A former deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Kingsley Moghalu, has attributed the failure of the Naira redesign policy of the apex bank to the lack of effective risk management, its use as a political tool and others.
Last October, the central bank Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, announced that the designs of the N200, N500, and N1,000 denominations would be changed.
In a special press briefing, he disclosed that the new notes would be introduced into the banking system by December 15, while the old currency notes would cease to be legal tender from January 31, 2023.
However, the deadline was moved forward to February 10, and on March 3, the supreme court extended the deadline to December 31, 2023, meaning the old notes will remain valid by the end of the year.
From February 10 till now, Nigerians have been unable to have access to cash as commercial banks limit what customers can withdraw via their channels. In some cases, customers are limited to N1,000, N2,000, and N5,000 cash withdrawals, forcing them through an untold hardship and making a mess of the Naira redesign and cashless policies of the CBN.
While speaking on the issue, Mr Moghalu blamed his former employers for the failure of the policy, noting that they did not put the system under thorough scrutiny.
“The terrible suffering and economic loss Nigerians have experienced as a result of the faulty IMPLEMENTATION of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Naira redesign policy, the entry of the judiciary into central banking functions, all show clearly how our institutions— and Nigeria — fail when institutions that are meant to be operationally independent become politicized.
“Currency functions are a core part of any central bank’s mandate. To that extent, I had no problem with the policy, except for two vital issues. First, the 90-deadline, which I warned, was too short to be effectively executed. Second, the timing is so close to the elections.
“But, as later became clear, there was a haphazard and incoherent communication of the PURPOSES of the policy. In one breath, it was said to be to reduce the money supply and help tame inflation (after the bank had created and lent N23 trillion to the federal government illegally because that was way beyond approved limits under the CBN Act of 2007). Next, it was promoted as a national security measure to halt kidnapping, Naira hoarding and sundry crimes. Then, next, it became about free and fair elections to stop vote-buying.
“This last reason became the most important — and controversial — reason as the tempo of the 2023 presidential contest rose to boil point. Expectedly, politicians who felt the policy targeted them complained loudly and wanted the deadline extended, while those who believed it helped their own political agendas hailed the tight and impractical deadline and did not want it moved.
“Nigerians were trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea of a desire to curb the menace of vote-buying and the effective confiscation of their own money by the implementation failure of the policy.
“While increasing digital payments, another purported goal of the policy, was a good one, that thinking failed to consider the reality that the payment infrastructure was still not robust in many rural areas of our country, that cash remains king, and, as I said on an interview with @LadiAAle of @channelstv, we were carrying on as if it has now become a crime to use cash in Nigeria. Most important, as I raised the question in that same interview, what exactly is the mandate of the CBN? Had it now become to end vote buying in elections? Surely, we have anti-corruption institutions vested with such mandates, and to use the CBN for that primary purpose was to politicize the institution.
“But many Nigerians, as usual, did not think deeply about the implications of this line of thinking and action because of their political passions against presumably corrupt politicians.
“Today, whatever may have been the benefits of the Naira redesign policy have been cancelled out by the economic and social gridlock it has created. We are still suffering from it after the almighty presidential election has come and gone.
“There are several lessons here. One such lesson is the importance of effective risk management, which was evidently absent in the conception and execution of the policy.
“I had highlighted this in a previous intervention. But there is the fundamental lesson of whether our institutions in Nigeria have been hijacked and subverted from serving the Nigerian people and our economy to serving personal and political agendas, including a dishonest use of a war against corruption as an attractive shiny object.
“One day, we will count the losses to the Nigerian economy, the legitimacy and effectiveness of a once-prestigious institution, and to the legitimacy of the Nigerian state itself, of the partisan politicization and de-professionalization of the leadership of the CBN.
“Our apex bank, along with the judiciary, is one of the key institutional prisms through which foreign countries and investors abroad and at home assess the functioning or otherwise of the Nigerian state. Turning it into a political football was and is a big mistake, and a strong indicator of state failure,” he wrote via his verified Twitter page.