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CBN Authorises Over-the-Counter Payment of New Naira Notes - THISDAY

FEBRUARY 04, 2023

*Vows to prosecute sellers, abusers of local currency 

*Says queues at ATMs to disappear soon 

*Trains 30,000 super agents in Kwara  

*Ahmed: Pains associated with currency swap temporary sacrifice for saner economy 

*Says Buhari unhappy seeing Nigerians suffer 

*Traditional rulers drum support for cashless policy as apex bank continues sensitisation

Deji Elumoye, James Emejo in Abuja, Nume Ekeghe in Lagos Hammed Shittu in Ilorin and James Sowole in Abeokuta

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday directed deposit money banks (DMBs) to commence payment of the redesigned naira notes over the counter subject to a maximum daily payout limit of N20,000. Emefiele also urged Nigerians to exercise patience, saying the central bank was working assiduously to address the challenge of queues at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) points across the country.

This was just as the federal government yesterday described pains being experienced by the people in their bid to swap the old naira for the re-designed ones as regrettable and should be seen as a temporary sacrifice for the nation to achieve long-term economic sanity. Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister,  Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who stated this at a news briefing at the State House in Abuja, also said President Muhammadu Buhari was not happy about the situation. However, two prominent traditional rulers in Ogun State, yesterday, expressed support for the cashless policy of the CBN. The two traditional rulers were the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo and the Awujale and Paramore by Ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona.

Emefiele, in a statement by CBN Director, Corporate Communications Department, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, the central bank governor stressed that the CBN remained committed to ensuring the effective distribution of the newly introduced naira banknotes nationwide. He said the central bank was aware of the queues at ATMs across the country and an upward trend in the cases of people stocking and aggregating the newly introduced banknotes they serially obtained from the cash dispensing machines for reasons best known to them. The CBN further expressed worry over the reported cases of unregistered persons and non-bank officials swapping banknotes for members of the public, purportedly on behalf of the CBN.

The apex bank also expressed grave concern over the activities of persons who sell the newly redesigned banknotes as well as those who flagrantly abuse the legal tender by hurling wads of naira notes in the air and stamping on the currency at social functions, adding that the bank would prosecute them. Nwanisobi said, “We wish to state unequivocally that, contrary to the practice of these unpatriotic persons, it is unlawful to sell the naira, hurl (spray), or stamp on the currency under any circumstance whatsoever.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Section 21(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007 (As amended) stipulates that “spraying of, dancing or matching on the naira or any note issued by the bank during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute an abuse and defacing of the Naira or such note and shall be punishable under the law by fines or imprisonment or both.” “Similarly, Section 21(4) states that ‘It shall also be an offence punishable under Sub-section (1) of this section for any person to hawk, sell or otherwise trade in the Naira notes, coins or any other note issued by the Bank’”.

Accordingly, the apex bank pointed out that it was collaborating with the Nigeria Police, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to address the unpatriotic practice. “We, therefore, warn Nigerians, particularly those at social functions such as birthdays, weddings, and funerals, to desist from disrespecting the naira or risk being arrested by law enforcement agencies, the CBN director said. The CBN had earlier directed commercial banks to suspend the disbursement of the new banknotes over the counter and instead, issue them via ATMs. The CBN last month announced a 10-day extension of the January 31, 2023 deadline for the return of old naira notes following its currency redesign programme to February 10.

Emefiele had said the gesture was to allow for the collection of more old notes which are legitimately held by Nigerians and achieve more success in cash swaps, particularly in rural communities – after which all old notes outside the CBN lose their legal tender status. Also, the apex bank, in compliance with Sections 20 (3) and 22 of the CBN Act, further offered a seven-day grace period beginning from February 10 to February 17, allowing Nigerians to deposit their old naira notes at the CBN after the February deadline when the old currency would have lost its legal tender status. He said Nigerians in the rural areas, villages, the aged and vulnerable have had the opportunity to swap their old notes, leveraging the Agent Naira swap initiative as well as the CBN senior staff nationwide sensitisation team exercise.

He said aside from those holding illicit/stolen naira in their homes for speculative purposes, the CBN remained determined to give all Nigerians that have naira legitimately earned and trapped, the opportunity to deposit their trapped monies at the CBN for exchange. Emefiele, appealed to Nigerians to work with the bank to ensure a hitch-free process for the implementation of the naira redesign programme, adding that the CBN staff are currently on mass mobilisation and monitoring together with officials of the EFCC and ICPC to achieve the desired objectives of the exercise.  Emefiele said, “From the onset of this currency redesign programme, we made it clear that for 19 years, the CBN hasn’t been able to conduct this important aspect of its mandate; whereas, this should normally have been done within five to eight years window.”

He said the central bank’s aim was mainly to make its monetary policy decisions more efficacious, adding that as a result of the recent policy interventions including the currency redesign and cashless policy. “we’ve started to see inflation trending downwards and exchange rates relatively stable.”  The CBN governor also pointed out that the apex bank aims to support the efforts of security agencies in combatting banditry and ransom-taking in Nigeria through the currency redesign project, stressing that the military is making good progress in this regard.

Meanwhile, piqued by the suffering being faced by the people due to the scarcity of the naira, the CBN, Ilorin branch, Kwara state has trained and sensitised over 30,000 super agents. They were also given the sum of N500,000 cash each to ease the naira cash swap and availability of new naira notes in the state. The CBN Director of Consumer Protection, Ilorin branch, Mrs. Rashidat Mangunu, made the disclosure in Ilorin, yesterday, during the monitoring exercise of some point of sale (PoS) super-agents in Ilorin.

