By Leon Usigbe-Abuja
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, on Thursday in Daura, Katsina State, disclosed that over N500 billion have been returned to bank vaults by Nigerians following the redesignation of the three denominations of the currency.
Emefiele told correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura that the policy on cash withdrawal limit is not intended to hurt anybody but to strengthen the nation’s economy.
Speaking on the amount of the old notes the apex bank has been able to mop up from circulation, Emefiele said: “We have taken more than half a trillion from the banks, so in the bank, we have close to half a trillion.
“But what we have done in the central bank is to move more people from different departments into currency processing so that they can process this cash as quickly as possible and from there, banks can now move what they have with them.”
Nduka Chiejina, Abuja, Collins Nweze, Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja and Tony Akowe, Abuja
•N1tr mopped up
Possible adjustments to the cash withdrawal limit has not been ruled out, but the January 9 take-off for the policy is sacrosanct, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said yesterday.
CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, who dropped the hint yesterday, said the plan, which he described as the continuation of the apex bank’s monetary policy direction, has the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The CBN on Tuesday unveiled a revised cash withdrawal limit with a maximum of N100,000 cash withdrawal per week for individuals and N500,000 cash per week for companies.
The limits also affect other payment channels, including Automated Teller Machines (ATM), Point of Sale (PoS), and cheque-based transactions.
The maximum cash withdrawal through ATM is set at N100,000 per week, subject to a maximum of N20,000 cash withdrawal per day.
The maximum cash withdrawal through the PoS terminal shall be N20,000 per day. Only denominations of N200 and below shall be loaded into the ATMs.
Emefiele spoke to State House Correspondents in Daura, Katsina State, after a meeting with President Buhari.
He explained that the policy is not new, adding that the fears being expressed of excluding rural people were needless.
According to him, many financial platforms that will make the operation of the policy painless have found their way to remote places in the country.
He also said the policy was not targeted at any particular person, but aimed at developing the economy.
Emefiele spoke against the background of growing opposition to the policy, with the National Assembly calling for a review.
Many stakeholders have said the new policy would make life difficult for Nigerians and can negatively affect businesses.
The House of Representatives yesterday called on the CBN to suspend the cash withdrawal limit policy until it adheres to the Act establishing it, just as it summoned the CBN Governor to brief members.
The Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) also said it was worried about the timing of the policy and the impact on the ease and cost of doing business.
ACCI stated that it was concerned about the disruption the new policy would have on many Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in several big local markets, noting that the limitation on withdrawal will constrain business transactions, especially as most businessmen rely on such withdrawals for quick business engagement from one market to the other.
Buhari backs policy
Emefiele said President Buhari was “very happy” and has given his nod to the apex bank to “carry on our work”.
He also said the President told them there was “no need to fear, no need to bother about anybody”.
He appealed to Nigerians to accept the cashless policy, and assured them that the apex bank “will be reviewing from time to time how this is working”.
The CBN governor emphasised that the bank “will not be rigid, but this is not to say it will be reversed; nor that we will change the timing”.
“But whether it’s about tweaking some amount to be a little bit higher or a little bit lower and the rest of them; we will do so because we are human, we want to make life good for our people; we do not want to make life difficult for them,” Emefiele said.
To this end, he assured Nigerians that the CBN will be monitoring developments as the policy comes into effect.
“I can assure everyone that we are alive to our responsibility and we will do what is right for Nigeria and Nigerians.”
The apex bank will engage the National Assembly to underline the key policy points behind the overarching policy stance of the apex bank.
Emefiele said: “From time to time we brief them (National Assembly) about what is happening and about our policies.
“I’m aware that they have asked for some briefings and we will brief them, but I think it’s important for me to say that the cashless policy started in 2012.
“Almost three to four occasions we have had to step down the policy because we felt that there is a need for us to prepare ourselves and deepen our payment system infrastructure in Nigeria.
“Between 2012 and now 2022, almost about 10 years, we believe that a lot of electronic channels have been put in place that will aid people in conducting banking and financial service transactions in Nigeria.
“We heard people talk about some of the people in the rural areas and the truth is that even online banking, as I was coming out to Daura, I saw a kiosk that has super agent today.
“It’s because of the way we felt that there was a need for us to deepen the payment system infrastructure.
“We have 1.4 million super agents that are all over different parts of the country, all local governments, and all villages in this country.
“I have told my colleagues, some of their names are already on the CBN website and we will publish all the names of all the super agents, which is different from the banks, which is different from microfinance banks, which is different from other financial institutions.
“Having 1.4 million of them is as good as having 1.4 million banking points where people can conduct services and we think, Nigeria as a big country, the biggest economy in Africa, that we need to leapfrog into the cashless economy.
“We cannot continue to allow a situation where over 85 percent of the cash that is in circulation is outside the bank. More and more countries that are embracing digitisation have gone cashless.
“I said it at different fora, that this is not targeted at anybody, it’s just meant for the good and development of the Nigerian economy and we can only continue to appeal to Nigerians to please see this policy the way we have presented it.
“We will be reviewing from time to time how this is working because I cannot say that we are going to be rigid.
“But it is not to say that we will reverse it. It is not to say that we will change the timing, but whether it is about tweaking some amount to be a little bit higher or a little bit lower, and all the rest of them (we will do it).
“We will do so because we are humans, we want to make sure that we make life good for our people. We do not want to make life difficult for them.
“So, there is no need for anybody to worry, the Central Bank is monitoring what is happening and I can assure everyone that we are up and alive to our responsibilities and we will do what is right for Nigeria and Nigerians.”
CBN ready for new naira note rollout
Asked how ready the CBN is for the rollout of the re-designed naira notes, which has been slated for the 15th of this month, Emefiele said: “We are more than prepared.
“The banks have received the new cash and they have started dispensing them.
“I can only just assure you that it will come round, let us just be calm. Luckily, the old currency continues to be legal tender till January 31, 2023.
“So, I want to crack a joke, both the painted (new notes) and unpainted (old notes) will operate concurrently as legal tender, but by January 31, the unpainted one will not be useful to you again, so please take it to your bank as quickly as possible.”
Asked how much of the old notes have been returned, the CBN governor said: “The CBN has taken in over N500 billion while the banks have also received another N500 billion.
“By implication, the system has been able to mop up over N1 trillion from the N2.73 trillion outside the banking system.”
The Nation Newspapers