Governors of the 36 states under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) have said they are not opposed to the naira redesign policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The position of the governors has ended the speculations that those opposed to the naira redesign would lobby the 36 governors to put pressure on the governor of the apex bank, Godwin Emefiele, to suspend the policy.
The governors, however, faulted the recent directive by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) banning banks from executing demands for cash withdrawals from all public accounts, saying the guidelines were outside the agency’s mandate.
But in a swift reaction, the NFIU yesterday said that there is no going back on the cash withdrawal limit guidelines it issued earlier this month regarding the financial operations of the three tiers of government.
To address the challenges of financial inclusion and under-served locations, the CBN has launched a cash-swap programme in partnership with super agents and Deposit Money Banks (DMBs).
The programme, which will come into effect tomorrow (Monday), allows people in rural areas or those with limited access to formal financial services to exchange old naira notes for redesigned notes.
The apex bank has also appealed to the traditional rulers to help in enlightening their subjects on the new notes and the cashless policy of the apex bank in their respective communities.
In a communique issued yesterday following a virtual meeting held on Thursday where they received a briefing from the Governor of CBN, Emefiele, on the naira redesign policy and its economic and security implications, the governors expressed resolve to work closely with the CBN leadership to ameliorate areas that required policy variation.
The governors also said in the communiqué signed by the interim Chairman of NGF and Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, that they have set up a six-member committee to engage the CBN to address anomalies in the country’s monetary management and financial system.
On October 26, Emefiele announced the plan to redesign the naira to control the money supply and aid security agencies in tackling illicit financial flows.
The CBN governor had said the introduction of new notes was a deliberate step by the government to check corruption and counterfeiting of the notes.
The governors said that while they were not opposed to the objectives of the naira redesign policy, the apex bank should consider the peculiarities of households and states, especially on financial inclusion and under-served locations.
“We, the members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), received a briefing from the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, on the naira redesign, its economic and security implications including the new withdrawal policy. Governors are not opposed to the objectives of the naira redesign policy,” the communique said.
“However, we observe that there are huge challenges that remain problematic to the Nigerian populace. In the circumstances, governors expressed the need for the CBN to consider the peculiarities of states especially as they pertain to financial inclusion and under-served locations and resolved to:
“Work closely with the CBN leadership to ameliorate areas that require policy variation particularly the poorest households, the vulnerable in society, and several other citizens of our country that are excluded.
“Collaborate with the CBN and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) in advancing genuine objectives within the confines of our laws, noting that the recent NFIU Advisory and Guidelines on cash transactions were simply outside the NFIU’s legal remit and mandate.
“Finally set up a six-member Committee to be chaired by the governor of Anambra State, Prof. Charles Soludo, and the governors of the following states: Akwa Ibom, Ogun, Borno, Plateau, and Jigawa as members, to engage the CBN in addressing anomalies in the country’s monetary management and financial system,” the communiqué added.
The governors, however, insisted that the recent NFIU Advisory and Guidelines on cash transactions were simply outside the NFIU’s legal remit and mandate.
No Going Back on Cash Withdrawal Limits, NFIU Replies Govs
Meanwhile, the NFIU yesterday said that there is no going back on the cash withdrawal limit guidelines it issued earlier this month regarding the financial operations of the three tiers of government.
In a statement signed by its Chief Media Analyst, Ahmed Dikko, NFIU made it clear that it had given enough time for all entities in the country to withdraw cash above the approved daily limit, adding that it was no longer in the interest of the country and its citizens to continue to indulge in such violation.
The statement noted that the Director of the NFIU, Modibbo Hamman Tukur, had stated at the end of his meeting with the governors that the agency was, however, ready to cooperate with the six-man committee set up to work with it.
The statement quoted the Director of NFIU, Modibbo Hamman Tukur, as saying that the agency was ready to partner with the Soludo-led committee.
“Secondly, we acted within our functions and the law. We issued the guidelines to control the barrage of investigations that we saw coming. Our guidelines are meant to help the governors not to fight them or any public servant.
“We reached a stage that if we allow the present scenario to continue, all public institutions will drift into structured cash withdrawals of certain amounts of money, which by law, standards and best practices must be investigated continuously which is neither desirable nor reasonable.
“We feel communities must move on by accommodating changes and adjusting to new developments.
“Last time we issued the local government guidelines we were taken to court but we won the case.”
“But to eternally guarantee this kind gesture is to automatically keep abusing our laws.
