By John Danjuma Omachonu
The outcome of the presidential election which signaled the continuation of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) may have heightened uncertainty around the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s redesign policy of the naira.
According to some analysts, the development is without prejudice to the high expectation of the public on the judgement to be delivered on Friday, March 3, 2023 on the issue.
The fear is reinforced, according to the analysts by the perception by the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, then, that the policy was targeted to frustrate his presidential ambition.
During the heated campaign season, the Nigerian government, via CBN, embarked on a cashless policy aimed at reining cash outside the banking system in Nigeria.
On October 26, 2022, CBN announced it was embarking on a currency redesign project and stated that Nigeria’s top three banknotes would undergo makeovers.
Specifically, CBN announced that N200, N500, and N1,000 notes would be redesigned before December 15, 2022, to curb several monetary and economic challenges, which include ransom payment, counterfeiting, and surplus cash in circulation.
Some, especially political parties and candidates, saw CBN’s decision as punitive and against their ambitions.
Tinubu repeatedly repudiated the policy in most of his campaign speeches.
In one of his outbursts during campaign, Tinubu said in Yoruba language:
“Let fuel be expensive, only they know where they keep it. Keep petrol, keep the naira, we will vote and be elected. You may change the ink of naira notes. What you expect will not happen. We will win.”
Also, many governors, namely Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and Ganduje of Kano, lampooned the move and even instructed their citizens to continue to use the 500 and N1000 notes, contrary to the federal government and CBN’s declaration that they are no longer legal tender.
Along the line, other governors, mostly from the ruling party joined in the suit against the Federal Government.
The Governors were believed to be on same page with NWC of the ruling Party.
For instance, the Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), an association all APC governors, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, in his speech said the NWC and the governors were on the same page.
The analysts have said that based on pre-election rhetorics, Tinubu would dismantle the new naira policy in his first week in office primarily because he sees the policy as designed to frustrate his presidential ambition and eventual emergence as Nigeria’s next president.
Consequently, some they argue that Tinubu will reverse the new naira policy of the CBN in his first week in office
Others say that, in the extreme case, he could tweak the policy to eliminate bottlenecks and friction around it.
Abdulahi Adamu, chairman of the Party created the impression that the party was in opposition to the policy of the President, who us the leader of the Party.
Speaking with journalists after a meeting he summoned with the governors and other top leaders of the Party, Adamu said the CBN policy has been causing tremendous pains for the people.
“I am sure you are quite aware of the fact that a meeting comprising of APC governors was held today and the leadership of the NWC of our great party was summoned for this afternoon and we had discussions and at the end of the discussions, we have resolved as follows and this resolution is without prejudice whatsoever to the case that is lying at the Supreme Court at this point in time. This has to do with the issue of currency redesign.
“We note very seriously that the programme and its implementation is causing tremendous difficulties to the people of Nigeria and to the national economy.
“That, we urge the Attorney General of the Federation and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to respect the Supreme Court order of interim injunction which is still subsisting,”
Adamu also asked President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in resolving the lingering crisis, a development some Nigerians regard as being hypocritical.
“We asked the Attorney General of the Federation and the CBN to respect the Supreme Court injunction which is still existing.
“The meeting is asking his excellency, Mr President to intervene to resolve the issues,” Adamu said, creating false impression as if the CBN governor did not receive approval from Buhari before he embarked on the project.
Tinubu is Nigeria’s President-Elect following the pronouncement by Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday, February 1, 2023.
Tinubu reportedly scored the majority votes and met the 25 percent constitutional requirement to be declared the winner of the tightest election in Nigeria’s history.
Infact, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) recently highlighted some reasons for the less-than-commendable success rate of the Naira redesign and swap policy recently initiated by CBN.
The NESG noted this in its recent report titled, NAIRA REDESIGN POLICY: CAUGHT IN THE WEB, released in February 2023, where it analyzed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s intent for the policy, the issues that have emanated, and the likely outcome of a prolonged cash crunch.
The private policy advocacy group stated that the CBN’s plan to redesign the country’s currency which is authorized by Section 18(a) and (b) of the CBN Act of 2007, could not have come at a worse time when Nigeria was already dealing with biting fuel scarcity, inflation and other economic woes, among others.
Questions on the lips of most Nigerians now are, whether the said objectives of the policy, particularly the naira swap and limitations have been achieved as envisaged.
How come that, vices, such as vote buying and inducements allegedly featured prominently during the election despite the policy
They are also wondering whether the issue would not be politicized to deal with political enemies and opponents and whether the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele would have unfettered access to the President-elect as was the case with Muhammadu Buhari so as to fine tune the policy, I should the need arises.
According to one of the analysts, “only time shall tell and what becomes of the country in the next six months or so.”
According to him, which ever way it goes by the judgement delivered by the Supreme Court on Friday, some policy or political decisions would be made that may record some casualties as soon as Tinubu is sworn in.