Nigerian lawmakers have called on the country’s monetary authorities to extend the deadline for residents to exchange their old naira notes for the new ones.
Central Bank of Nigeria recently announced a plan to redesign the naira notes and fixed January 31, 2023 as the deadline for residents to exchange their old notes.
On Wednesday, some senators called for an extension, while others disagreed.
The Senate also decided to give legislative support to the policy.
Some of the senators who spoke on the matter at Wednesday’s plenary said the deadline given by the apex bank is too short for many of them – and Nigerians – to meet. This “disagreement” threw the chamber into a tumultuous session for a few minutes.
In October, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, announced a plan to redesign the 200, 500 and 1,000 notes. He said the new notes will be put into circulation in December, while the old notes are expected to be out of circulation by January 31.
The move aims to control the currency in circulation, manage inflation and fight counterfeiting, he explained.
Despite President Muhammadu Buhari saying he supports the move and has given the go-ahead to the CBN, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed has alleged that she and her ministry were not informed of the plan.
He also believes that the redesign of some naira notes portends some consequences.
Different concerns of legislators
It started with a motion by Kaduna Central Senator Uba Sani, who wanted the CBN plan deliberated in the Senate.
The Senate also wanted legislative support for the policy, including a January 31 deadline for compliance.
Mr. Sani, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, also called on his colleagues to initiate aggressive oversight of the matter by his committee.
While some senators including James Manager, Bassey Akpan and Chukwuka Utazi supported the motion, others – who also thought the idea was welcome – called for an extension of the deadline.
Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano) said it is necessary to consider people in rural areas as it takes time to get their money to the bank.
“Each and every one must have a way to access their money into the banking system when this exercise is carried out. We have to analyze the uniqueness of our farmers, so that they don’t get confused in this exercise.”
Ali Ndume (APC, Borno) expressed concern that there are only five banks in the 27 local government areas of Borno State since the insurgency started in the state.
Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers) said counterfeiting was not enough reason to redesignate the naira and that rural banks were closed, so the January deadline should be extended.
More complaints, disagreement
Ekiti Senator, Biodun Olujimi, said the window open for people to exchange their naira notes is “too short”. He also requested that the CBN governor be invited by the Senate for further discussion.
Senate Leader Orji Kalu also called for Mr. Emefiele to be invited to the Senate to “shed more light on the policy” after which the senators will be persuaded to extend the deadline to April 30, 2023.
These suggestions were dispelled by Benue Senator Gabriel Suswam, who reminded the Senate that the CBN boss has always ignored the Senate’s invitations. He urged his colleagues to ignore the policies of the CBN and let the country ignore the consequences.
“… My concern is that the CBN governor who is seeking our support has in the past shown disrespect to this chamber,” he said. “The president has already approved it and they are already printing it, so what are we talking about here? If the CBN wanted our help, it would have been expected that there would have been proper consultation. Let him go ahead and do what he’s doing.’
On the contrary, Mr. Akpan said the bank should help in the discharge of its duties.
ALSO READ: Naira redesign: CBN says it will protect Nigerians in rural areas
What followed was a moment of bickering and debate among the lawmakers, which seemed overwhelming to the Speaker of the House, Ovie Omo-Agege, the Deputy Speaker of the Senate.
However, the MP managed to calm down after persistent calls and hammer blows.
He said it is the prerogative of the CBN to redesign the naira and set a deadline for compliance.
The Senate then decided to give legislative support to the policy. He also directed the Senate Committee on Banking and Financial Institutions to initiate oversight to ensure that Nigerians comply with the policy and are protected.
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