Contrary to widespread believe that the naira redesigning policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria was an initiative of the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, it has emerged that the initiative was conceived by President Muhammadu Buhari and pushed to the apex bank to implement in order to check the issue of vote buying ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Top government officials with knowledge of the policy confirmed the development on Monday.
The redesigned note was unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 23, 2022 consisting of N200, N500 and N1,000 bank notes respectively.
The CBN had recently introduced new N200, N500 and N1,000 notes, with concerns that the newly redesigned denominations were scarce in circulation.
Since the CBN announced the naira redesign policy few months ago, there had been criticism on the withdrawal of the old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes.
This is because the move had caused a huge cash shortage in the economy.
Emefiele had last month said the apex bank mopped up N1.9trn from the system while only N300bn of the new notes have been printed and distributed to the banks.
Nigerians only have until February 10, 2023, to deposit the old notes in banks. But getting the cash has been a war for households and businesses.
Last Friday, eleven governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, over the lingering cash crunch in the country following the Naira redesign, and demanded for the concurrent use of the new and old notes till the end of this year.
At the meeting, which was also attended by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, President Buhari rejected the demand of the governors and urged Nigerians to give him a seven-day grace to resolve the cash crunch.
The governors sought to share with Buhari the negative impact of the Central Bank’s policy, which they said had been undermining the painstaking efforts that had been put forth by this administration in transforming the economy.
But the President said the objective of the policy was not to create hardship but to provide the economy with thd much needed revitalisation. He added that the benefits will be borne in the medium to long term.
Not satisfied with the President’s explanation, three governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC), namely Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, Yahaya Bello of Kogi and Bello Mutawalle of Zamfara, on Monday dragged the Central Bank of Nigeria to the Supreme Court over the deadline for the expiration of the old Naira notes.
The governors claimed that the Federal Government, through the CBN, has no powers to issue a timeline for the acceptance and redeeming of banknotes issued by the Bank, except as limited by Section 22(1) of the CBN Act 2007.
But speaking on the development, a top official told THE WHISTLER that the President would not back down on the policy because it is one of his agenda to ensure that the 2023 election is free, fair, and credible without voters being bought with money by politicians.
Specifically, the top government source stated that President Buhari believes that the naira redesign initiative is one of the measures that would be used to stop vote buying by moneybags politicians.
It was learnt that the President believes that with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, votes will count and as such, politicians who have perfected the act of intimidating constituents would not have their way.
The source said, “This new naira note is actually the president’s idea and he is the one that authorized it and not Emefiele and he believes that it is one thing that will help stop vote buying.
“The President believes that with this BVAS, votes will count and that politicians have perfected the act of intimidating constituents. Recall that he had said that no politician will be allowed to mobilise resources to intimidate constituents.
“The President believes that politicians have perfected the act of mobilizing cash to intimidate constituents through vote buying during the elections and that they have stockpiled many cash waiting to deploy it to different constituencies.
“So, this is the president’s idea completely. Most of these notable politicians have identified where these cash are being stockpiled and that was why over two months grace period was given to people to go and return money.
“Those who earned money legitimately have been returning the money to the banks and there is no bank that have ever refused to accept any of the old banknotes.
“But those who got the money illegitimately refused because they believe they could put pressure on the federal government and the central bank to rescind this decision and it has not worked.’
The source further stated that most of these politicians who earned money through illegitimate means are the ones instigating protests and mobilizing media houses to write against the naira redesign policy.
He stated further that their antics would not work because the President is resolute in seeing to the full implementation of the policy.
He also added that the central bank is making a lot of efforts to produce more currency before the expiration of the February 10 deadline for the return of old naira notes.