“We want every stakeholder to appreciate that we have cooperated for too long. We held a deep breath while defending these deficiencies internationally, just to continue to remain in the international pay points and compete with others.
“We are in support of working together to stop these challenges and in the most progressive manner.”
Tukur had on January 5 argued that the ban on cash withdrawals was meant to halt the indiscriminate manner in which cash was being taken out of public accounts without regard for the extant provisions of the Money Laundering Act.
Tukur said the ban, scheduled to take effect from March 1, covers cash withdrawal from public accounts and payment of estacodes and travelling allowances.
CBN Launches Cash Swap Scheme to Mop up Old Banknotes
Meanwhile, in a move to address the concerns raised by the 36 governors on the challenges of financial inclusion and under-served locations, the CBN has launched a cash-swap programme in partnership with super agents and the banks.
The programme, which will come into effect tomorrow, allows people in rural areas or those with limited access to formal financial services to exchange old naira notes for redesigned notes.
The central bank disclosed this in a circular dated January 20, 2023, which was addressed to DMBs, Mobile Money Operators (MMOs), Super Agents and Agents, and signed by both CBN Director, Banking Sector Supervision, Mr. Haruna Mustafa, and Director, Payments Systems Management Department, Mr. Musa Jimoh.
Under the programme, the old N1,000, N500, and N200 notes can be exchanged for the newly redesigned notes and/or the existing lower denominations including N100, N50, and N20 among others which remain legal tender.
The CBN explained that the agents shall exchange a maximum of N10, 000 per person, adding that amounts above N10, 000 may be treated as cash-in deposits into wallets or bank accounts in line with the cashless policy.
The apex bank, however, directed that the BVN, NIN or voter’s card details of the customers should be captured as much as possible.
The central bank added that to promote financial inclusion, the service is also available to anyone without a bank account.
Also, agents may on request, instantly open a wallet or account leveraging the CBN Tiered KYC Framework. This ensures that this category of the populace can exchange or deposit their cash seamlessly without taking unnecessary risks or incurring undue costs.
Under the initiative, agents are mandated to sensitise customers on opening wallets/bank accounts and the various channels for conducting electronic transactions.
Furthermore, designated agents are eligible to collect the redesigned notes from DBMs in line with the Revised Cash Withdrawal Limit policy.
Agents are also permitted to charge cash-out fees for the cash swap transactions but are prohibited from charging any further commissions to customers for the service.
The CBN also stated that agents shall render weekly returns to their designated banks regarding cash swap transactions. DMBs shall in turn render the same to the CBN every week.
Also, cash swap agents will be readily identifiable in all local governments, particularly those in rural areas.
The principals shall, however, be held accountable for their agents’ adherence to the above guidelines.
The apex bank stressed that the cash swap programme is in furtherance of its naira redesign policy to sustain nationwide awareness/sensitisation programmes, enforce speedy collection of the new banknotes at CBN branches by DMBs and mandate issuance of the new notes through ATMs to ensure distribution is fair, transparent and evenly spread across the country.
On his part, the Managing Director of NIRSAL Microfinance Bank, Dr. Abdullahi Abubakar Kure, also urged Nigerians to approach their banks to get the new notes and return the old ones.
Addressing traders at Garki old market in continuation of CBN’s sensitisation of Nigerians on new naira notes and cashless policy, he said, “The CBN will take action against banks that collected new notes but refused to load them into their ATMs”.
CBN Seeks Monarchs’ Assistance on Nationwide Enlightenment
In a related development, the CBN has appealed to the traditional rulers to help in enlightening their subjects on the new notes and the cashless policy of the apex bank in their respective communities.
The Branch Controller, Central Bank of Nigeria, Uyo branch, Akwa Ibom State, Itohan Mercy Ogbomon-Paul, appealed at the weekend when she led other CBN officials from Abuja and the Uyo branch on an advocacy visit to the OkuIbom Ibibio and President General of Akwa Ibom State Traditional Rulers Council, Edidem Solomon Etuk, in his palace.
The Branch Controller who spoke after presenting samples of the three redesigned notes to the OkuIbom as well as flyers and pamphlets printed to aid in the ongoing nationwide sensitisation campaign explained that the old banknotes of N1,000, N500 and N200, which were still being used side-by-side with the new notes would be phased out completely on January 31, 2023.
She said: “We are here for the Central Bank of Nigeria sensitisation on the redesigned notes. As we speak, some of our officials are already going round the local government areas.”
She urged the traditional rulers “to help in enlightening their subjects.”