Lawrence Nwimo, Awka
Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), has said that the extension of the old naira notes swap deadline from January 31 to February 10, 2023, is a welcome relief to many Nigerians.
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sunday, announced a 10-day extension of the deadline for the use of the old naira notes across the country after it got approval of President Muhammadu Buhari for the extension.
A statement signed by the Lead Director, Eze Onyekpere, said the decision was a huge relief and that “many hardworking Nigerians, especially in the rural areas would have lost their honest income if the January 31st deadline was not extended.”
It recalled that the major challenge necessitating the clamour for extension was the failure, refusal and neglect of CBN to make available the new redesigned notes in sufficient quantity to match the legal and legitimate needs and demands of Nigerians.
“If the CBN had made available enough new notes from the date it was launched till the end of January 2023, coupled with massive sensitisation, there would have been no need for the extension.
“The money deposit banks were still issuing the old notes to customers as at Friday 27th January 2023 when the deadline had not been shifted from the end of the month.”
Questioning the sufficiency of the released new naira notes, CSJ, in the statement, said senior bank officials had at the public hearing organised by the House of Representatives on the matter, complained that banks got only ten percent of the value of old notes deposited with the CBN.
It argued that CBN’s claim that it had issued out sufficient quantity of new notes “is unfounded and not supportable by empirical evidence.”
According to them, CBN mandated banks only to pay the new notes from ATMs and to continue to put the old notes in circulation through customers who came to withdraw money across the counter.
“This is a clear contradictory instruction that guaranteed that old notes continued in circulation. There is no reports that cash limits for individuals and corporate organisations were breached.
“If by any empirical calculation, the percentage stated to have been received by the banks is the usual ratio between deposits and cash releases by CBN to the money deposit banks, then the CBN will be guilty of the failure of supervision and effective regulation.
“The CBN has wide powers to supervise and sanction errant banks if for any reason their officials were diverting the new notes.”
It called on the CBN to release sufficient quantum of the new notes to meet the demand of Nigerians, such that demands are in compliance and not above the cash withdrawal limit.
It warned that if the ‘business-as-usual’ approach used in the past three months is continued, there would likely be another clamour for extension of the deadline.
CSJ also urged CBN to ensure that every old note that gets into the banking system is automatically withdrawn and not paid back to customers whether from automated teller machines or across the counter.