By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.
The CBN late last year, came up with the naira swap and a re-invention of the cashless economy monetary policies. The 21st century global economy is going cashless and Nigeria needs not to be left behind. Naira swap is done periodically in every economy for a variety of reasons. With Nigeria’s insecurity challenges, curbing kidnapping and banditry seemed to be on the fore cards of what is to be gained from the swap, including of course mopping up looted funds out of circulation. It was a maverick formula and no C-in-C would not give it his approval and blessings. 90 days was the estimated period for this to happen and from the get-go, many did not see the mayhem that was to ensue from this policy.
After the expiation of the 90 days deadline and an extension of 10 days, nothing seems to have changed. The new notes are not available. There is an acute shortage of the notes, and meanwhile, the old notes have been mopped up by the CBN through the banks. An estimated 3 trillion has been taken away, which is being replaced by an estimated 300 billion or even much less. The country is in crises and untold hardship is visited upon the people. The weight of hardship that the common man has been carrying from different angles, is further aggravated by the naira swap policy and petrol scarcity. The petrol scarcity is another huge impasse that has held the common man by the neck for decades, which is largely responsible for the sky-rocketing of food prices and other inflationary tendencies of the economy. There is simply no respite for the masses and the hardship continues to build up like the debris of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Riots have begun across the country, and some banks have been forced to close their branches in some regions, and some nationwide.
The swap has also generated a lot of tension between the Presidency and the governors of the ruling APC. Elections are around the corner and the government’s seeming aloofness to the cries of the public has been of major concern to the Governors and of course all APC faithfuls. The APC seemed to have it in the kitty, leading the polls and the campaigns of the 2023 elections. Their campaigns have been the most driven, strategic and crowded, with the Presidential flagbearer leading the most ambitious, co-ordinated and organised campaigns in the history of Presidential campaigns yet. Rallies have been going on along with townhall meetings, summits, conferences with traditional and religious leaders, as well as dialogues with business leaders and youth groups all across the country. There has been non like it really. Everyone that matters is being carried along. From the way the campaigns have ensued, there was no stopping the APC Presidential flagbearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, until the naira swap policy ran into hitches, which has caused mayhem and discontent across the country.
While the APC hierarchy and its governors are concerned with their chances at the polls, and the Presidency is denying any actions inimical to the success of the ruling party, and insisting that its policies are purely economic and for strategic security reasons, the poor Nigerian is suffering this very draconian policy that has poorly hit the ground running. People are toiling in a cash strapped economy. An economy that has always had more than 60% of its population as ‘unbanked’. Just recently, there were protests on the streets of Amsterdam against the country’s Central Bank, over its digital currency policy, as they insisted that it was a threat to their privacy. So no matter the clime or the advancement in technology, the polity is also important and key, in the implementation of these policies. A cashless Nigeria is very far away, as the reality is that some states have banks in just 3 local government headquarters, including the state capital. As it is, the lower denominations which were not affected by the swap, are not in ample supply, neither are the new notes, just as the old notes have also disappeared. What has the poor man done to the system? What is his grave sin?
The Presidency is speaking for itself, the APC is doing the same, and so is CBN. The Supreme Court has also been dragged into this basic economic policy issue that can be better handled by the country’s economic advisers or economic management team. It has turned into a huge turf war, with all the political lacerations that can protract it unnecessarily. In all of this, the common man is to continue suffering for this. Isn’t there a sane head up there somewhere, that can be just and fair minded, and have the interest of the common man on the streets at heart, and take the most rational decision? What exactly is the sin of 200 million Nigerians, that they have to suffer and groan under the agony of such a vexatious policy? While we are at it, pulling our strings and throwing machinations and manipulations left right and centre; isn’t going to change whom God has chosen to lead this country. His name has been written by the King of Kings and is cast in gold by The Lord Almighty. Not just the naira swap, even if a national identity swap is to take place before the elections, God has his winner beyond anyone’s control. Someone up there should put a stop to this chaos before the wrath of God befalls those that are causing our collective suffering.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi.