I wish I know the real story of the naira redesign narrative. Recall that the CBN had on December 6 announced a new policy limiting over-the-counter cash withdrawals by individuals and corporate entities and asking Nigerians to accept a new reality – that future life would be spent in a cashless society. Then on Wednesday, the amounts were raised following concerns that Nigeria is a cash society and tens of millions of Nigerians are without bank accounts and have no alternative mode of payment for personal needs and petty businesses.
The Central Bank has one of the best research departments in the country and certainly know the low level of banking outreach in the country. Why then did it insist on immediate implementation within weeks, over Christmas holidays and an impending election? What is the story?
The upward review comes after the National Assembly asked the bank to considerably adjust the withdrawal limits in response to the public outcry on the policy. The new directive now allows individuals to withdraw up to N500,000 weekly and organisations, N5 million weekly. The initial limit was N100,000 for individuals.
The Central Bank suddenly: “Recognizes the vital role that cash plays in supporting underserved and rural communities and will ensure an inclusive approach as it implements the transition to a more cashless society.” They knew this all along, so what is the story?
We know there is a story that is not being told because since the matter came up, President Buhari has been openly very supportive of this cashless society policy and defended Governor Emefiele openly. At the same time, the secret police that works for the president, the DSS, has been making desperate attempts to arrest the CBN governor for terrorism financing and he barely escaped their fangs as a judge refused to issue an arrest warrant to lock him up. He now appears to be in hiding.
Meanwhile, numerous sponsored “civil society” organisations that had not been known to exist previously have emerged holding mega press conferences stating politicians are behind the arrest attempt because the real goal of the policy is to deny politicians the cash to bribe voters, and for this sin, Emefiele must go to jail. The government has neither confirmed nor denied why Emefiele must go to jail. Someone should tell us the real story.
Maybe the real story is the one being shouted from the roof tops by Honourable Gudaji Kazaure, a member of the House of Representatives, who has raised the alarm about the theft of stamp duty proceeds of N89 trillion. He says that the same Governor Emefiele is essentially the beneficiary of the biggest fraud in Nigeria’s history as the CBN only sends 60% of the stamp duty revenue to the government, with the remaining 40% going to individual wallets, and claimed that the apex bank has not remitted that money as tax.
He told us that President Muhammadu Buhari had established a presidential committee in June of this year to collect stamp duty from 2015 to the present, with him serving as secretary because of concerns about the enormous sums that have not been submitted. The president, he says, wants to pay off the country’s obligations before leaving office and that the money in question would have gone a great way toward doing so. He then expressed his sadness that he has been prevented from seeing the president to make his report so we Nigerians should tell the president to see him.
I confess I don’t understand. Even his boss, Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House of Representatives, spoke with State House correspondents after a private meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa in Abuja on Tuesday, saying they know nothing about this story. Nonetheless, believe me, there must be a big story here too that someone should tell us.
The big story of the year was told by businessman and chairman Heirs Holdings, Mr Tony Elumelu, way back in March when he bemoaned the fact that Nigeria was losing over 95 per cent of its oil production to thieves. “How can we be losing over 95 per cent of oil production to thieves? Look at the Bonny Terminal that should be receiving over 200,000bpd barrels of crude oil daily, instead it receives less than 3,000 barrels, leading the operator, Shell, to declare force majeure.”
The percentage loss is so large that it should have been the big story long before Elumelu tweeted it out so I thought it was a farce. Then, the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Mele Kyari, corroborated the Tony Elumelu claim that Nigeria is losing 95 per cent of oil production to thieves at Bonny Terminal in Rivers State.
How could Nigeria’s biggest story emerge from an Elumelu Twitter thread on March? Mr Kyari then further disclosed that the country lost $4 billion to theft at the rate of 200,000 barrels per day in 2021. He added that the country already lost $1.5 billion so far in 2022 because the vandalism has escalated.
I was in shock, in every other country in the world where the main revenue source is compromised to this level, it would be the only item in the news, in the agenda of the president, National Assembly and security services.
Then the side story that emerged was that Mr Elumelu push out the story because he himself had bought a small oil well only to realise almost all his oil was being stolen and he could not even service the debt he had incurred from banks to buy the well so he had to spill the beans. That was when the Nigerian government realised they too had to confess the country had become bankrupt due to the unbelievably high magnitude of oil theft.
We may have had to wait for the next government to come in next year before hearing the story. If Nigeria had become bankrupt and those in charge of Nigeria would not tell the story, it must have been because of the real story – there is a long list of people in government benefitting from the theft.
Ibrahim is a professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, and Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development.