Expediency Of Seizing Inherent Opportunities In Extension Of Naira Swap To Change Ongoing Sad Narratives
If there is a trend in governance that is most commonly shared among political leaders across the world, it is unarguable that making mistakes in the implementation of initiated policies and programmes, and these slip-ups have no doubt made the Nigerian landscape littered with thousands of failed Public Infrastructural projects, many of them costing the government billions of naira and denying the citizenry access to quality infrastructures which are critical for a decent standard of life. In a similar vein, hardly has the government initiated any policy without experiencing implementation challenges or requiring mid-course corrections.
Against the foregoing backdrop, it is therefore not a surprise to not a few Nigerians that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) extended the deadline for the exchange of old naira notes by 10 days as the CBN governor, Mr.Godwin Emefiele in a statement said the new deadline is Friday, February 10, 2023. As if that is not enough, a seven-day grace period, beginning on February 10 to February 17, 2023, has also been approved to enable Nigerians to deposit their old notes at the CBN after the February deadline when the old currency would cease to be recognized as legal tender.
For the sake of posterity, it is expedient to recall that since President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the redesigned Naira Notes at the presidential villa in Abuja, in November 2022 that Emefiele has become the legendary knight in shining armor of Nigeria’s financial sector, even as his neck is literarily being put on the line for the guillotine.
However, as January 31 beckoned, given the fact that Emefiele insisted that the January 31 deadline for the cessation of the old notes remained sacrosanct, not a few Nigerians became frazzled and apprehensive as they do not have access to the new notes with Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) still reported to be dispensing old notes.
Worse enough, on Thursday, January 26, and Friday,January 27, virtually all of the commercial banks’ ATMs in many parts of the country as collated by most news correspondents, were not dispensing cash, a situation that led to long queues in the banking halls.
Not only were both buyers and sellers trapped in a somewhat catch-22 situation, but conjectures and rumors were also rife that moneybags were the cause of the naira scarcity as they were hurriedly returning the banknotes they stored in their various homes to the banks in exchange for new notes, thus creating artificial scarcity for the masses.
In fact, not a few Nigerians that are looking for New Naira notes queue up at ATMs that fail to dispense new notes ahead of the deadline.
As gathered from Bloomberg, “The ATM belonging to Guaranty Trust Bank Plc was the only one dispensing the new notes on one of the busiest streets in the Victoria Island district of Lagos, where most of Nigeria’s banks have their head offices. Even at that, only one of six ATMs in the building was dispensing the new bills.”
Also, currency hawkers are already making brisk business from trading the three redesigned naira notes, which have remained inaccessible to point-of-sale (POS) merchants, traders, and Nigerians generally.
Even at that, operators of POS centers, through which many Nigerians now source their naira currency, complained they have been finding it hard getting the new notes at both banking halls and ATMs, strangely, the new notes are being made available at most unlikely of places.
At this juncture, it is pragmatic to say that if the quote credited to Winston Churchill that says, "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”, is anything to go by, then it means the extension of the deadline for the swapping of old naira notes with the redesigned ones till February 10, 2023, is apt.
The reason for the foregoing cannot be farfetched as change is a major part of our lives, whether it is “change”in industries, technologies, or various sectors such as transportation, education, health care, or social policies. But we still know little about when and how change occurs. Rahm Emanuel, former White House chief of staff, once said you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. Since 2008 policy-makers across the world, like Nigerians are now witnessing, but it remains to be seen whether the extension just announced yesterday, January 29, 2023, is an opportunity taken to go back to the drawing board, and correct the mistakes that triggered, and are exacerbating the challenges that emanated from the redesign of naira. In fact, it is expedient that the leadership of the CBN and all the commercial banks in the country sit down together to ensure that the redesign of the naira is successful.
In fact, the CBN in conjunction with the leaderships of all the commercial banks to know where the currency printed has gone. The need for them to know cannot be dismissed with a mere wave of the hands as the deputy governor, Financial System Stability, CBN, Aishah Ahmad, in December 2022 said 500 million new naira notes were ordered and would be printed.
Ahmad who was representing the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, made the disclosure while responding to questions from members of the House of Representatives.
She said she could not ascertain the exact amount and the number of notes printed noting that she did not want to give a wrong figure, and her response triggered a rowdy session as several members were miffed by her statement.
Ahmad also said 94 percent of all cash transactions in the country fall within the initial N100, 000 limits, while 82 percent of corporate transactions were below the N5 million threshold.