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Ever since he lost his bid to transfer his cluelessness, insensitivity, and screaming incompetence from Nigeria’s apex bank to Aso Rock, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefelie has not been the same man he was known to have always been. Suddenly, he has found the balls he hitherto lacked, he has remembered his economic theories which he previously never cared about, and for the first time, he seems to be out to fight the rascality in the Nigerian monetary environment. However, the big question is, can a Leopard change its colours? The simple answer is a monosyllabic and resounding, No!
Emefiele is, without any sort of argument, the absolute worst central bank governor that has ever occupied the hallowed position at Nigeria’s apex bank. His insanely absurd monetary policies which were suffocating, to say the least, caused the unprecedented fall of the Naira and the collapse of the economy which has seen Nigeria become the poverty capital of the world. In less than a decade, Emefiele did everything he could to deepen the misery of millions of Nigerians while hastening the deaths of thousands of people whose only crimes were being Nigerians.
Emefiele’s rascality did not start with the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, it began under the Jonathan administration where he was notoriously known for disbursing dollars to politicians at any given prompt. His penchant for corruption earned him a hall-of-fame position under the then-PDP led-government. Following his election in 2015, President Buhari curiously retained him and even renewed his term, precisely because of the questionable deal he struck with the late Ismaila Isa Funtua and other members of the Aso Rock cabal which were basically the engine room of the clueless Buhari government.
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The truth remains that, as obtained in other climes, the person occupying the biggest office in a country’s apex bank should be someone that must be insulated from politics. His neutrality has been seen and acknowledged by all and sundry. Sadly, in Nigeria, the story is quite different. It is safe to posit that Nigeria is a place where politics habitually interferes with rationality and no one seems to care about it. This underscores why Emefiele even had the temerity to run for the highest office in the land under the ruling party while still in position without consequences.
In October, typical of what he had become notorious for, Emefiele sparked controversies when he curiously announced his plan to redesign the Naira. It was so controversial that Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed with whom he was supposed to have synergy had to openly inform the National Assembly that she was not consulted before the decision was arrived at. Although the Buhari led-government had to put up some damage control measures by claiming that the policy had his backing, it did little or nothing to restore confidence in the economy even as the Naira remains on a nosedive.
Back then, the Emefelie led-CBN had come out to announce its decision to redesign N200, N500, and N1000 naira notes as part of moves to transit the country to a cashless economy. This policy has continued to generate mixed reactions among Nigerians who have voiced out reservations about the timing, modalities, and rationale.
It is rather painful that despite the assurances offered by the inept Emefelie in October last year, the announcement of that policy has pushed the Nigerian economy further south. Emefelie had boasted back then that his sole reasons for embarking on the haphazardly planned project were to stem inflation, recover the trillions of naira outside the banking system and prevent ransom collection by kidnappers. While these reasons seemed quite plausible at least on paper, the reality has shown something different.
At first, Emefelie had signaled January 31, 2023 as the deadline for old currencies to leave the system. Thankfully, after several back and forths, he finally bowed to pressure to peg the new deadline on the 10th of February.
Till this point, the new notes have yet to circulate widely or are being rejected by some sections of Nigerians who were not adequately educated about the policy. What is more painful here, perhaps is that the move to engineering a cashless economy is tempered by the shabby infrastructure that is marshaled by slow, expensive Internet connections that cause failed online transactions and ATM cash withdrawals. Nigerians might have entered a ‘one chance’ vehicle driven by Emefelie.
Ever since the new currencies went into circulation on the 15th of December, Nigerians have been making frantic efforts to get their hands on them just to comply with the CBN’s directives, sadly, many of them have tried to no avail to do so. The apex bank had continued to purportedly inject the new currencies into the banking system and it is yet to get to the hands of Nigerians.
It is safe to conclude that the CBN’s deadline is like putting a cart before the horse. While the grace period granted to Nigerians to deposit their old money was 90 days, there was no matching enlightenment and sensitisation campaign by the CBN as well as other government agencies. The blame game between the CBN and Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) has merely compounded or worsened the scarcity of the new notes. Whereas the CBN has insisted that it has released the new notes to banks in sufficient quantities to load into their respective Automated Teller Machines (ATM), the banks on their part continue to dispense the old notes to the chagrin of exasperated Nigerians. Now, Nigerians eager to obtain the new notes can’t get them.
What can however, be established here is that it is either Emefelie is not telling the honest truth about these new currencies or he is failing in his responsibilities to checkmate the banks which he supervises. Either way, the scarcity will not be this profound if he was not inept, incompetent, and clueless.
The truth remains that the whole exercise to end the usage of old naira notes when the new notes are still a scarce commodity seems like a well-calculated attempt to impoverish Nigerians to ensure that they are gullible, poor, and hungry during the 2023 general election, which will make it quite easy for them to sell their votes to the highest bidders. Some people have argued that the introduction of the new notes is targeted at politicians who have hoarded the Naira, but the big question is, what measures have Emefelie put in place to ensure that these rogue politicians do not go behind the counter to strike deals with bank managers? Absolutely nothing!
Sometime in May last year when rumours of his intention to contest for Presidency were still rife, Emefelie had hit back at Nigerians who went all out to question the correctitude of his choices saying that they would die of a heart attack. At that time, he was even seen in a video saying, ‘it’s good to have (a)heart attack’ and that he is ‘having a lot of fun.’ This clearly captures Emefelie’s mindset and what he thinks of Nigerians. It is safe to conclude that while Nigerians are currently groaning under hardship, he is probably somewhere waiting for when they will die of a ‘heart attack’.
In saner climes, central bank governors are known for their independence and decorum. They are known for the patriotic efforts they make to help their economy grow. They are known for speaking truth to power. For example, Andrew Bailey, the Bank of England Governor, recently told the parliament that because of the perception that former Prime Minister Liz Truss mishandled the tax rate cut policy, international investors were still wary of lending to the UK. Last September, the Pound crashed and government borrowing costs increased after Truss pledged a huge package of tax cuts without an explanation on how to fund them. This caused mortgage rates to rise to a 14-year high in the UK. The BoE intervened to calm financial markets after the chaos put some pension funds at risk. In Nigeria, there is no difference between the CBN governor and a partisan politician. This reality must change if Nigerians will ever stand a chance at redemption.
In conclusion, while Nigerians continue to lament the scarcity of the new notes, they must find ways of mounting pressure on all the authorities concerned to make their lives easier and better. Emefelie and his goons cannot continue to hold them to ransom for their selfish political reasons. Nigerians must unite and speak with one voice to save themselves from the shenanigans currently being displaced by its apex bank.