By ISMAILA CHAFE
ABUJA- The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, says the excuse of security threats pushed by Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State has no bearing on the ongoing currency swap across the country.
Ganduje had in an interactive session with crtical stakeholders, including scholars, legislators, political leaders and business community in the state, revealed that his administration had requested the president to postpone his official visit to the state.
The governor said the state was deeply concerned about the hardship principally induced by the ongoing cash swap from old to redesigned Naira notes.
He said the decision was taken to avoid any unforeseen circumstance.
However, the CBN governor debunked Ganduje’s assertion, saying: “I don’t understand the relationship between the CBN policy and security challenges in Kano State.”
Emefiele noted that the apex bank had achieved compliance and recorded huge success in the ongoing currency swap across the country.
He noted that all new currencies had security features that make them easy for tracking to bank branches, and the process had begun to deal with defaulters and those who breached the programme.
“Even if they are CBN staff, they will be sanctioned,” Emefiele warned.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Buhari had earlier on Sunday morning approved extension of the ongoing currency swap by 10 days, moving the deadline from Jan. 31 to Feb. 10.
The president’s spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, who confirmed this in a statement, said Buhari gave the approval at a meeting with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in Daura, Katsina State.
He urged more time, discretion and order to enable Nigerians successfully change their currencies to the redesigned notes, and reduce the risk of loss, especially among the underserved in rural areas.
Briefing newsmen after the meeting, the CBN governor said the currency swap had achieved more than 75 per cent success rate of the N2.7 trillion held outside the banking system.
According to him, this achievement can be seen with drop in rate of inflation, more stability of foreign exchange rates, and noticeable impact on security, especially in banditry and kidnapping figures.
The CBN governor noted that redesigns were supposed to be every five to eight years.
“First, I will like to thank Mr President for giving the CBN the approval to embark on this ambitious programme because, like I said, in the past, the CBN has not had the opportunity to embark on such currency redesign programme in last 19 years.
”And indeed, let me emphasise that only an incorruptible leader of the President’s stature can give such approval to the CBN,” he said.
“Our aim is mainly to make Monetary Policy Decisions more efficacious and as you can see; we have started to see inflation trending downwards and exchange rates relatively stable.
“Secondly, we aim to support the efforts of our security agencies in combating banditry and ransom taking in Nigeria through this programme and we see that the military are making good progress in this important task,” he added.
The head of the apex financial regulator said available data had shown that currency-in-circulation in 2015 was only N1.4 trillion, while as at Oct. 2022, currency-in-circulation had risen to N3.23 trillion, out of which only N500 billion was within the banking industry.
He said N2.7 trillion was held permanently in people’s homes.
“Ordinarily, when CBN releases currency into circulation, it is meant to be used and after effluxion of time, it returns to the CBN thereby keeping the volume of currency in circulation under the firm control of the CBN.
“So far and since commencement of this programme, we have collected about N1.9 trillion; leaving us with about N900 billion (N500 billion + N1.9 trillion),” the CBN governor said.
According to Emefiele, to achieve effective distribution of the new currency, the CBN has taken some steps.
He said several meetings were held with Deposit Money Banks and they were provided with Guidance Notes on processes they must adopt in the collection of old notes and distribution of the new notes, including directives that new notes should be loaded in ATMs nationwide for equitable and transparent mechanism.
The CBN governor explained that the regulatory body worked with the media, print and broadcast, and the National Orientation Agency for sensitisation of citizens.
He revealed that 30,000 Super Agents were deployed nationwide, particularly in rural areas, regions underserved by banks and to reach the weak and vulnerable for currency swap.
To ensure compliance, Emefiele said staff members, mostly Assistant Directors, Deputy Directors and Directors in Abuja were sent to all CBN branches nationwide to join the mass mobilisation campaign and monitoring programmes.
He said breaches of the programme had been reported to the EFCC and ICPC for further action.
“Aside from those holding illicit/stolen Naira in their homes for speculative purposes, we do aim to give all Nigerians that have Naira legitimately earned and trapped, the opportunity to deposit their legitimately trapped monies at the CBN for exchange.
“Based on the foregoing, we have sort and obtained Mr President’s approval for the following:
”A ten-day extension of the deadline from Jan. 31, 2023, to Feb. 10, 2023; to allow for collection of more old notes legitimately held by Nigerians and achieve more success in cash swap in our rural communities after which all old notes outside CBN losses their legal tender status,” he explained.
Emefiele said a seven-day grace period had been given by the President, beginning from Feb. 10 to Feb. 17, 2023, in compliance with Sections 20 (3) and 22 of CBN Act, allowing Nigerians to deposit their old notes at the CBN after the February deadline.
Meanwhile, barely 24 hours after advising Buhari against visiting Kano State on Monday, Ganduje has made a u-turn, saying ”Kano is now prepared to receive the Nigerian leader”.
Ganduje, who led a delegation of critical stakeholders from the state to meet the president in his country home in Daura on Sunday, after which he revealed the change of position to newsmen.
The governor said: ”We are very much ready to receive him and we have a lot for him to commission, including Federal Government projects and state government projects.
”They are state-of-the-art projects.” (NAN)