Buhari confirms approval of new banknotes by CBN

Banknotes being redesigned

By Clara Nwachukwu

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday confirmed approval of the decision of the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN), to redesign naira, the country’s official currency.

In a twit via the Presidency twitter handle @NGRPresident President Buhari said the move to “launch new designs and replace high value Naira notes had his support, and he is convinced that the nation will gain a lot by doing so.”

He added that Naira redesign will not cause hardship as speculated in some quarters, noting that “People with illicit money buried under the soil will have a challenge with this but workers and businesses with legitimate incomes will face no difficulties at all.”

The President’s confirmation of approval follows bickering between the monetary and fiscal authorities, and lays to rest speculations that the CBN may have acted alone in deciding to redesign the N200, N500, and N1000 banknotes.

Recall that on Wednesday, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had, at a news conference, announced the decision of the Federal Government to reissue the three highest denominations effective December 15.

Emefiele said the decision is to enhance financial stability as well as the to check the warehousing of the currency, the increasing risk of Naira counterfeiting evidenced by several security reports, and the worsening shortage of clean and fit banknotes, with the attendant negative perception of the Central Bank.  

People with illicit money buried under the soil will have a challenge with this, but workers, businesses with legitimate incomes will face no difficulties at all.

In-house crossfire

However, barely 48 hours later, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, distanced her Ministry from the decision, saying she was not consulted, thereby weeping up old sentiments regarding the independence of the CBN.

The Minster, while responding to during the 2023 budget defence session at the Senate Committee on Finance, chaired by Opeyemi Bamidele, said: “We were not consulted at the Ministry of Finance by the CBN on the planned naira redesigning and cannot comment on it as regards merits or otherwise.”

She added, “The policy may be a well-conceived one but the timing, going by realities on ground, is very wrong as the naira may fall to as low as N1,000 to a US dollar before January 31, 2023, fixed for full implementation of the policy.”

And in a counter the same day, Emefiele, on Friday night defended the CBN decision to redesign the highest denominations, insisting that he does not need to consult with the Minister of Finance to do so.

He insisted that the planned policy is in line with Sections 19, subsections A and B of the CBN Act 2007, upon which the management of the CBN sought and obtained the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to redesign, produce, and circulate new series of banknotes at N200, N500, and N1,000 notes.

He added that the action was taken to take control of the currency in circulation, pointing out that the bulk of Nigeria’s naira notes are outside the banking system.

Emefiele’s claims were given credence, in a statement on Sunday by the President’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, quoting Buhari as saying that the CBN’s decision had his support and he is convinced that Nigeria will gain a lot by doing so.

He added that the President said he did not consider the period of three months for the change to the new notes as being short.

Buhari was quoted as saying: “People with illicit money buried under the soil will have a challenge with this but workers; businesses with legitimate incomes will face no difficulties at all.”

Meanwhile, deposit money banks including Guarantee Trust Bank, Fidelity Bank, Access Bank, Ecobank, Zenith Bank have continued to sensitise their customers on what to do regarding the new bank notes ahead of the cut-off date.

This is to ease the pressure on both the customers and the banks that will also need to authenticate and validate the notes being brought in.

As directed by the CBN, the banks have also announced new working hours to include Saturdays, while assuring that deposits will be free of charges.   

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