Headlinenews correspondents report an explosive interview with a former Deputy Governor of the CBN, Chief Adebayo Adelabu – the Accord Party Gubernatorial Candidate for Oyo State regarding the reality of the currency swap project of the CBN.
This interview reveals the way the cash scarcity has eroded the gains of the cash economy and financial inclusion.
The National Patriots SW Coordinator, Oluwaseyi Ogunde was in attendance to appreciate the professional opinion and explore possible damage control options for alleviating the suffering of the people.
Chief Adelabu analysed the current Naira and Petrol scarcity, confirming that the cash crisis in the country has eroded the gains and benefit of the cashless economy and financial inclusion policy of the last fifteen years, initiated by Goodluck Jonathan.
Question: Chief, having served as a Deputy Governor in the CBN, especially as the DG Operations, what in your opinion could the CBN have done differently to avoid the ongoing cash scarcity induced by the New Naira Project? Would you agree with many Nigerians that the timing of this Currency Swap is inappropriate and the modus operandi awkward and doomed for failure? Could one be right in assuming that this is deliberate as the Apex Bank management ought to be more professional in the planning & execution of the Naira Project if at all its projected for 2023. Wouldn’t a time line after the Elections been more realistic to initiate it, and a concurrent programme?
Answer: Two things are happening now in Nigeria.
The first one is fuel scarcity which affects everyone. We are now buying fuel for more than double the price we used to buy it.
I don’t want to say I don’t believe in what is going on but there is a conspiracy theory going around, it looks more like it, all the signs show that they likely want to disrupt this election.
Nigerians have not experienced fuel scarcity like this in the last seven years, even December periods.
But why this time is what is hard to believe that it is not sabotage, I’m not saying that it is sabotage but it is hard to believe because it is too coincidental. If they want to prove us wrong, they need to ease the fuel scarcity between now and the time of election.
The APC administration has made fuel available for Nigerians for the last seven years. Why is it now happening at the twilight of this administration?
Petrol is the easiest to flood this country with because we have not been producing so much locally, we are importing and those import partners have not stopped production. They have been receiving foreign currency in sale of crude oil, the currency is used to pay for importation of petroleum products including subsidy. So why the scarcity?
I believe that for them to prove us wrong, they need to flood the market with petrol and diesel in the next two weeks and the price needs to go back to normal.
Petrol, which is N180 to N185 per litre is being sold for between N300 to N350 freely in the market and nobody is arresting them and you know the impact of this on the cost of living of our people.
Petrol is so paramount to our livelihood because it affects every aspect of our lives.
Look at inflation now, prices of things have really skyrocketed, it’s because of this energy cost.
If they want to prove to us that this is not conspiracy, deliberate and orchestrated plan to disrupt the transition, they need to flood the market with petrol at normal price.
The other one is the scarcity of cash, it is unfortunate. If I were to be in CBN now as Deputy Governor (Operations), all these would have fallen under my purview because it is the currency management directorate of CBN that handles it which was under me as the CBN deputy Governor.
Ordinarily, all CBN policies are guided by the CBN Act and it has actually envisaged every step of the CBN.
The Act has made provision for every activity and policy of the CBN. It spells out how it should be run. This is not only in CBN, it is also in any government establishment, even in private establishments.
But the moment implementation of a policy has political undertone, there is a problem, you are going to be cutting corners.
The idea of introducing new currency started during my stay at the CBN as DG operations, but a lot of things stopped it.
We were looking at the bigger picture – what is really the advantage of changing our currencies?
We need to look beyond politicians stashing up cash for elections for vote buying.
How much does a politician need to buy votes?
How much is the total cash in circulation?
They won’t need up to five percent, and that should not be the only reason for introducing new currency.
Why introduce it at this time? They could easily have waited till elections are over.
You don’t want to target one or two people and you hit millions of other innocent people.
That is why I said introducing a new currency is supposed to run concurrently with the old currency for minimum of six months.
You will issue new currencies and withdraw old currencies. The only thing is that the day you announce a new currency, CBN will never issue out the old currencies again. Any old currency that enters their vault will stay there.
You know the amount of money in circulation – the M1, M2, M3, (that is technical, I won’t go into full details of that), cash in bank custody, cash in people’s purses and homes.
You know the amount, the moment you are able to withdraw up to 60 to 70 percent of the old currencies, you can now cut off from there and declare the old currencies as illegal tender.
But that does not stop you from accepting it from them as they are bringing it, exchange it for the new ones. There wouldn’t have been this problem of artificial scarcity if it had followed those steps.
QUESTION: As an experienced Banker who rose up to the Managing Director of one of the oldest and biggest banks in Nigeria, how do you consider this estranged relationship between the people and the banking industry now?
ANSWER: The most painful thing is that we have all laboured , we have served this country and we achieved a lot of milestones in the banking industry, we are losing it now!
Number one, financial inclusion, a lot of people……….
QUESTION: Nigerians feel the CBN Naira redesign Project has political undertones, what is your candid opinion about this controversy? Was it appropriate for the CBN Governor of a statutory institution to have paid N100m to contest the Presidential Primaries of a political party?
ANSWER: We should separate politics from statutory institutions.
