Recent happenings in the global economy have made it clear that a reorganization of countries’ economic policies is mandatory.
Nigeria, like some nations, has been negatively affected by the recent economic challenges and, as a result, has plunged into rising inflation and currency speculation, which, if left unchecked, will ultimately take the country back into another recession.
High inflation is a precursor to currency depreciation, which in turn makes a currency more attractive at a low inflation rate.
This reality is the major factor driving Nigeria’s central bank to redesign the naira with a view to pursuing its cashless policy.
This is an agreed-upon international economic norm that also addresses currency counterfeiting with attendant durability and improved security features.
Moreover, the policy will, in the long run, address the emerging rampant kidnapping (ransom payments) challenges through its cash withdrawal limit, thereby mopping up excess liquidity in circulation.
In this regard, the CBN forecasts the mopping up of at least two trillion naira in unbanked liquidity from circulation.
In spite of the enumerated merits and several other benefits, violent protests were recorded in some parts of the country due to either the desire to sabotage the policy or frustration occasioned by a sudden change from the norm.
Either way, there are no justifiable reasons for vandalizing bank facilities and maltreating the staff.
However, both opponents and proponents of the policy argued for or against the policy. While the latter bases its argument on the merits (short, medium, and long terms), the former bases its argument on the timing and implementation, which obviously have created wide gaps in the banking system as well as the delay by the CBN in rolling out the new currencies so as to quickly address the observable challenges.
In theory, the reasons advanced are no doubt genuine and seem to be effective in arresting the current economic situation if genuinely over two trillion Naira have been mopped up in circulation within this period and that the rate of kidnapping has dropped to a minimal level due to the inability of the criminals to have access to the ransom demand.
On the other hand, a lot of rural dwellers (especially traders) do not own bank accounts, and where this exists, the main challenge is network and system failures from the banks.
These are just among many other reasons advanced by the sincere opponents of the policy.
It is noted that public policies are usually difficult to adopt; while a policy might be excellent in its true sense, public confidence takes time to build.
At times, public confidence may not be won initially, and where it is won, it may drop due to improper implementation.
Accordingly, and in order to achieve the aims of the policy, the CBN must address the following:
- Awareness campaigns: In partnership with the National Orientation Agency, the CBN should intensify awareness campaigns in order to boost people’s confidence in opening accounts and ultimately adopt the policy.
- Network enhancement: Today, many banks are either not working due to network failure or huge traffic on the banks’ servers. Banks should be made to address this with a timeline.
- Roll out super agents—Before December, the CBN claimed to have licensed and posted super agents in some states. Due to the current realities, the CBN should be rolled out more in all states, especially in rural areas. This should be done within the shortest period of time.
- Minting more notes: The bank should print only the quantity it intends to have in circulation. Otherwise, the goal will be defeated.
The politicization of the policy by a few limits the public’s ability to see the good in the policy. This confirms the saying of the international community that Nigerians are the only ones that can solve their problems.
Else, how can this policy push someone who doesn’t have up to 10,000 Naira in weekly spending capacity to now claim to vandalize banks due to a lack of funds?
In this period, it is also possible to see a lot of activity in those 45 million bank accounts not linked to BVN. This should also be checked.
Some people (including bank staff) are seen hoarding the new notes, while others are seen daily in various ATMs with tens of debit cards to obtain the new notes, all in the name of genuine withdrawals, which hasn’t been so before now.
It is futile to ascribe any single policy change to criminality.
A lot of those involved in such criminality behave well once they step out of the country, all out of fear for the laws of the country they visit.
It is thus necessary for more equipping of the police and more support for Nigeria’s security agents by the government and its citizens. Neglecting that can spell doom.
THOSE CRIMINALS MUST BE BROUGHT TO BOOK.
In addition to the cashless policy, this administration will only do good to Nigerians by fully executing the e-government policy among MDAs and totally removing the so-called fuel subsidy as a parting gift to Nigerians.
One thing is for sure: Nigeria is bedeviled by economic and security exigencies that warrant this kind of policy change, which should be well implemented by the CBN.
A report shows that the U.S. Federal Reserve accomplished a feat in testing a design for a U.S. digital dollar that, in one of two tests, managed to handle 1.7 million transactions per second.
This is an indication of the possibility for the Nigerian banks to, within a short period of time, enhance their software and also for the CBN to liaise with the NCC in addressing the network failures.
Overall, the CBN cashless policy is excellent given the emerging economic and security realities and should be allowed to stay.
In addressing the lingering issues, the CBN should work with all relevant stakeholders and extend the date on which the old notes will cease to be legal tender.
Also, the old notes should be used to temporarily fill in the gap in the amount aimed for circulation.
God bless Nigeria.
Marwan Haruna Abdulkarim (PhD) is the executive Director, Delayed Sustainability and Resource Institute.