This piece will not be complete without reference to the military government of General Muhammadu Buhari, the then Head of State and Brigadier General Tunde Idiagbon, the chief of staff supreme headquarters. The duo came into office via military coup in 1983 to herald the year 1984. Waking up from sleep that night to hear military music on the radio, many Nigerians were of the views that the Alhaji Shehu Shagari civilian government that came into power in 1979 have nothing to offer again considering the monumental failures that have accompanied his government. At this time the nation’s currency was losing its value like no tomorrow.
Just from the blue, the government announced that it was changing the country’s currency within seven days. The announcement by the government was powerful. The people were told to go to the bank to change the old currency but the amount an individual can change including companies was spelt out and the duration was for seven days only including Sunday.
The banking industry were warned strongly not to change more than the stipulated amount and must also not receive any amount that is higher than the stipulate into any bank account and this was strictly adhered to because nobody wants to be tested with the laws of the military regime that knows no brother, sister or relations. One thing that was surprising to Nigerians at that time was that the laws changing the currency were issued within twenty four or forty eight hours and not a week or months and it took effect. Most of the politicians that store money at that time could not change the money and they were wasted. No wonder in the streets of Lagos at that time it was not unusual seeing bags of money thrown into the drainages by those that were caught napping by the government.
At the expiration of the program cost of commodities went down considerably and even the dollars and pounds sterling reversed themselves in line with the national currency. The power of the national currency was stronger and better. The economy was gloomy but it went up slowly to regain its prime place. The nation once again regains its lost glory and respect in the international communities all over the world.
For the past seven years, rather than take that giant step to control the falling naira and the economy the Buhari government was moving directionless like an abandoned baby in the garden. Why the Buhari led government has refused to take this great step all these years can only be explained by Buhari and his aimless appointees. This appears to have confirmed the believe by many Nigerians that all the success attributed to the Buhari military government were actually the handwork of the late General Tunde Idiagbon of blessed memory. For the past one week the social media was on fire spreading the news that the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria has announced the re-designation of some denominations of the nation currency.
Not wanting the people to be confused the governor himself have issued a statement to the effect that the #200; #500 and #1,000 will be affected. However, some rumor mongers have been spreading fake news that the government have introduced #5000 to the denomination but this have been refuted by the apex bank of the country and it remains so. According to the apex bank governor, by the end of January 2023, the aforementioned currency will seize to exist and will no longer be accepted as the country’s legal tender.
Before the apex bank governor completed his statement to the people of the country the finance minister told the world that she was not consulted and so the policy appears to be that of the governor of the bank. Several online users took on her squarely.
Some financial experts began to question the rationale behind her statement. We are all aware that this is a country where a Lawyer can become a minister for works, industry, and economy and so on. This is a country where a primary school leaver will head an economy office of the federal government without an eye lid. It is a fact that a JSS 4 student in the secondary school knows about the functions of the central bank and the commercial banks. The students are also aware of the functions of the minister of finance of the country.
I have personally gone through the constitution of the country and have not come across a clause or section where the office of the central bank governor is made to report to the finance minister. The statement of the finance minister appears that she has an interest to serve and such interest will be seriously and negatively affected if she did not take control of the apex bank. While the governor of the bank have told Nigerians that the president of the country was aware and gave the go ahead, the minister for finance was not elected into the position and should stop claiming what does not belong to her office.
I will not be surprised if the minister for justice of the country will not wake up tomorrow and tell the nation that he supposed gave the order before the nation currency could be re-design. I will not be surprised if Festus Keyamu should call the governor to order for not consulting him before taking this decision.
Travelling on a journey recently in a loaded bus, a passenger brought out the sum of #1,000 only as his transport fare and the driver rejected the money on the ground that it will not be accepted. This brought an argument and I decided to collect the money but the money was too dirty and it appears it was stored for years. I politely told the passenger to change the money for the driver. He brought out his purse and all the money running into thousands of naira was not different. It was then he told us that he was invited to the house of a top politician which he refused to mention to plaster a house and after four days he was paid but did not have the audacity to reject the dirty money.
In actual sense the policy of the apex bank governor will not achieved the desire result, one which is to make redundant all the ill stolen wealth stored over the years by the looting politicians. All these money will find their ways into the commercial banks before the time lag since the policy gave about three months rather than a week. The governor did not also make it compulsory for the commercial banks not to accept above certain level money to be deposited by individuals and companies. In this way all the money will recycle themselves into the hand and pockets of these people that looted them in the first place. The policy is dead on arrival in the sense that the position of the finance minister even though illegal if left unchecked and monitored will add to the currency woes that the country is already grappling with.
The minister may not have spoken alone because such statement appears on behalf of the powerful lots in the society and they will do everything to sabotage the program. This is a further confirmation that the Buhari government from day one did not have the knowledge of how best to manage a wobbling economy which it has ploughed the nation into over the past seven years or so.
While these powerful men and women are shooting their weapons from all cylinders, the nation’s economy will be worst for it. One may not be surprised if fake currency dominates the scene after the expiration of the time frame. The people too may be in for a worst moment if the war ranging by this duo is not checked by the president. The national assembly cannot be trusted to wade into this matter since in this country, all the probes and counter probes initiated by the national assembly appears to be a case where a supper looters were sent to arrest penny thieves and the result will always be zero.
The Niger Delta Development Commission probes where most of the national assembly members were indicted come to mind. All the probes of the national assembly were comedy resulting in ‘off the mic’’ syndrome. At the end of the day I will not be surprised if the amount spent in re-designing the aforementioned denominations trigger the value and achievement which ought to have accrued to the nation confers. While it is good for the apex bank to go ahead with the policy, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and ICPC should be deployed to monitored the nation’s banks to ensure that all these stolen funds did not find their way back into the system and those arrested should be prosecuted while such funds are forfeited to the federal government. No stone should be left unturned in ensuring the success of the program. Before it is too late the federal government should sack the minister for finance while her tenure should be probed by an independent committee set up by the presidency so that such unruly behavior will not rear its ugly head in the nearest future.
Joseph Esivwenughwu is a Chartered Accountant, Politician and Analyst.