With an unusually inept Central Bank of Nigeria governor like Godwin Emefiele and the unprecedently anything-goes climate that the Muhammadu Buhari regime has engendered in the last seven years, I won’t be surprised if the main motive force for the CBN’s move to redesign the naira is to accomplish a plan to put Buhari’s face on one of the notes.
If you think my thought-process is absurd (and it actually is absurd) remember that wildly implausible absurdities have become the main currencies of this regime. For example, Emefiele who should have a more intimate and rarefied knowledge of Nigeria’s monetary policy than anyone once thought the value of the naira was in an inexorably downward spiral because a Nigerian-owned UK-based website called AbokiFX was publishing the black-market foreign exchange rates of the naira.
Emefiele even offered to engage in a physical combat with Oniwinde Adedotun, the owner of AbokiFX, so the value of the naira could rise again! That’s not a normal human being whose judgement anyone should trust and who can be defended against absurdist intentions.
In an unexampled, norm-bending fatuousness, he even became openly politically partisan by unsuccessfully running to be president on the platform of the ruling APC while still a supposedly apolitical CBN governor. In which halfway normal society does that happen?
In a May 14, 2022, column titled “Emefiele: A Corrupt, Inept, Heart-Attack-Loving Presidential Wannabe,” I described Emefiele as an “infernally incompetent, exceptionally corrupt, mind-blowingly self-serving, incomprehensibly clueless, overweeningly ambitious, and cruelly insensitive” person and revealed his embeddedness in partisan political corruption right from when PDP was in power. He has only gotten worse.
Now, also consider the fact that Buhari appointed Ahmed Halilu, the older brother of his wife, Aisha, as the head of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting, which prints Nigeria’s currencies. Halilu was first quietly appointed as one of only two executive directors at the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting in late 2019. I called attention to it in an October 19, 2019, column titled “Buhari’s House of Commotion and Mamman Daura’s ‘Glass House’.”
People either didn’t care or were too overwhelmed to react, as is now usual with Nigerians’ attitude to the aberrations of the regime, so Buhari went ahead and promoted his brother-in-law from an executive director of Nigeria’s currency printing company to its head on September 1, 2022. Again, no eyebrows were raised.
With an ineffectual, uninformed, obsequious, servile, and partisan CBN governor like Emefiele who is beholden to the Aso Rock cabal and Buhari’s brother-in-law as head of the company that will print the redesigned naira notes, would it be any surprise if Buhari’s portrait appears on, say, the 200 naira note, particularly given Buhari’s recent monomaniacal obsession with how he will be remembered when he leaves office?
And there is a model for Emefiele and Halilu to copy. In January 1973, Uganda’s Idi Amin decided to change his country’s currency and emblazon them with his portrait.
Reuters’ January 29, 1973, reporting on this is worth reproducing because it partly reflects what may happen in Nigeria in the next few days: “Following the introduction of new currency in Uganda, people have been flocking to banks to exchange their old notes. The new currency bears a portrait of President Amin. This is the first time a Ugandan leader’s portrait has appeared on banknotes… The old bank-notes, which contain mainly political symbols, cease to be legal tender on 9th February 1973….
“Ugandan border guards have been instructed to search anyone entering the country to ensure that old currency notes do not find their way back into Uganda. Even diplomatic luggage has been searched. Uganda is anxious that any ‘old’ currency previously smuggled out shall not be smuggled back for exchange.”
Outside of a desire to emboss Buhari’s portrait on naira notes, very little of the justification given by the Central Bank for the redesign of the naira makes sense.
For instance, Emefiele said, “in view of the prevailing level of security situation in the country, the CBN is convinced that the incidents of terrorism and kidnapping would be minimised as access to the large volume of money outside the banking system used as source of funds for ransom payments will begin to dry up.”
That makes no sense for two reasons. One, as Omoyele Sowore pointed out in a tweet, “When Boko Haram wanted to release the first batch of kidnapped #Chibokgirls they specifically request for Euros and were paid in #Euros. They also claimed some well-placed Nigerians have stacked Naira at home, truth is that most well placed Nigerians spend foreign currencies.”
Two, kidnappers increasingly request that their ransom be paid to bank accounts, and they haven’t been traced even when they’re exposed. A WhatsApp message trended in May 2019 about a woman who was threatened with abduction and given the option to deposit money into an account.
The woman enlisted the help of her banker friends to get the account number flagged so that the kidnappers may be caught. The message said, “Bank did checks. Bank said the account cannot be flagged else they will lose influential clients. How so? The names attached to the account are powerful names.”
In a July 28, 2021, story titled “Kidnappers in FCT Begin Collection of Ransom Through Banks,” the Daily Trust also revealed the bank account information of a kidnapper to whose account ransom was paid by one Mrs Aminat Adewuyi.
The kidnapper had an Access Bank account with number 1403762272 and the name associated with it was Badawi Abba Enterprise. I publicised this report in my October 23, 2021, column titled “Sponsors of Nigeria’s Terrorist Bandits,” which went viral. But the kidnapper is still walking free.
So, combating terrorism and banditry can’t possibly be a reason for redesigning naira notes. I have a sneaky feeling that most of the reasons the CBN governor gave for changing the design of the national currency is merely a cover story to conceal the real reason.
Whatever it is, this is an all-round ill-thought-out, ill-timed, and wrongheaded policy that will inflict enormous hardship on everyday folks like it did in 1984 when Buhari did another boneheaded currency change that pauperised millions of people. My father, for example, didn’t get back his money until he died in 2016.
On Friday, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmad said she was not in on Emefiele’s plan to redesign the naira, adding that it “portends serious consequences on the value of the naira to other currencies.”
Talk of a confused and discordant government!
Adadainfo Adadareporters.com is an online newspaper reporting Nigerian news. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 08071790941