CBN limits over the counter withdrawal of new naira notes to N20,000 per day
New naira notes

By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA 

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has come under intense pressure to reverse its latest cashless policy, which limits cash withdrawal for individuals at N100,000 and corporate bodies at N500,000 per week.

While reactions have been mixed and diverse on the new withdrawal limits, calls for the review of the policy had gained momentum, with some stakeholders threatening fire and brimstone.

This is as the apex bank has bluntly rejected the demands for its reversal, insisting there is no going back on the policy.

The CBN, it would be recalled, had on October 26, 2022, announced that it will redesign the N200, N500 and N1,000 notes in a move to take control of the currency in circulation. The old notes are expected to be phased out nationwide on January 31st, 2023.

Barely 41 days after, precisely on December 6, the CBN made another bold announcement by directing commercial banks and other financial institutions to ensure that weekly over-the-counter cash withdrawals by individuals and corporate entities do not exceed N100,000 and N500,000, respectively.

Unlike the first one, the second policy will cease to be recognised as legal tender by January 31, 2023.

However, while there has been little or no resistance against the first policy of redesigning the three naira notes, the decision to slash daily and weekly cash withdrawals to N20, 000 and N100, 000 respectively for individuals, and N100,000 daily and maximum N500,000 weekly for corporate bodies is generating storm.

Leading the fight against the plan to limit cash withdrawal in circulation are federal lawmakers, political parties, small and medium business owners, traders, Point of Sales (PoS) agents and several others.

While calling for the reversal of the policy, some political parties, including the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), African Democratic Party (ADP), Africa Democratic Congress (ADC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP)  and African Action Alliance (AAA), all maintained that the policy could choke the ongoing political process.

While reacting to the new policy, the Director, Strategic Communications, National Election Management Committee of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Chief Dele Momodu, said the  cash withdrawal policy  would affect not only his party’s funding activities, but that of all political parties.

“In 2014/2015, I am sure if President Buhari had no access to funding, he would never have been the president of Nigeria.

“There are people, who are making contributions to the political parties and some parties have set up structures to receive support from people.

“How then will they be able to access the fund if they are saying you cannot withdraw more than N100, 000 a week?
“I read somewhere that the CBN said the policy would not be rigid but why make the policy in the first place if it is not going to be rigid?”, he demanded.

In his own submission, the National Chairman of the Africa Democratic Congress, Chief Ralph Nwosu, said the policy might pose a challenge to political parties.

According to him, the CBN did not carry out adequate sensitisation campaigns on the new policy, alleging that it was politically motivated.

“How do you expect the ADC candidate to have the cash to do the things he wants to do and how do you think that this is the best time for such an undertaking?

‘’We have almost 200,000 agents that we must pay and 80 per cent of them live in rural areas. Is it that N2,000 or N5,000 that you pay them that you would transfer to each of them? How many of them have such a facility? So it’s completely inconsiderate of them”, Nwosu lamented.

In the same vein, the National Publicity Secretary of the Social Democratic Party, Alpha Muhammed said the policy will seriously affect the 2023 general elections.

‘’Definitely, cash has to move, people have to pay for logistics; you have to give cash to agents, you have to give cash to those who will transport people to rallies. It will definitely affect the success of the election and the campaign itself,’’ he claimed.

He disclosed that his party will likely lodge a formal complain to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“It is expected that the party or candidate will write to the CBN for a waiver. But it’s important for them to utilise cash in prosecuting some logistics aspect of the election campaigns”, he argued.

Also reacting, the National Chairman of the Zenith Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwayanwu, warned that the lack of access to electronic platforms may trigger a crisis at the grassroots during the 2023 polls.

“The only negative aspect of this is the fact that the policy will affect the rural and urban poor. These are people, who are out every day in search of their daily bread.

“How many of them have access to electronic platforms to transact business? Even the Point of Sales; are they evenly distributed everywhere? This is the worry of the Zenith Labour Party.

“As far as the parties are concerned, we are okay. Let those, who stashed billions of naira in tanks bring them out. They should have the courage to bring them out”, Nwayanwu stated.

