Extend old Naira notes deadline- govs beg Buhari

Nigeria's 36 governors have urged President Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (ret.) to extend the deadline for the implementation of the old Naira notes swap.

The governors also urged Buhari to reconsider the Central Bank of Nigeria's cashless policy.

The governors made the demand in a letter addressed to the President dated February 6, 2023, and signed by the Forum's Chairman, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State.

On December 6, 2022, the CBN directed all deposit money banks and other financial institutions, payment service banks, primary mortgage banks, and microfinance banks to limit the maximum cash withdrawal over the counter by individuals and corporate firms weekly to N100,000 and N500,000, respectively, adding that withdrawals above the lower limit would incur processing fees of 5% and 10%, respectively.

Following the apex bank's recent naira notes redesign, the apex bank further directed that third-party cheques exceeding N50,000 shall not be suitable for OTC payment, while existing limits of N10 million on clearing cheques remain.

"Even though the identified constraints are to be found in almost every state in the country, they are particularly evident in states like Borno in the North East and Bayelsa in the south-south where one finds a pitiful number of banks located only in the State capital, effectively rendering the workability of the new policies impossible for the time being," the NGF wrote in its letter.

"The speed of implementation of the policy is a recipe for anarchy in the country and we urge a re-think of the policy. Concerning the reviewed cash withdrawal limit, we discovered through synthesis of experiences across the country that the informal sector in the States, particularly in the Northern and Niger Delta States, is almost entirely reliant on cash transactions due to the nature of their trade.

"It is our view, Sir, that an immediate limitation in the use of cash without robust engagement with stakeholders as well as the provision of accessible alternatives will deny such people legitimate sources of livelihood.

"We fear that the cumulative effect of these unintended but very profound and probable consequences of these policies would be a rise in the number of unemployed and unengaged persons who will inevitably resort to crime to make ends meet. This has grave implications for the country's security and has the potential to derail Mr. President's security agenda."

Concerning the new naira notes, the governors urged the President to extend the period for policy implementation and direct the CBN to ensure the availability of the new notes.

"We most respectfully pray Mr President to approve an expanded time frame for the implementation of the policy and direct the CBN to make the new notes available within the enlarged time frame.

"Direct a thorough assessment of the current economic conditions in relation to the implementation of the currency change and cash withdrawal limit policies. Direct that states participate in future policy discussions in order to have revised policies that recognize and consider state differences.

"Consider and approve the putting in place of necessary infrastructure and facilities within a reasonable time frame to facilitate the implementation of the policy, including introducing incentives to encourage the use of digital payment solutions. This will help to reduce the demand for physical cash while also promoting financial inclusion by investing in infrastructure to increase access to financial services.

"Direct that a robust enlightenment campaign be mounted to create sufficient awareness in the citizens of the thrust of the policy. "This will assist people in better understanding the implications of the naira redesign and cash withdrawal limits, as well as how to use digital payment platforms," the governors stated.

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