The crises engendered by the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria to redesign some currency notes, threaten to disrupt, not only the forthcoming general elections. The events of the past days, culminating in the intervention of the apex court in the land, and the increasing gale of violence sweeping through the country, portend serious danger to the current democratic governance. Consequently, this period invites all patriots to speak out with a view to proffering practicable solutions and not project cheap partisan interests.
I seize this opportunity to appeal to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, to play the role of a Statesman at this crucial moment. It is apparent that the crises, which the current policy on currency swap has created, continue to spiral menacingly.
There is incontrovertible evidence bordering on miscalculation, error of judgement and/or disinformation on the part of the policy makers, especially the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, on the failed implementation of the policy, the effect of which compels the whole country to groan, immeasurably, at present.
There is hardly anyone who contends with either the statutory functions of the Central Bank of Nigeria or the occupier of the office of its Governor, one of which is the monetary policy. It is also not debatable that the President and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria is empowered, under our law, to exercise certain executive power. It can, however, not be the original intendment of the drafters of the relevant statutes that the implementation of any policy should occasion widespread hardship and pervasive agony in the land.
The safety of the people is the supreme law. Any measure, purportedly designed to ameliorate their conditions, must not reduce the entire populace to a beggarly existence. There is pervasive discontent in the land. A policy, presented as currency swap, must not be construed by both the reasonable members and people of average intelligence in the society to convey the deplorable impression of contrived subterfuge manifest in the official confiscation of legitimate deposits of the people in banks, as a counter measure against electoral malfeasance, terrorism and banditry.
Desirable as the policy appears to be, its implementation excites curiosity as regards the real motive of its drivers, especially at this time when the conduct of general elections is almost here. The mere knowledge that the N1000 and N500 notes represented 82% of the currency in circulation and that the N200 note, whose validity has been extended, by fiat, for another 60 days, represented 7%, expose the mendacious slant in the advice given to Mr President. This counsel clearly misrepresented, deliberately, the facts as they existed before the commencement of the implementation of the policy.
The implementation of this policy has been woeful despite claims to the contrary. The suffering of the masses, occasioned by the non-availability of new notes to replace the old ones, equally decreed out of existence by presidential fiat in contravention of the CBN Act, 2007, could have been averted if the strategy of a gradual and systematic withdrawal of the old currency notes had been adopted. I make bold to assert that the unfolding events across the country show that the policy has failed significantly. It is, therefore, expected that the President will halt this needless drift into the abyss of chaos, more so, when the ruling of highest court still subsists.
I call on the President to allow both the old and new notes co-exist until such a time when normalcy returns to the country. It will be a fitting parting gift for the people of this country, especially the downtrodden, who feel the negative impact of the poorly implemented policy. While the reasons adduced for the policy appear legitimate, there can be no justification for the confiscation of the lawful earnings of Nigerians. The negative impact which the mediocre and, I dare say, mischievous implementation of the policy by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria is having on the poor people and small business owners defeats all the good programmes of the Federal Government designed to elevate as many people as possible out of the morass of poverty.
There is no shame in rescinding a decision adjudged not only unpopular and counter-productive, but which also bears the insidious seeds of potential conflagration in the land, one of the ostensible reasons for this ill-conceived policy.
ARAKUNRIN OLUWAROTIMI O. AKEREDOLU, SAN, CON
GOVERNOR, ONDO STATE