*Ganduje, Akeredolu head to Supreme Court over swap deadline, withdrawal limits
*Lawan: No need for swap time limit
*Obaseki prohibits use of cash in Edo govt offices from March 1
Deji Elumoye in Abuja, Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano, Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The National Council of State (NCS) has tasked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make the new Naira notes available or recirculate the old Naira notes to ease the current suffering of Nigerians.
The CBN had in October 2022 announced the redesign of N200, N500, and N1,000 notes, and asked Nigerians to deposit their old notes before January 31, 2023 when they would cease to be legal tender.
The deadline was shifted to February 10 following difficulties obtaining the new notes.
Thereafter, governors of Kaduna, Zamfara and Kogi states dragged the federal government and the CBN to the Supreme Court over the time limit, and the court gave an interim order suspending the February 10 deadline.
It also emerged yesterday that the governors of Kano and Ondo states, Abdullahi Ganduje, Rotimi Akeredolu, respectively, have approached the Supreme Court over the swap deadline, withdrawal limits.
Rising from its maiden hybrid meeting in 2023 yesterday, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Council, however, expressed its support for the government’s new monetary policy, but tasked the apex bank to take urgent steps to arrest the scarcity of cash plaguing the country.
These resolutions, at the end of the meeting held at the Council Chambers of the State House, Abuja, were made known to newsmen by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, alongside the governors of Lagos and Taraba states, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Darius Ishaku, respectively, and Media Adviser to the President, Femi Adesina.
Malami said the two major issues deliberated by the Council members were the level of preparedness for the upcoming general elections, stating that both the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Alkali Baba, had assured of adequate readiness.
According to him, the briefing on the new monetary policy, including the re-designing of some categories of the naira, elicited reactions and opinions, adding that the conclusion was that the CBN should do more to ensure there was circulation of adequate cash in the system to alleviate the harsh realities trailing the policy.
Malami said: “So by way of conclusion, the two major resolutions that were driven, arriving from the deliberations of the Council, are one that we are on course as far as election is concerned and we are happy with the level of preparation by INEC and the institutions.
“Two, relating to the naira re-designed policy, the policy stands, but then the Council agreed that there is need for aggressive action on the part of the Central Bank, as it relates to the implementation of the policy by way of ensuring adequate provision being made with regard to the supply of the naira in the system.”
Shedding more light on the proceedings of the meeting, Governor Ishaku disclosed that the most contentious issue was the cash scarcity, which had led to protests in some parts of the country, as a result of the hardships that had attended the new cash-swap policy of the CBN.
He said the Council advised the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, to make the re-designed naira denominations of N1,000, N500 and N200 available by printing more or if printing would be difficult, the apex bank should re-circulate the old notes.
Ishaku said: “The INEC Chairman briefed the Council of State on their preparedness for the election on the 25th of this month and that of the 11th of next month that they are fully prepared. “Also, the Inspector-General of Police briefed the Council that they are equally prepared for the election and both of them gave us the details of their preparedness.
“Lastly was the Governor of the Central Bank, who briefed us on the monetary change and the monetary issues that have arisen across the whole states in the Federation and to give us the merits of that policy that was implemented.
“Basically, what took more time was that of the monetary issue because of the hardship of money in circulation across the whole states. Generally, the view across the board is that principally the policy is accepted.
“Just like any new policy or any new change, at the beginning people resist it, even though it’s good, but generally it’s accepted. But the major issue across the board, from all the states and most of the speakers, is that of implementation. So many views were proffered, particularly that the CBN governor should look into making sure that the new money is available in quantum.
“There were suggestions too that if the new money is not in circulation or printing them could be difficult, the old money that hasn’t been changed could be re-circulated and pumped into circulation to ease the tension, particularly for the poor people in our society, who’ll just need a little sum of money to buy their food, buy their drugs, on daily basis and they cannot even afford it.
“So the pains and the sentiments across the country are being expressed by different governors, my colleagues, and I think, collectively, all these ideas, Mr. President was present, are to proffer solutions and advices to Mr. President and he was there physically, he was present, so I’m sure that after this meeting, a lot of things will be done, particularly in easing the monetary tension in the society.”
Also speaking after a separate meeting with the President, President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, said he informed President Buhari that the National Assembly had resolved that there should be no cap on currency swap policies because of the way the scenario is now playing out and how it impacts the constituents.
According to him: “For us in the Senate, initially we felt that this policy, in the first place, is not a bad one, but we also feel there is no need for a time limit. Allow the old and the new to co-exist until the old is phased out. So, what is wrong with that? This is not going to be the first country to deploy it that way, other countries have been doing the same thing and to say that in three months it will be okay, it is not okay, especially in a country like ours, where maybe 80, 85, 90 per cent of the population have no access to banks.
