The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, on October 26, 2022, announced plans to redesign and distribute new =N=200, =N=500 and =N=1,000 bank notes to replace the existing ones serving as legal tender in the country.
The deadline initially set for January 31, 2023 was further extended to February 10, 2023 to calm fray nerves amid rising tension in the country due to inability of significant number of the populace not having access to the new naira notes introduced by the apex bank.
A new twist emerges when three state governments namely; Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara secured an interim injunction on Wednesday, February 8, 2023 from the Supreme Court restraining the CBN to go ahead with the enforcement of the new currency deadline scheduled for February 10, 2023.
Refusal of commercial banks nationwide to collect old =N=200, =N=500 and =N=1,000 bank notes from customers on Monday, February 13, 2023 further fuels rising tension in the Country with pockets of violence and burning of commercial banks branches witnessed in many states of the Federation.
In order to douse the rising tension and fear experienced by Nigerians, the President, Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, February 16, 2023 addressed the nation on the CBN policy to enforce the deadline on the newly introduced bank notes of =N=200, =N=500 and =N=1,000.
He expressed sympathy over the difficulties faced by Nigerians in recent times as a result of the currency policy introduced by the CBN and went ahead to give a timeline of activities leading to the adoption of the currency swap deadline by the apex bank and his approval as the President.
The address highlights the critical points that necessitated the policy decision which include;
- The need to restore the statutory ability of the CBN to keep a firm control over money in circulation;
- The proportion of currency outside banks grew from 78% in 2015 to 85% in 2022. It was observed that as of October 2022, the currency in circulation had risen to =N=3.23 trillion; out of which only =N=500 billion was within the banking system while =N=2.7 trillion remained permanently outside the system; thereby distorting the financial policy and efficient management of inflation;
- The huge volume of Bank Notes outside the banking system has proven to be practically unavailable for economic activities and by implication, retard the attainment of potential economic growth;
- Economic growth projections make it imperative for government to aim at expanding financial inclusion in the country by reducing the number of the unbanked population , and
- Given the prevailing security situation across the country, which keeps improving, it also becomes compelling for government to deepen its continuing support for security agencies to successfully combat banditry and ransom-taking in Nigeria
The President affirmed that since the commencement of the program, about =N=2.1 trillion out of the bank notes previously held outside the banking system, had been successfully retrieved. This represents about 80% of such funds. It is expected that there would be:
- A strengthening of the country’s macro-economic parameters;
- Reduction of broad money supply leading to a deceleration of the velocity of money in the economy which should result in less pressures on domestic prices;
- Lowering of inflation as a result of the accompanying decline in money supply that will slow the pace of inflation;
- Collapse of illegal economic activities which would help to stem corruption and acquisition of money through illegal ways;
- Exchange rate stability;
- Availability of easy loans and lowering of interest rates; and
- Greater visibility and transparency of our financial actions translating to efficient enforcement of our anti-money laundering legislations.
In order to ameliorate the obstacles meted on innocent Nigerians by unscrupulous officials in the banking industry entrusted with the process of implementation of the new monetary policy, the President directed that:
- The CBN should deploy all legitimate resources and legal means to ensure that all citizens are adequately educated on the policy; enjoy easy access to cash withdrawal through the availability of appropriate amount of currency; and ability to make deposits
- The CBN intensify collaboration with anti-corruption agencies, so as to ensure that any institution or person(s) found to have impeded or sabotaged the implementation should be made to bear the full weight of the law
- Approval for the CBN to released back into circulation the old =N=200 bank notes and should also be allowed to circulate as legal tender with the new =N=200, =N=500 and =N=1,000 bank notes for 60 days from February 10, 2023 to April 10, 2023 when the old =N=200 notes ceases to be legal tender
- In line with Section 20(3) of the CBN Act 2007, all existing old =N=1,000 and =N=500 notes remain redeemable at the CBN and designated points
The President concludes the broadcast by assuring Nigerians of his commitment to the strengthening of the economy and safeguarding the democratic institution of the country.