By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The lawmaker representing Taraba Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Mr Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf, has said to curb corruption and prevent having a larger percentage of money in circulation in the hands of kidnappers and others, he would want the highest denomination in circulation in Nigeria to be N100, and not N1,000.
The Senator gave this submission at the plenary on Thursday during a debate on the new cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which aims to make the highest cash withdrawal for individuals in a week N100,000 and N500,000 for corporate organisations.
On October 26, 2022, the Governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, informed newsmen that of the N3.2 trillion in circulation, about N2.7 trillion was not in the banks’ vaults, a development that prompted the apex bank to redesign the Naira, especially the N200, N500, and N1,000 denominations.
On November 23, 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the new notes, and on December 15, 2022, they were officially introduced into the financial system, with banks giving out the new banknotes at over-the-counter (OTC) and ATMs, with N200 as the highest denomination from the machines from January 9, 2023.
While arguing on the new cash withdrawal limits yesterday, after several persons kicked against it, Mr Yusuf praised the CBN for the policy, saying it would curb corruption.
“When we are talking about cashless, we should be mindful that about N3.3 trillion in circulation, it’s only about a trillion naira that is in the bank. It is a danger to the country.
“Left to me, I would recommend the highest denomination to be N100. I so much support that we should go with the cashless policy in line with the present system that the CBN has adopted,” the lawmaker argued after Mr Uba Sani submitted a report of the Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions on the Implementation of Cashless Policy and the New Withdrawal Limits to the Senate.
Speaking on the report at the plenary presided over by the Deputy Senate President, Mr Ovie Omo-Agege, another Senator, Mr Ajibola Basiru, noted that, “The threshold that had been set is unrealistic to have any robust and meaningful life to our people.
“I am not oblivious to the fact that the committee has come up with recommendations. As a Committee of the Senate, we ought to have been alerted with certain indices to come up with recommendations on what should be the adjustment. I am suggesting that the threshold should be N500,000 for individuals per week.”
For Mr Orji Uzor Kalu, he backed the CBN for the policy but suggested that the limit should be N500,000 per day for individuals and N3 million per day for corporates, noting that this “will cover the fear of anybody.”
In her argument, Mrs Biodun Olujimi stated that, “When this issue came out, everyone that spoke on that day agreed on what the CBN was about to do.
“However, we were sceptical of certain issues contained in the proposal. The details were not clear to any of us. If there had been a consultation, we wouldn’t be where we are today. People would have gotten to know what is required of them and what is required of the CBN.
“The CBN approved POS operators and registered them and took money from them, and now those people can only do so little. It took all our unemployed graduates off the street. This policy will send them back to the streets.
“Why is this happening during an election period? Why is it that it is coming now? There is a need to be flexible in what we are doing now.”
Another contributor to the matter, Mr Adamu Aliero, stated that, “This report gives us an ideal picture of what the country should be but in reality, what is happening is different. The informal sector of the economy is very big, and it is not captured in the banking system.
“More people in the rural areas don’t go to the bank, and there is a need for sensitization and enlightenment in order to make this kind of people embrace the banking system.
“We have 774 Local Governments, and the bank covers only about 60% of these local government areas. It is difficult to really force these people to embrace banking culture. I support the idea of the cashless policy, but we should do it with caution.”
“I don’t think that anybody objects to the fact that a cashless society is what we need. My concern comes as a result of us being punitive.
“We must ensure that our society progresses, and those who make efforts to make an additional living should be encouraged. When you look at the measures CBN has put in their policy, to me, it appears punitive. I think in the global best practice, it doesn’t exist, so we don’t deter people from progressing,” the Senator from Anambra State, Ms Stella Oduah, submitted.
After taking inputs from more lawmakers, the Senate agreed that the central bank should considerably adjust the withdrawal limits in response to public outcry on the policy, with the committee tasked to embark on aggressive oversight of the bank on its commitment to flexible adjustment of the withdrawal limit and periodically report the outcome to the Senate.