Femi Falana, SAN, the famous Nigerian human rights lawyer, has said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is yet to disclose the amount of redesigned naira notes it printed and supplied to each of the commercial banks.
The Falana & Falana’s Chambers had since February 16, 2023, written to the CBN governor, requesting for information on the disbursement of the new naira notes to commercial banks.
But after about two weeks, the CBN had yet to reply to the request.
“We wrote to the CBN governor to furnish us with information on the exact amount of the new Naira notes disbursed to each of the commercial banks in the country. The CBN has not been able to disclose the information,” Falana said on Wednesday.
SaharaReporters had also on February 20 reported that a group led by Falana, the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to disclose the amount of redesigned naira notes it printed and supplied to commercial banks.
The group also demanded that the CBN provide the list of customers who have withdrawn more than the N100,000 maximum sum required by the apex bank.
The apex bank had maintained that it printed enough new N200, N500, and N1,000 notes to go around, with claims that politicians are hoarding the new notes.
Falana in a letter he sent to the CBN on the strength of the Freedom of Information Act said there was an unprecedented social dislocation, pains and pangs for the masses of Nigeria at the present time as a result of the twin problem of currency and fuel scarcity.
The letter read, “There is an unprecedented social dislocation, pains and pangs for the masses of Nigeria at the present time as a result of the twin problem of currency and fuel scarcity. In other to bring the situation under popular control, it is considered imperative for the CBN to urgently disclose the amount of new currency notes printed and distributed through the commercial banks for public knowledge, on the following grounds.
“1. MAXIMUM CASH WITHDRAWAL; The Central Bank of Nigeria had on 6th December, 2022 announced a new policy limiting over-the-counter cash withdrawals by individuals and corporate entities to N100, 000 and N500, 000, respectively, per week. However, the CBN later announced a review of the policy with individual withdrawal limit pegged at N500,000 weekly and organisations N5 million weekly.
“Nigerians who trooped to the commercial banks to withdraw new Naira notes from their accounts were directed to the ATMs which did not dispense money. Millions of others who deposited the old notes did not have them replaced with new Naira notes. At that stage, individual withdrawal limit was abruptly reduced to N20,000 or less by the Central Bank.
“2. N500 NEW NAIRA NOTES PRINTED; The reason for the untold suffering to which citizens have been subjected is not unconnected with the fact that the CBN has not printed enough new Naira notes. On December 22, 2022, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Aisha Ahmad, briefed the House of Representatives on the bank’s currency swap policy. Mrs. Ahmad represented the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who was reported to be out of the country.
While responding to questions raised by the lawmakers on the total amount of money printed, Mrs. Ahmad said a total of 500 million mint notes were ordered by the bank. However, she was unable to provide the exact amount printed. Up till now, Mr. Emefiele has not challenged the claim or disclosed the exact amount of the new Naira notes that have been printed even though President Muhammadu Buhari said that N2.1 trillion had been mopped up by the CBN.
“3. ALLEGED DIVERSION OF BILLIONS OF NEW NAIRA NOTES BY POLITICIANS AND BANKS; Mr. Emefiele has however insisted that enough new Naira notes have been disbursed to the Commercial Banks. But he has since turned round to accuse unnamed politicians of capturing the billions of new Naira notes with the connivance of the management staff of the commercial banks. It would appear that the unfortunate attacks on bank employees and burning of bank buildings as well as ATMs out of anger by hungry ordinary people are borne out of the statement by Mr. Emefiele on the allegation of political capturing of new notes. In the process, armed military and police officials have killed some protesters.
“The CBN Governor knew all along that the CBN had not printed and circulated enough new Naira notes. The shortage of the printed new notes coupled with capturing of the new notes by prominent politicians the politicians and the hoarding of new notes in certain cases as publicly demonstrated on television in crtin cases have compounded the currency scarcity and widespread anger.
