It is no longer news that Nigeria may soon swim in self-induced recession as a result of low trading activities caused by paucity of Naira notes which attracted wide outrage nationwide. Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA) noted, as a continuum of the earlier criticism of the policy, that the precarious situation led to protests and destructions of properties in some parts of the Country as a response to the anti-people Naira redesign policy of the Buhari-led government.
It is also noteworthy that some Governors and patriotic citizens rose to the challenge culminating in the Supreme Court “relief judgment” that saved the Nation from executive recklessness. As if the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Emefiele has hypnotized everyone in the Buhari administration, none has raised a voice against the callous policy.
In fact, the Attorney-General of the Federation that is supposed to defend the people is also defending the Emefiele toxicnomics (any policy that affects economic activities retrogressively)
In the meantime, on February 3, 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted to have requested seven days to do the needful. The President requested grace period expired on Friday February 10, 2023.
Unfortunately, till date the President is yet to address the Nation on what has been done to assure Nigerians of any meaningful action taken to ameliorate the economic situations in the Country.
Or was the President oblivious of the need to give feedback to citizens after honouring him with cessation of protests? Is the President unmindful of the implications of his silence and or his associates do not know they need to ensure the President addresses the Nation in this critical situation assuming the President is unperturbed by the need to speak to the people?
The President at this crucial time must speak out as his silence is no longer golden. He should let the citizens know their fate as many banks and traders reject the old Naira notes against the pronouncement of the Supreme Court while many banks now hawk and trade new Naira notes even when Section 21(4) of the CBN Act abhor such practice when it provides that “it shall be an offence punishable under sub section 1 of the Section for any person to hawk, sell or otherwise trade in Naira notes, coins or any other note issued by the Bank”.
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Is this how the Nation will remain? Even though CBN has declared that old Naira notes are no longer legal tender, the law permits the citizens to take the one at their disposal to the banks and have it redeemed at any period.
Nonetheless, the impunity which characterized Emefiele approach to change of the Naira notes deserves patriotic legal resistance as if this was the first time the Nation was changing its currencies. This is necessary so that Emefiele would not constitute another clog in the wheel of the development of Nigeria.
Furthermore, section 20 (3) of the CBN Act 2007 provides “ Notwithstanding sub-sections (1) and (2) of this section, the Bank shall have power, if directed to do so by the President to do so and after giving reasonable notice in that behalf, to call in any of its notes or coins on payment of the face value thereof and any note or coin with respect to which a notice has been given under this sub-section, shall, on the expiration of the notice, cease to be legal tender, but, subject to section 22 of this Act, shall be redeemed by the Bank upon demand”.
This shows that it is incumbent on all authorized banks to collect the old Naira notes even after expiration of the deadline and when such notes are taken to CBN by the banks, the CBN must collect it for redemption. So, the CBN Governor’s insensitive release on the plight of the people where he was insisting on not allowing people to have sufficient cash for their daily activities is simply anachronistic and barbaric.
So, is it because there is no sanction that the Banks are acting ultra vires by rejecting what the laws oblige them to collect indefinitely or because the CBN head is an accomplice in the whole saga? If the banks reject the notes from the individuals, are citizens expected to take the notes to CBN offices for replacement when CBN offices are mainly in State capitals and FCT? Is CBN legally authorized to attend to individuals?
If yes, would that not expose CBN to insecurity and endanger its staff and their properties? These and more questions beg for answers
Similarly, section 20(5) of the Act provides that “ any person who refuses to accept the Naira as a means of payment is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N50,000 or 6months imprisonment”. Therefore, the President must speak out and announce to the Nation serious sanctions awaiting any saboteur bank which may be acting contrary to the laws.
The Federal Government should fine, in hundreds of millions or billions of Naira, any bank that refuses to collect the currency from the public even after the stipulated deadline because the CBN Act gives no specific time limit for the Central Bank to redeem the outdated notes in as much as it is not lost, stolen, mutilated or imperfect note or coin (Section 22 of the CBN Act).
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Now, the President or any authorized government official must tell Nigerians the situation report on Naira notes availability and the way forward. Or does the President want to leave everyone in the quagmire? The government cannot remain silent at this moment and expects people not to vent their anger.
Whatever consequence government silence generates should not be blamed on the citizens but the lackadaisical government which tries to abdicate its responsibilities. It is either the Government speaks to the people now on the situation of Naira notes on whether more notes have been printed, circulated or not and state how it has been trying to improve the imbroglio.
Nonetheless, RIFA urge the citizens not to dance to the tune of the miscreants who only participate in protests to steal, rob or cause havoc which would be detrimental to societal stability. It should be noted properties destroyed in any protest would only enrich the wealthy more as none of the protesters may be given the contract to rehabilitate destroyed properties.
Besides, public members making use of such destroyed banks, properties or public places would face more hardship by having to spend more to access services that should have been accessed nearby had those banks, properties or public institutions not destroyed by the hoodlums during purported protests.
Protest is a legitimate means of resistance but it yields result only when applied according to rules of the game. It is on this ground RIFA call on Nigerians to protest reasonably by calling on those at the helm of affairs to do the needful to save the Nation from the consequences of the excruciating Naira redesign policy of Mr Emefiele who would remain in the history of the Country as the worst CBN Governor with toxicnomic policies.
Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA)