Sunday February 5, 2023
The pan Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, has declared that the seven-day request made by President Muhammadu Buhari to resolve the problems associated with cash crunch in the country is too long.
In a Press Release signed by the organisation’s National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, Afenifere said that the 7 days’ request tends to suggest that President Buhari “does not appreciate the enormity and the intensity of the pains Nigerians are going through all in attempts to obtain cash from their accounts in banks across the country”.
It argued that several lives have been lost already just as social and economic activities have been seriously paralyzed. “For the nation to have to wait for another seven days is to say that the people can continue to go on suffering. That lives can continue to be lost and that businesses can continue to be crippled”.
It would be recalled that President Buhari said that he will take a decision ‘one way or the other’ within the seven days that the new deadline for the currency exchange remains. According to his spokesman, Garba Shehu, Buhari said this after his meeting with members of the Progressive Governors Forum at the State House last Friday. (The Forum consists of Governors from the States being controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC).
The governors had met the President to inform him of the excruciating pains Nigerians are going through in their attempts to withdraw money from the banks and exchange the outgoing Naira notes with new ones. The Central Bank of Nigeria had last year October, came up with redesigned notes for N1,000, N500 and N200. It stated that the deadline to replace the old notes with new ones was January 31, 2023. But by that time, millions of Nigerians have not been able to exchange their currencies. Not because they did not mean to do so or because they did not make the efforts. They could not get the new notes because the commercial banks that were supposed to give them the notes complained that they did not get enough supply from the Central Bank.
It was learnt that Progressive Governors Forum had appealed to the President to reconsider his stance especially as the policy was threatening the “good records of the administration in transforming the economy.” As at the time this statement is being issued, there has been no indication that the President is prepared to ‘act quickly’.
This was what prompted Afenifere to urge the President to “act fast because lives and economies of Nigerians are seriously in danger as a result of the difficulties in getting cash and fuel”.
Afenifere recalled that it took President about six months to constitute its cabinet in his first term just as his administration seems to be noted to dilly-dally where decisive steps are required – a situation that made some people to dub the President as ‘Baba Go-Slow’!
The organisation’s spokesman then said that the situation on ground presently “calls for urgent, well-thought-out and pro-people steps so as to quickly put an end to the avoidable sufferings of the people”.
The outcry of Nigerians forced the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele to obtain the permission of President Buhari last week Sunday, to extend the deadline to February 10, 2023. But even then, Nigerians have been finding it very difficult to obtain not just the new notes but even the old currency notes from their banks and sundry financial institutions that deal with cash. The situation became so critical that people in some cities in the country protested. The protest led to the death of at least two people in Ibadan on Friday last week.
Bank customers recount unpleasant experiences. An example was that of a customer who wanted to withdraw N40,000 but was told that the maximum he could withdraw was N4,000! CBN last week gave a ridiculous directive that no individual should withdraw more than N20,000 per day. It is a fact that such an amount cannot sustain even small businesses in many parts of the country just as it is insufficient for those who may want to travel long distances within the country.
Emotions of Nigerians predictably ran high due to frustration. In places like Ibadan, Benin, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Bauchi, Lagos etc, it was tensions galore. This happened in spite of the assurance given by Mr Emefiele that “the exercise has achieved a success rate of over 75 per cent of the N2.7tn held outside the banking system”. And that “Nigerians in the rural areas, villages, the aged and vulnerable have had the opportunity to swap their old notes.” He said this on Sunday, January 29, 2023 while announcing an extension of the deadline to February 10.
Ajayi then posed the question that if the exercise had achieved 75 per cent success rate as at the end of January, why would the problem be so dire that people would be losing their lives a week after. Afenifere also carpeted the CBN Governor on his claim that “Nigerians in the rural areas, villages, the aged and vulnerable have had the opportunity to swap their old notes” arguing that were this to be so, “Why would there be so much anguish in the land?”
The spokesman then called on Bank officials and others who are sabotaging the system to desist “because what goes around comes around”. He stated this against the backdrop of reports of some commercial banks in places like Port Harcourt, Bauchi, Lagos etc hoarding the new currency while their officers refuse to load the Automated Teller Machines (ATM) with the notes.
He concluded by saying that President Buhari should come out boldly to instruct CBN to flood the banks with new notes and allow both the old and the new ones to continue to circulate for at least the next three months.