“In the circumstances, we commend the initiative of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) directing its members to stay at home until the situation is brought under control. Withdrawal of services by bank workers is the least action that should be taken by the unions, particularly in the financial sector of the economy. However, in order to prevent the strike action truncating the national elections, we call on the Federal Government to urgently ensure money is supplied to the public so bank workers are confident of going to work without the fear of being attacked by angry members of the public. Making money available through the banking system is the only antidote against sporadic actions and attacks on bank workers.
“We equally appeal to members of the public to stop attacking Bank employees.
“4. REQUEST TO MAKE NEW NOTES AVAILABLE OR RECIRCULATE OLD NOTES; Meanwhile, the National Council of State tasked the CBN to make the new Naira notes available or re-circulate the old Naira notes to ease the current suffering of Nigerians. At about the same time, the Supreme Court of Nigeria granted an ex parte order directing the Federal Government, Central Bank and all commercial banks to allow the N200, N500 and N1,000 notes to remain legal tender pending the hearing and determination of the motion for interlocutory injunction in the suit filed by some state governments.
“Although the Federal Government decided not to comply with the order of the apex court, President Buhari announced in his last national broadcast that he had given "approval to the CBN that the old N200 bank notes be released back into circulation and that it should also be allowed to circulate as legal tender with the new N200, N500, and N1000 banknotes for 60 days from February 10, 2023 to April 10 2023 when the old N200 note ceases to be legal tender."
“The President directed the CBN "shall ensure that new notes become more available and accessible to our citizens through the banks." It has however been revealed that the N200 note constitutes less than 10 percent of currency volume in circulation in the last seven years. The implication is that the presidential intervention, which is a belated acknowledgement of the fact that the CBN has not printed enough new Naira has not addressed the crisis of currency scarcity in the country.
“5. UNLESS PEOPLE HAVE ACCESS TO THEIR MONEY VOTE BUYING MAY BECOME CHEAPER; It is interesting to note that the President believes that the "new monetary policy has contributed immensely "to the minimization of the influence of money in politics" and that it "represents a bold legacy step by this administration, towards laying a strong foundation for free and fair elections."
“Unfortunately, the shoddy implementation of the policy appears to be making people to lose interest in the general elections, which may result in increasing voter apathy, while vote buying may become even cheaper during the election. In other words, the criminally minded politicians may be paying as little as N500 per vote from the billions of new Naira notes which have been allegedly captured by them.
“6. INTRA CLASS FEUD SHOULD NOT HEAT UP THE POLITY; No doubt, the various factions of the ruling class are at daggers drawn over the currency swap crisis. It is, however, curious to note that the Governors who sued the Federal Government over the currency scarcity have not deemed it fit to challenge fuel scarcity and unprecedentedly high fuel price, which are equally causing economic pains in the land. This omission in the act of the Governors appears to lend credence to the allegation that the primary interest of the Governors is to ensure they are able to use the old notes to induce the electorate. While State Governors have approached the apex court for legal redress to protect their class interests, they should not heat up the polity by making inciting statements capable of being exploited by anti democratic forces to disrupt the forthcoming General Elections.
“If the plaintiffs are convinced that the Federal Government has breached the terms of the ex parte order of the Supreme Court, they are at liberty to initiate contempt proceedings against the Attorney-General of the Federation. The enforcement of the order of the Supreme Court ought to be carried out within the ambit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Sheriff and Civil Process Act. It should be noted that the Attorney General does not enjoy immunity protection under Section 308 of the Constitution.
“Our attention has been drawn to the meeting held at the Presidential Villa on February 17, 2023 where Mr. Emefiele assured that the apex bank would release between N700 and N800 billion into circulation before the end of the month. Once again, Mr. Emefiele did not disclose the amount of new Naira notes that have been printed and circulated by the CBN.
“Therefore, in exercise of our right to information under the Freedom of Information Act, we have requested the CBN to furnish us with detailed information on the exact amount printed through the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company PLC and disbursed to the banks. Since Banks are required to make returns to the CBN, we have requested for detailed information on the politicians who have hijacked and mopped up the new Naira notes.”