As the lingering scarcity of both old and new naira notes continues to cripple economic activities nationwide and inflict enormous pains on Nigerians, an aide to the President, Muhammadu Buhari has revealed that his principal was misled by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Ajuri Ngelale, in an interview monitored on TVC News, described as false the report by the CBN that it had supplied all bank branches in the country with sufficient amounts of the new notes.
Prior to the extension of the deadline for the exchange of old naira notes from January 31 to February 10, the President had defended the CBN governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, for adopting unorthodox economic models that put people at the heart of the apex bank’s policies. “Because the governor follows a model outside of the economic orthodoxy, he is labelled political, but the orthodoxy has proved wrong time and again,” Buhari said.
Owing to the naira redesign and the renewed cashless policy of the CBN, the non-availability of both the old and newly designed naira notes at all channels, including banking halls, Automated Teller Machine points and Point of Sale terminal operators across the country, has subjected majority of Nigerians to serious hardship, with many finding it difficult to access cash to buy basic things or transport themselves from one place to the other.
In what many have described as unprecedented in the history of the country, Nigerians now pay exorbitant charges to get the naira notes from PoS operators. As of Saturday afternoon, in some parts of Lagos, N5,000 old notes attracted N1,000 commission while N6,000 new notes attracted as much as N2,000 commission.
In the interview however, Ngelale said, “They (Nigerians) feel that the Federal Government of Nigeria is unintentionally or intentionally impoverishing them overnight. That is the perception they have, whether it is right or wrong.
“What we are working to do is to ensure that Mr President is given effective and true information and that the report that was given by the CBN that they have supplied all bank branches in the country with sufficient amounts of the new naira notes is absolutely false and it is evidential at this point.
“Mr President, being the pro-people defender and defender of the masses that he has always been and an upholder of social justice, did the right thing when intelligence reached him that he was getting false intelligence from the CBN, which was to extend the deadline from January 31 to February 10.
“Now, clearly, with the adjustments in the deadline, it was also announced that other agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission are also actively involved in the oversight of the distribution of the new naira notes to banking branches across the country as well as rural areas with cash swops with the over 30,000 super agents that are being sent out.
“So, there is an extra level of oversight and monitoring that is being done now and added to the process.”
He said the President would defend the masses no matter whose ox is gored, adding that he wouldn’t be opposed to an extension if it became necessary.
He added, “If he gets any intelligence that during the length of this 10-day window that the wrong things have been done or the right things have not been done and that the new naira notes have not been distributed among the people, Mr President has that option on the table of extending that deadline and that will be left to his discretion. Certainly, it is going to be based on what he sees happening across the country in the course of these seven days.
“We are heartened by the new information we received from the CBN that now over-the-counter collections of the new naira notes will now be made available to banking customers.”
Even though the President on Friday asked for seven days to solve the naira scarcity, many Nigerians are apprehensive about the extent to which the crisis could have degenerated at the end of the seven days.