The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has deployed 30,000 super agents nationwide to boost its cash swap initiative in the country’s hinterlands, rural areas, and regions underserved by banks, just as President Muhammadu Buhari approved extending the deadline for the return of old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes from January 31st, 2023, to February 10, 2023.
The deployment of the 30,000 super agents was also intended to guarantee that the poor and vulnerable people were able to transfer their funds to banks before the deadline expired.
In addition, in accordance with Sections 20 (3) and 22 of the CBN Act, the apex bank extended a seven-day grace period from February 10 to February 17, allowing Nigerians to deposit their old naira notes at the CBN after the February deadline, when the old currency would have lost its legal tender status.
Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, made the announcement in a statement he personally signed yesterday.
Speaking to journalists yesterday in the president’s country home of Daura, Katsina State, Emefiele said the deadline extension was to allow more Nigerians to successfully change their currencies to the redesigned banknotes, reducing the risk of loss, particularly among the underserved in rural areas.
While the House Minority Caucus, led by Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, praised the CBN for listening to Nigerians and extending the deadline, the Chairman of the House Adhoc Committee on the Naira Re-design and Naira Swap Policy, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, rejected the extension, insisting that the CBN must comply with Sections 20, sub-section 3, 4, and 5 of the CBN Act.
However, a former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, has urged the president not to succumb to political blackmail and pressure on his decision regarding the naira redesign, describing the policy as a political masterstroke that would expose economic saboteurs and those milking the nation.
Furthermore, in the statement, Emefiele said the extension of the deadline was a gesture to allow for the collection of more old notes which are legitimately held by Nigerians and achieve more success in cash swaps, particularly in rural communities – after which all old notes outside the CBN lose their legal tender status.
Emefiele, in the statement released after meeting with the president to provide him with updates on the implementation of the currency redesign project, disclosed that since the commencement of the programme, the apex bank had collected about N1.9 trillion, indicating a 75 per cent success rate when compared with the N2.7 trillion that was outside the vaults of deposit money banks.
He added that about N900 billion was still being expected in the banking system.
He said Nigerians in the rural areas, villages, the aged and vulnerable have the opportunity to swap their old notes, leveraging the Agent Naira swap initiative as well as the CBN senior staff nationwide sensitisation team exercise.
He said aside from those holding illicit/stolen naira in their homes for speculative purposes, the CBN remained determined to give all Nigerians that have naira legitimately earned and trapped, the opportunity to deposit their trapped monies at the CBN for exchange.
Emefiele, appealed to Nigerians to work with the bank to ensure a hitch-free process for the implementation of the naira redesign programme, adding that the CBN staff are currently on mass mobilisation and monitoring together with officials of the EFCC and ICPC to achieve the desired objectives of the exercise.
Emefiele said, “From the onset of this currency redesign programme, we made it clear that for 19 years, the CBN hasn’t been able to conduct this important aspect of its mandate; whereas, this should normally have been done within five to eight years window.”
He said the central bank’s aim was mainly to make its monetary policy decisions more efficacious, adding that as a result of the recent policy interventions including the currency redesign and cashless policy. “we’ve started to see inflation trending downwards and exchange rates relatively stable.”
The CBN governor also pointed out that the apex bank aims to support the efforts of security agencies in combatting banditry and ransom-taking in Nigeria through the currency redesign project, stressing that the military is making good progress in this regard.
Emefiele, thanked Buhari for giving the CBN the approval to embark on the currency redesign exercise which the bank has not had the opportunity to undertake in the past 19 years.
He said, “Indeed, let me emphasise that only an incorruptible leader of the president’s stature can give such approval to the CBN.”
Also speaking to journalists in Daura, Emefiele 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: “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.”
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 on sensitisation of citizens.
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.
“We therefore appeal to all Nigerians to work with the Central Bank of Nigeria to ensure a hitch free the implementation of this very important process for program,” Emefiele added.
The CBN governor in respond to a question said the excuse of security threats pushed by the Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, had no bearing on the cash swap policy, which he said had achieved compliance and recorded huge success across the country.
His words: “I don’t understand the relationship between the CBN policy and security challenges in Kano State.”
He noted that all new currencies had security features that make it 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.