By Uche Amunike
Barely two days after announcing that deadline for using old Naira notes as legal tender was extended, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele, has said that even after the February 10 deadline, commercial banks must accept the old notes.
He made this announcement, Tuesday, when he appeared before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee in charge of the implementation of the policy, admitting that he agreed with Section 20(3) of the CBN Act, which states that commercial banks must accept old notes after a deadline.
That section of the CBN Act states: ‘Notwithstanding Sub-sections (1) and (2) of this section, the Bank shall have power, if directed to do so by the President and after giving reasonable notice in that behalf, to call in any of its notes or coins on payment of the face value thereof and any note or coin with respect to which a notice has been given under this Sub-section, shall, on the expiration of the notice, cease to be legal tender, but, subject to section 22 of this Act, shall be redeemed by the Bank upon demand.’
Recall that the CBN Governor announced, Sunday, that 17th February was the ‘grace’ period for Nigerians to deposit their old Naira notes. The lawmakers however insisted, that it must be months and not days.
Emefiele however assured the house members that nobody will lose their cash because of the new policy. He explained that the apex bank was taking several measures to see that proper circulation of the new cash is established. His words: ‘We deployed all our staff, we effectively shut down Abuja, shut down Lagos. We said all staff, go to your locality. In the last three and half weeks, they have been in villages they take cash, even when the banks were lackadaisical about it. They take cash from the CBN and do cash exchange for everybody. They do five million naira cash lodgement back to the CBN’, he said.
He further stated that the CBN will work in synergy with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, ICPC, as well as the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU.
His words: ‘We saw a few failings on the part of the banks, and we have appealed to EFCC, ICPC, and NFIU. They are currently working with our officials nationwide. We have achieved over 75 per cent’, he said.
The Committee chairman, Hon. Ado-Doguwa stated that the appearance of the CBN Governor was borne out of the regard he has for the institution as they had extended invitations to him on two instances and he finally made it.
He stated: ‘This is victory for our democracy, the economy and the people of Nigeria. The importance of this engagement was based on the mandate of House through a motion. We felt we have the moral obligation to invite you to engage with Nigerian people. This is a fact-finding committee to get the updates of what is happening. The committee had the same information from bank operators and it’s major concern was about the lives and livelihood of Nigerians and the economy, including the rule of law’, he noted .