Nigerians are passing through hell due to the scarcity of the new naira notes recently introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in pursuant of its cashless policy. While launching the policy, we were told that it would mop up the N2.7 trillion outside the banking system, shore up the value of the naira, curb illicit cash inflows, and prevent politicians from vote-buying and other fanciful things.
Many Nigerians had thought that shifting the deadline from January 31 to February 10 will make the banks release the new notes issued to them by the CBN. But the reverse is now the case. The situation is getting worse every day. To get N10,000 of the new naira note in Lagos, you must be willing to part with N1000 or even more. In other parts of the country you will part with N2000. Suddenly, the new naira note has become an essential commodity to be hoarded by the POS operators and by illiterate women at wedding and Owambe parties while the CBN looks the other way.
The commercial banks are hoarding the new naira notes. The CBN is aware of this sabotage. That is why it must punish any erring bank. If this is the way to operate the cashless economy, many Nigerians would opt out of it. A cashless economy does not mean that one cannot find money to buy akara , crayfish or sachet water, which many Nigerians call ‘pure water’ regardless of whether it is pure or not. The new naira design or redesign policy is a good initiative but its implementation is muddled up.
Other countries do it without inflicting untold suffering on their people. The British government has embarked on one of such changes flowing the death of Queen Elizabeth II. They want to replace her image with that of her son, King Charles III. Britons have not been made to be on endless queues or be made to go to the banks that cannot dispense the new notes. They are not forced to patronize extortionist POS operators who will literally sell the new money. Whenever Emefiele appears on television to espouse the benefits of the redesigned naira, N1000, N500 and N200, you will think that Nigeria is the right place to be where everything works in a normal way.
But Nigeria is not a place to be. It is even the worst place to be on account of rising insecurity, poverty and unemployment. It is the worst place for one to be a mother or give birth to a baby. Think of thousands of women who die annually while giving birth to new babies. Think of thousands of Nigerian children who die annually during birth due to our poor health system. Why are our youths migrating to Europe and America? The Japa syndrome is promoted by bad leaders and bad governance. Nigerian youths and professionals troop to United States, United Kingdom and Canada in search of greener pastures.
They want to change their fortunes even if it means washing plates and cleaning toilets abroad, a sort of second slavery. Whether they succeed or not in their new home is nothing to worry about. Their target is to leave Naija and face anything. Are our leaders perturbed that Nigeria is dying? Why are hundreds of Nigerians renouncing their citizenship? The brain drain in the health sector is tacitly reinforced by our leaders who refused to equip our hospitals and give doctors enhanced pay. It is supported by our leaders who encourage medical tourism.
For the better part of yesterday, I could not make money transfer to pay for a purchase. Many of my friends had a similar experience. Emefiele should be told clearly that the scarcity of the new naira notes will vitiate whatever good thing the new policy will bring about. Although cashless economy is worth giving a trial, it cannot in itself do those laudable things the government and its CBN said it would do. There is an inseparable link between a nation’s economy and its politics. The two are like Siamese twins. If the politics is toxic, the economy will invariably be toxic. We need good managers of the economy to manage our political leadership, to be in charge of our political leadership. Whether the naira notes are redesigned or not, Nigerian politicians will still find a way of inducing voters. They can do so through gratuitous money transfer, unsolicited gifts, threats and blackmail.
Has the new cashless policy stopped terrorism or rising insecurity? The answer is in the negative. Has it shored up the value of the naira? Rather than do that the value of the naira is depreciating on a daily basis. Why must we always be in a hurry to execute certain government’s policies? The new naira notes and the old ones can be used simultaneously until the CBN mops up the old ones. All the shifts in the deadlines would have been unnecessary if such policies are given a human face or done without inflicting distress on Nigerians.
We should learn to do things like other countries, like a civilized people. Any policy of government which inflicts suffering on the people is not worth it. It must be jettisoned. Why must Nigerians be made to suffer for almost everything? Nigerians queue endlessly under the sun to register for their permanent voter cards (PVCs). They also queue for days to collect their PVCs. To deposit the old naira notes, they are forced to queue in the banks from now to February 10 when the new deadline will elapse. To get the new naira notes, they will suffer and offer generous commissions, a euphemism for bribery and corruption. In the 2022 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released recently, Nigeria as usual did not do well. Why? Corruption walks on four toes in Nigeria. Ask those in the ministries, departments and agencies of government. Yesterday I got many happy new month messages from friends in Nigeria and abroad. I am not particularly moved by this expression of goodwill or good wishes which many Nigerians indulge in these days. It started with happy Christmas and New Year to happy new month.
Some even wish people happy Friday and in fact happy every new day. Get me right, there is nothing wrong with such expression of love or good wishes. My only worry is that we are apparently overdoing them. Very soon it will be the turn of Happy Valentine Day on February 14 as if it is the only date for lovers. Some people have turned that date as a day of iniquity and other inanities.
What is happy in the month of February that Nigerians are queueing endlessly at the filling stations to buy fuel at N400 and N500 or even more depending on the part of the country you are residing? I am yet to see the happiness in the new month that one cannot even see or touch the CBN new naira notes. I don’t want to talk about the reported poor quality of the new naira notes. It will be a topic for another day. A new month ushered in with scarcity of fuel, electricity, water, food and the new naira. There is nothing happy about our new month.
Incidentally, it is the same month we would be made to be on long queues to vote in our new leaders, our brand new servant-leaders. My prayer is that we shall not vote into office our oppressors, those who took part in inflicting these wounds on all of us. We will vote for visionary and purposeful leadership. Enough of voting into power destiny destroyers and selfish and nepotistic leaders. Enough of having mediocrities in power. Enough of recycling old leaders and people that cannot do the job. We need a clean break from our bad past.