Nigerians say the planned currency restructuring policy by the CBN is a misplaced priority.
Scores of protesters on Tuesday stormed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) headquarters in Abuja to register their disapproval of the proposed issuance of the N5, 000 notes and the restructuring of the country’s currency.
The protesters, led by the Anti-Corruption Network, defied the early morning down-pour and the heavy security presence around the bank’s premises to stage a peaceful demonstration denouncing the policy. Since the policy was first made public by the CBN, it has received huge criticisms by Nigerians and the National Assembly.
The protesters wielding placards with various inscriptions sang the country’s National Anthem and other protest songs condemning the currency restructuring. They say the initiative is a misplaced priority.
The protesters, who gathered outside the CBN premises at about 9:45 am, were monitored by a detachment of security operatives, including armed soldiers, operatives of the state security service (SSS), and the Police.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read: “N5, 000 notes, haram, N5, 000 notes, haram,” “Nigerians say no to Sanusi’s crooked notes”and“Sanusi’s notes will aid Boko Haram, corruption.”
Under the proposed currency restructuring, the present N20, N10 and N5 notes would be converted into coins.
But, the protesters say that the ‘coinage’ arrangement would eliminate the contributions to the nation’s development of political leaders (Tafawa Balewa, Alvan Ikoku and Murtala Muhammed) whose faces are on the notes respectively.
Executive Secretary of the network and former member, House of Representatives, Dino Melaye, said that the CBN’s controversial action would send wrong signals to the world that the value of the national currency – the Naira – is worthless and weak, and that more is needed to transact businesses.
Mr. Melaye urged the Federal Government and the regulatory banking institution to stop the exercise in view of the likely negative socio-economic impact on ordinary Nigerians. He vowed to mobilise Nigerians to frustrate the policy.
Mr. Melaye held that the planned introduction of the N5, 000 contradicts clearly the policy stance of the apex bank on cashless and electronic banking. He said that introduction of N5, 000 notes would further devaluate the national currency with the attendant negative implications.
“We want to say that the CBN Governor and indeed the Federal Government has proven that they are not a responsible and responsive government. The policy is unnecessary and will serve no useful purpose,” he said.
According to Mr. Melaye, “It is unfortunate that the same government that is talking about cashless economy, electronic banking and N150,000 maximum daily withdrawal is now introducing N5,000, which one bail is half a million Naira and a bundle is N2.5million.”
“Since Sanusi became the CBN governor, it has been one harsh policy or another. Interest rate is still at double digit level. The dust raised by Sanusi’s audit and nationalisation of banks are yet to settle,” the former lawmaker said.
“The over N40 billion earmarked for the N5,000 notes and the wasteful resources for its enlightenment campaigns can add about 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity into our national grid,” he argued.
The former lawmaker compared the CBN’s proposed N5, 000 to what obtains in the U.S. where the largest denomination is $100 and in the UK where it is 50 pounds.
The CBN Deputy Governor (Operation), Tunde Lemo, came in the company of the FCT Police Commissioner, Adenrele Shinaba, and other officials of the bank to address the protesters by 11:50 a.m. He was heralded by chants of the protesters denouncing the policy.
Mr. Lemo received the protest letter from the group on behalf of CBN management and re- assured Nigerians that the currency restructuring exercise would not worsen the socio-economic hardship of ordinary Nigerians as being speculated by a broad section of the public.