She said the move would assist the people at the rural communities to have access to new naira notes and thereby boost economic activities in the country. Mangunu, said the super agents would be given the sum of N500,000 weekly to ease the process of N10,000 cash swap daily for people living in rural areas. She said there had been progress in the cash swap policy due to enlightenment of accredited PoS agents. She added that the extension of the deadline for spending the old naira notes had given people more opportunity to exchange their notes and deposit old notes in their accounts.

She called on the people of the state, especially those at the rural areas to make judicious use of the super-agents to change their old notes and also open accounts to ease their transactions. She added: “People can easily open a bank account through the PoS super-agents with just the national identity card and save their old money in their accounts, without stress.

“Our super-agents will deposit all your old naira notes with no charges and your money will be secure in your various bank accounts.” Mangunu assured that all financial institutions would be engaged and all super agents would get enough cash for their operations. She said enough money had been allocated to all financial institutions in Ilorin, assuring bank customers that they would have access to their cash. At one of the super agents visited at Osere Area, Ilorin, one of the customers, Mr. Sadiq AbdulRasheed, said he was able to exchange his old naira notes without charges. Also, at Isale Bani, Alore Area of Ilorin, many residents complained of the inability to exchange their notes due to the unavailability of the new notes.

Ahmed: Pains Associated with Currency Swap Temporary Sacrifice for Saner Economy

Meanwhile, the federal government has described pains being experienced by the people in their bid to swap the old naira for the re-designed ones as regrettable and should be seen as a temporary sacrifice for the nation to achieve long-term economic sanity. Ahmed, while speaking at a news briefing, also said Buhari was not happy about the situation. Ahmed, who was responding to a question, likened the current situation being experienced by Nigerians to a patient having a wound or deep sore, but must submit to an excruciating pain while undergoing treatments. She, however, said government was pleased that a huge amount of the funds outside the banking sector have been mopped back into the banking system, which would in turn give the regulatory agencies control over the nation’s currencies.

According to Ahmed, the current hardship, though temporal, was required to stifle corruption and gradually transit to a cashless economy. Responding to the question on the harsh situation trailing the currency swap, Ahmed said “of course we’re not happy that citizens have to queue and struggle at banks ATMs to be able to get their cash, but this is a temporary solution. Let me just give you an analogy. “If you will have a wound, for you to be able to heal that wound, it needs to be addressed and sometimes when you go to the hospital, they’ll put iodine on the wound and it is very painful, but it’s necessary to do that to be able to get the wound to heal. So it’s not easy and Mr. President is not happy that citizens are suffering.

“But we are convinced that it is something that needs to be done at this time and also the central bank has been responsive in terms of providing some extension and also further explanation that come the closing date that is not all over, that there’s still opportunity for citizens, as provided for in the CBN Act, Section 20, subsection 3, to actually take their old currency to the Central Bank for redemption. So it’s not all over. “But the positive side of it is that there is a lot of currency that has been mopped up by this operation and it means it has achieved a good level of success, the only sore point is the pain it has caused to citizens, which is regrettable, but which is also very transient and temporary and the bank is continuing to address”, she said.

Commenting on the performance of government in commercial enterprises, the Minister said given the dismal performance, the federal government was to step back and take a policy and supervisory role in terms of raising the investments to accelerate economic and national development.

Traditional Rulers Drum Support for Cashless Policy as CBN  Continues Sensitisation

In a related development, two prominent traditional rulers in Ogun State, yesterday expressed support for the cashless policy of the CBN. The two traditional rulers were the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo and the Awujale and Paramore by Ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona.

The two traditional rulers, spoke during the sensitisation visit of the CBN officials, led by the Abeokuta Branch Controller, Alhaji Wahab Oseni, to the palaces of the two traditional leaders. Gbadebo, who received the CBN delegation personally with his chiefs, said the cashless policy, was a good thing that should be embraced by Nigerians rather than them carrying volumes of cash about. Alake also commended the CBN for extending the deadline for depositing old notes and the swapping of old notes for new ones. He added: “We thank God for the extension of date by the CBN. We are going to encourage our people that a cashless society is the best for them. They can buy anything and transfer money to whoever they are buying from. You don’t have to carry cash everywhere.

“Spraying of money at parties which is very immoral before same crowed of people that have not eaten is bad “We don’t want to be carrying cash around, cashless policy is what we want.” At the palace of Awujale of Ijebuland, Adetona, who spoke with CBN officials through phone, advised them that the people should be put first in any policy of government.

Adetona advised the CBN, who addressed some chiefs in the palace, on the need for them cooperate with the federal government on the essence of redesigning some naira notes. Speaking with journalists, Oseni, said the crowd being witnessed at banks after the extension of the deadline was unusual. Oseni advised bank customers, to exercise patient, as the CBN had increased supply of new notes to commercial banks.

EFCC Arrests Man in Akwa Ibom for Selling Redesigned Notes

Also, the EFCC yesterday at Akwa Ibom, arrested one Mr. Innocent Ukpe Imoh for allegedly selling the new redesigned banknotes. It was gathered that 220 ATMs were also found in Imoh’s house, while 428 ATMs were found in his car. In the same vein, the anti-graft agency has since arrested one of the ladies in the viral video where some persons were spraying the newly redesigned banknotes at a party.


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