When I wanted to contest, I could easily have held on as Deputy Governor, maybe I could have taken a few months leave of absence to contest the governorship, and if I lose I return to my office; it would easily be approved for me due to my performance and achievements in the CBN.I
didn’t want it. If I have decided to engage in politics, then I must focus on it. I left the CBN before the primary elections, there was no condition of employment that stipulated I must leave the institution. I could easily submit an application for a leave of absence, and the President would have approved it for another three or six months. I could then return to the office if I lost the elections, but I did not opt for that. As a person of integrity, one must decide on what one wants in life, and focus on it to avoid controversies and leave a negative perception and legacy.
If you want to do politics, do politics.
If you want to be a CBN Governor, be a CBN Governor. When you mix both, it becomes a problem.
Even if some of these policies are not deliberate, it looks like they are orchestrated because your head is not above the waters.
The person that took over from me as the Managing Director of Nigeria Inter- Bank Settlement System ( NIBBS), of which I was his Chairman; when I was leaving, we recommended that he should take over as Deputy Governor of Operations. I don’t envy him now, because all these things are actually under him and probably the forces bigger or higher than him are not allowing him to do what is right.
QUESTION: In your opinion, as a former DG Operations of the CBN, is printing N300b to replace the N1.7 Trillion in circulation and issuing a deadline for the validity of the old currency justifiable?
ANSWER: You cannot replace N1.7 trillion withdrawal or N2.1 trillion withdrawal with N300 billion. Printing money is not an overnight activity, it has a cycle, whether you are Printing locally or abroad. We have limited capacity in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Security, Printing and Minting Company, of which I was a director when I was in the CBN, the one in Lagos and the one in Abuja have limited capacity. The papers, ink, staffing etc all have limitations.
QUESTION: As a Former Director of the Nigerian Security, Printing and Minting Company, could you give us an idea of the capacity of the Nigerian Security, Printing and Minting Company?
ANSWER: Well, I won’t go into details of their capacity. I know it has limited capacity. Not that if you want one trillion today, you can get it in the next two days!
Even if they have to import from overseas which we used to do, before we said no, why waste foreign currency on importation of currency and we were including the capacity of the local printers; it has a cycle period – importation time.
You do all the necessary papers for importation, they will do their own printing, you do the freight and transportation. Nothing less than one month before you could actually import money and our money is bulky. We need to ask ourselves some questions!
How much can be imported and transported into the country in a particular week?
When it gets into the country, how do you distribute it to the various banks?
We have 36 States. It is a big problem, so we must try to understand the complexity. For this reason, I would like to appeal to Nigerians to remain calm. The situation would normalise soon. All hands are on deck now. Nigerians should please bear with this unfortunate situation for a little time.
QUESTION: With your experience as a former DG Operations of CBN and former Director of the Nigerian Security, Printing, Minting Company, coupled with your unquantifiable experience and expertise as one of the most seasoned Bankers in Nigeria today, what intervention do you recommend and immediate short term solutions for damage control in order to reduce the hardship faced by the people today?
ANSWER: Sincerely, CBN should allow both the old and new notes to run concurrently as is done globally and it should be beyond the elections.
The election is a transient activity, it will come and go. We cannot destroy our entire lives.
Whatever needs to be done, there will be months to do it. I would expect the CBN to allow this currency swap to run concurrently for a longer period. Let me tell you, this cash scarcity will surely affect the elections!
Take Oyo State as an example, it is a very large state. It occupies 28,400 Square kilometres, we have some remote villages where you need to send agents to, you need to send canvassers to,the INEC staff need to be transported to, there is no fuel, so it would be disrupted.
What about the distribution of electoral materials and logistics? How would they implement this? It would be disrupted.
Number two is that one needs to recruit agents for the 6,390 polling units across the 351 wards that we have in Oyo State.
You will recruit agents and canvassers at the polling units, even if its just 10 canvassers per party. We are talking about over 60,000 people. One would need people who will transfer to all of them in a short time for logistics to meet the timeline.
Somebody to whom you transfer N2m to share may have never received N500,000 bulk in his entire life and would be tempted to abscond…Will you kill him after the elections if you see him again?
So, they need to urgently address this situation. The transfer platforms must be effective, the network must be steady and dependable, most importantly, the CBN must push out more cash and people must be ready to make the currency swap work.
Everyone should contribute as Patriots to make the system work. But for now, the bigger picture is undefined and unclear.
Jalaludeen Bello, Adesope Adeyemi, Mukhtar Adamu, Samuel Innocent, Chinyere Orlu for Headlinenews.
The National Patriots support the views expressed by the Former CBN Dep Governor and appreciate this frank interview and proffered solutions. He is truly a National Patriot and his views deserve to be considered immediately. The CBN should endeavour to reach out to their resourceful hands in a situation like this for the necessary support and expertise to prevent more hardship to Nigerians. We are of the opinion that the CBN management erred by putting the cart before the horse. New currency ought to have been printed and should run concurrently with the old currency for a year. We all know our economy is cash based due to the high percentage of traders and demographic factors. Cash scarcity would definitely cause a CBN induced recession. It is therefore important for the CBN to instruct the commercial banks to release the old Naira in their vaults back into circulation to ease the logistics requirement for the elections and daily needs of the traders.
The National Patriots is thereby calling on the Federal Government to overrule the CBN and release the old currency back into circulation in line with the Supreme Court Order.
Princess Gloria Adebajo-Fraser MFR