Another group that has taken up arms against the CBN on the new withdrawal policy is the umbrella body of all PoS operators, Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents of Nigeria (AMMBAN).

Speaking on behalf of AMMBAN, its National President, Victor Olojo, appealed to the CBN to give listening ears to the pleas of mobile money and bank agents, as well as the Nigerian masses.

In the event that the government did not listen to their pleas, Olojo said his association is considering the option of engaging the services of rights activists, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), to help challenge the  policy in court.

“The first option is to write to Falana to represent AMMBAN in the legal action about to be initiated. While the second option is to get another lawyer to apply to the court, maybe after the suit has been filed, and make AMMBAN an interested party in the suit”, Olojo noted.

In his reaction to the new policy, Falana described it as unconstitutional, saying he would challenge it in court if the CBN fails to reverse it.

“It is embarrassing that the Central Bank of Nigeria has been making announcements without any regard to the Constitution and other relevant laws on the national economy.

“It is particularly worrisome that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has purportedly placed a limitation on cash withdrawals in Nigeria in complete defiance of section 2 of the Money Laundering Act, 2022 which provides as follows.

“No person or body corporate shall, except in a transaction through a financial institution, make or accept cash payment of a sum exceeding (a) 5,000,000 or its equivalent, in the case of an individual; or (b) N10,000,000 or its equivalent, in the case of a body corporate.

“A person shall not conduct two or more transactions separately with one or more financial institutions or designated non-financial businesses and professions with intent to (a) avoid the duty to report a transaction, which should be reported under this Act ; and (b) breach the duty to disclose information under this act by any other means.

“Since the Money Laundering Act 2022 (which has fixed maximum cash withdrawal to N5 million) has not been amended, the limitation of cash withdrawal of not more than N20,000 per day and N100,000 per week fixed by the Central Bank of Nigeria is illegal, null and void in every material. We urge the Nigerian people to ignore the illegal announcement.

“However, we are compelled to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the management of the CBN to withdraw the illegal guideline and stop announcing more policies that are designed to sentence poor citizens to more excruciating economic hardship”, Falana demanded.

The two arms of the national assembly had earlier opposed the move to limit cash withdrawal. However, the CBN governor was able to convince the Senate to allow it stand.

The House of Representatives on the other hand, is insisting on its suspension until the CBN gets its approval.

Emefiele is expected to appear before the house this week to defend the policy.

While also speaking on the matter, a practicing attorney and former Provost of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), Mr. Gbemiga Ogunleye, faulted the CBN for not providing the new notes to banks to distribute.
“Those who say we may have to invite the man upstairs to preside over our affairs before things can get better may be right after all.
“Should the ATMs still be dispensing the soon-to- be old notes from December 15th?

“The CBN Governor and former APC Presidential aspirant, Godwin Emefiele, had boasted weeks ago that the new notes were already in the banks ready for disbursement from yesterday.

“Alas, it was not to be! I visited the ATMs of Wema Bank, Zenith Bank and Polaris Bank between yesterday and today in Lagos only to receive the old notes.

“And yet the CBN will stick to the January 31st deadline for the exchange of the old notes for the new ones!”, he stated.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Nigeria has dismissed the claim by  AMMBAN that its new policy limiting cash withdrawals is targeted at its members

The bank’s Director of Banking Supervision, Mustafa Haruna, while reacting to the allegation on Saturday, said Nigerians needed to see the policy, as one intended at contributing to economic growth and development of the country.

“Let me just correct an impression: not in any way are they (PoS agents) endangered.

“When you do the numbers, how much does a typical agent outlet need in a day? People need to just see this as a policy that is intended at contributing to economic growth and development, and when Nigerians know the enormous benefits inherent in this policy, I’m very sure it will shift mindsets.

“It is typical when you introduce something new, there is always that trepidation and apprehension. But that is why we are also combining it with extensive and sustained campaigns and sensitisation just to ensure that Nigerians understand what is at play, what is involved, and what is in it for them”, Haruna noted.

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