“When Britain changed their currency, it took them over a year to change and the validity of the old remained a legal tender, so why ours? We are not cashless yet and that society is cashless already and they needed even more time.
“So, we should have an open-ended time, but what will make it quick is for us to have more and more of the new currencies and then they co-exist with the old ones until the old dies a natural death.”
The Council of State is an organ of the federal government saddled with the responsibility of advising the executive on policy making.
The council, which has the President as Chairman and Vice President as Deputy Chairman, has all former presidents and Heads of State, all former Chief Justices of Nigeria, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, all state governors and Attorney-General of the Federation, as members.
Yesterday’s meeting of the Council was attended by former Heads of State, Generals Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar, as well as former President Godluck Jonathan.
The hybrid meeting had former President Olusegun Obasanjo joining virtually.
About 14 governors also attended the meeting both physically and virtually with some represented by their deputy governors.
Others in attendance included Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, two former Chief Justices of Nigeria, President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila.
Kano, Ondo states Sue FG, CBN
Meanwhile, the Ondo State Government has filed a suit against the federal government at the Supreme Court over the CBN’s directives on cash withdrawal limits.
The Ondo government asked the apex court to stop the implementation of the policy.
In an originating summon filed and signed by the Attorney-General of the state, Mr. Charles Titiloye, the government prayed the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the directive issued by the federal government through the CBN on limitation of daily cash withdrawals from banks which, it said, had totally paralysed the activities of Ondo State and has adversely affected economic and commercial activities in the state.
The statement issued by the Special Assistant to the AG, Kola Adeniyi, said, “The Ondo State Government contended that the guideline on daily maximum cash withdrawal made by the federal government is an infraction on the legal rights of Ondo State Government and its citizens to access funds for execution of developmental projects, small credit facilities to petty traders (who have no account in banks) and highly detrimental to daily commercial activities in the state.
“Ondo State Government urged the Supreme Court to declare that the federal government cannot by directive issued through Central Bank of Nigeria, amend or vary an existing Act of National Assembly, particularly Section 2 of Money Laundering Act, which relates specifically to limitations on cash withdrawals for individual and corporate organisation to N5 million and N10 million respectively. The updated guidelines issued by CBN now place maximum withdrawal for individual and corporate organisations at N500,000 and N5 million respectively.
“Ondo State Government is asking the Supreme Court to decide whether the guidelines issued by the federal government on maximum daily cash withdrawal and the continuous suffering and hardship caused by the implementation of the said policy is not in conflict with the express provision of Section 2 of the Money Laundering Act, Sections 20, 39 and 42 of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act.
“Ondo State Government averred that while it has more than 149 ministries, departments and agencies to run on daily basis in a state with more than three million people, less than 500,000 people have bank accounts through which bank transfer can be made. Consequently, the policy of the Federal Government has totally paralysed the economy of the state.
“Ondo State Government averred that the citizens of Ondo State now spend precious hours at bank ATMs waiting to collect the new naira notes, while citizens in the rural areas and villages without banks and Internet facilities have been shut out from receiving or transferring money to meet their daily economic needs.”
The government urged the apex court to intervene and stop further implementation of the said federal government policy.
Also, the Kano State Government on Thursday filed a suit against the federal government at the Supreme Court in respect of the naira redesign policy of the CBN.
The Kano State Attorney General, through his Counsel, Sunusi Musa, SAN, is asking the apex court to declare that President Buhari cannot unilaterally direct the CBN to recall the now-old N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes without recourse to the Federal Executive Council and National Economic Council, respectively.
The Kano government is praying for a mandatory order seeking a reversal of the federal government policy to recall the N200, N500 and N1,000 notes from circulation due to the policy affecting the economic well-being of over 20 million Kano citizens.
The applicant is also seeking for a mandatory order, compelling the federal government to reverse the naira redesign policy for alleged failure to comply with the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The applicant is similarly praying the apex court to compel the federal government to reverse the cash swap policy for allegedly not complying with the 1999 constitution and other extant legislation.
Obaseki Prohibits Use of Cash in Govt Offices from March 1
The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has said beginning from March 1, 2023, the state government will prohibit the use of cash in government offices.
The governor disclosed this during a Code of Ethics engagement with senior management staff of the Edo State civil/Public Service, as part of the state government’s transformation enhancement programme (Edo STEP), held at the Government House, in Benin City.
He said, “I have issued a circular that effective March 1st, government offices will be prohibited from using cash. The government is pushing toward a cashless economy. So, why must the service dodge transparency? We should be able to explain every amount we spend and how we earned it.”
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