Udora Orizu reports that the ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives on the redesign and swap policy for the Naira is working closely with the CBN and other key stakeholders to address the scarcity of the newly redesigned currency and the timeline for phasing out the old notes. The Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, announced the redesign of the N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes last October and set a deadline of January 31, 2023, for the return of the old notes to the banks. This decision has sparked a backlash from political leaders, including members of the National Assembly, who are pushing for the deadline to be postponed and for more of the new Naira to be made available to alleviate the hardships faced by citizens.
Last year, the House of Representatives summoned Governor Godwin Emefiele of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to update them on various policies of the bank, including the newly introduced currency and cash withdrawal limits. The CBN had set a weekly withdrawal limit of N100,000 for individuals and N500,000 for corporations and redesigned the N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes, which were to cease being legal tender on January 31, 2023. On the scheduled day of the meeting, Emefiele informed the House that he was out of the country for official business and was re-invited to attend either in person or by proxy. However, he stated that he was still abroad and dealing with some health issues and delegated his deputy to brief the House.
Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila concurred with Emefiele’s absence due to health reasons and encouraged the House to allow his representative to brief them. After listening to the guest’s responses to the House’s concerns, Gbajabiamila stated that the parliament would deliberate on the information and reach a conclusion.
As the House had yet to announce their official stance, they called for a six-month extension for the exchange of old notes and formed an ad-hoc committee led by the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, to address the scarcity of the redesigned currency with the CBN and commercial bank CEOs.
The initial meeting was rescheduled due to a delay in the delivery of invitation letters to the financial institutions, but CBN failed to attend again. The Deputy Governor for Corporate Services, Edward Adamu, wrote to the House stating that the CBN Governor was accompanying President Muhammadu Buhari on a delegation to Dakar, Senegal and was unable to appear before the ad-hoc committee.
Due to the CBN’s failure to attend a scheduled meeting with the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on the naira redesign and swap policy, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila threatened to issue a warrant of arrest on the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and any CEO of a commercial bank who refused to appear before the committee.
Despite the extension of the deadline for exchanging old naira notes to February 10 announced by the CBN after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, the ad-hoc committee, chaired by Majority Leader Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, rejected the extension and demanded that Emefiele honor their invitation.
When Emefiele finally appeared before the committee, he apologized for not appearing earlier due to uncertainties and assured the lawmakers that he was on the same page with them. He and his team first held a brief closed-door meeting with the lawmakers before answering their questions.
The Doguwa committee expressed disappointment over the absence of the CBN Governor, Emefiele, when he was summoned to appear before the ad-hoc committee. The committee softly reminded Emefiele to abide by the laws while implementing the policies.
During the meeting, Emefiele allayed the concerns of the lawmakers that the old notes would still be redeemed after the extended deadline of February 10. The lawmakers appeared satisfied and Doguwa thanked Emefiele, saying that the meeting could have been avoided if Emefiele had given the assurances earlier.
However, as Nigerians continued to face difficulties due to the scarcity of the new naira notes, the Speaker of the House, Gbajabiamila, warned that the House would reconvene before the February 25 elections if the CBN failed to resolve the issue. The House would closely monitor the implementation of the policy, following the meeting with Emefiele.
On February 9, the ad-hoc committee invited the Minister of Finance, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Security, Minting and Printing Company, the Chairman of INEC, and the Director of Currency Operations at the CBN to appear before it. However, the invitees were absent and sent their apologies.
The National Security Adviser (NSA), through a representative, asked the lawmakers to come up with practical solutions to the economic crisis caused by the scarcity of the redesigned naira notes. The representative stated that the policy was affecting military operations and some soldiers on the frontlines were facing financial difficulties.
The Chairman of the committee, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa said the CBN policy was unpopular and had caused hardships for Nigerians. He added that the policy posed a threat to the general elections and the committee was mandated to follow up with all relevant agencies.
The committee decided to invite the Minister of Finance, the Director of Currency Operations, the printing and minting company, the NSA, and the Chairman of INEC. Doguwa added that the committee would use legislative measures to make any absent invitee appear before the committee.
In the coming days, the committee is expected to continue the meeting with the Chairman of INEC, the Minister of Finance, and the Director of Currency Operations, who was absent at the previous meeting.