinpawa, another Jos trader said, “It is true that people have been thrown into confusion.”

 

Itodo Daniel Sule, Muideen Olaniyi, Abbas Jimoh, Abdulyassar Abdulhamid (Abuja), Salim Umar Ibrahim, Zahraddeen Yakubu Shuaibu (Kano) & Ado Abubakar Musa (Jos)

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