CURRENCY SWAP: Could Emefiele have drunk his own poison? by FEMI ODERE
When the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mr. Godwin Emefiele announced in October that the country’s three high denominations would undergo a facelift by changing their colours and that the notes whose colours would be changed would cease being the country’s legal tender by January 31, 2023, not a few Nigerians knew instinctively that something didn’t quite add up.
The announcement brought such eerie feeling and that timeless saying into the forefront of Nigerians’ consciousness that “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”
Despite having the unenviable records of crass incompetence, insipid professionalism, and appalling policy incontinence under his belt as the nation’s exchequer, Nigerians still gave Emefiele the benefit of the doubt especially when he hinged his currency re-colouration (and how one wishes the media would stop using “redesign” to describe this folly because nothing of such took place) policy decision on an attempt to mainstream what he described as the “over 80% of the nation’s currency in circulation being outside the vaults of commercial banks,” prevention of vote buying by politicians during elections that are a few months away then and discouraging banditry and other nefarious activities for ransom, among his other reasons.
No sooner had what has now become such a hasty, not-well-thought-out, devious policy decision with all the manifestations of a hidden agenda than the exercise started to unravel like a pack of cards.
Godwin Emefiele and his Naira re-colouration boondoggle first became suspicious when the Central Bank governor suddenly announced to his interrogators on “terrorism financing” allegation that his heart was failing him and as a result had to be let off the hook to go tend to his health. It was on account of a now apparent contrived illness that Emefiele flew overseas ostensibly to tend to his health only for him to demand some strict conditions if he must come back from an equally contrived annual leave to resume work. That he’s now protected by soldiers is one of these conditions. One wonders why Emefiele had to negotiate his coming back to report for work if he has nothing to hide.
Again, not a few Nigerians knew instinctively that some invidious game was already at play when the CBN governor at first ignored the invitation of the National Assembly and the committee that has oversight functions over the country’s financial institutions to come to explain a policy that was already causing pain and anguish for the Nigerian people due to the unavailability of the new notes at commercial banks while the Nigerian people were getting reluctant to accept the old notes even before the expiration date until he was threatened with arrest.
When Emefiele finally showed up, House Speaker Hon. Gbajabiamila had to remind him of the CBN Act under Section 20 which says, inter alia, that although the apex bank can change the country’s legal tender at will, the commercial banks are bound by law to accept and redeem all the old notes presented to them after the set deadline. And this exercise can go on for as long as six months. Emefiele concurred with the House Speaker.
The question then is: why did Godwin Emefiele keep this very important piece of information from the Nigerian public if there’s no hidden agenda about this whole currency swap exercise that has now failed?
What would have informed Emefiele to grandstand and double down on a policy that has already miscarried after he met with the legislators, most especially when it became apparent of the existence of an Act that has made the January 31st deadline redundant, and most importantly when the Nigerian masses’ agony had reached a crescendo?
And when it finally became obvious that Emefiele was indeed in bed with some fifth columnists in the presidency and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which the apex bank governor is yet to deny, why the insistence that the best thing is for this policy to be shoved down the throats of the Nigerian people, even if they must die in the process, as innocent lives had already been lost?
As if the aforementioned is not bad enough, it beggars belief that Emefiele couldn’t come to terms with the fact that Nigerians are now aware of how shameless he continues to bury his head in the sand with the damning revelation that despite the retrieval of about 2.7 trillion Naira of the old notes from circulation since this ill-advised and heartless exercise began, only N300 billion of the new notes has so far been printed.
It’s elementary economics that at least half of the money you mopped up from the system must be injected back into the system with new notes simultaneously. This means that at least 1 trillion Naira of the new notes must have been minted and sitting pretty in the vaults of the commercial banks when this currency re-colouration policy was announced in October.
Does anyone now need to be told that what Emefiele advertised as the reasons for his currency re-colouration and swap did not pass muster? Emefiele’s currency swap initiative was something from the dark and inner recess of a satanic mind who was bent on extracting his own “pound of flesh,” in cahoot with his co-travellers in the Villa and the PDP because his egregious, nauseating, and highly reprehensible attempt at running for president while he’s still the country’s exchequer came to grief.
It’s bad enough that this crass, insensitive, and misguided currency swap was left to fester for this long. Besides incompetence, it’s also sheer malice as well as a deliberate effort on the part of Emefiele to plunge the nation into socioeconomic and political chaos because the data of where bank branches are across the country is at his fingertips.
How could it have escaped Emefiele that many towns and villages, not to talk of several local government areas, do not have banks and therefore several millions of Nigerians would be seriously negatively impacted by this ungodly policy?
What’s wrong with both the old and new currencies existing side by side in accordance with the Act of the apex bank and as was also suggested by the progressive governors and well-meaning Nigerians?
Since it’s long been established that Emefiele has no honour or self-respect considering the many embarrassments he has caused the nation, and the heartaches and deaths he has caused the Nigerian people, the only way left is for President Muhamadu Buhari to sack this deplorable specie of humanity.
Emefiele has not only eaten sour grapes and his teeth are now permanently set on edge, but he has also taken a double dose of the poison he tried, unsuccessfully, to shove down the throats of 200 million people. It’s only a matter of time before the effects of this poison come full circle for him.
Emefiele typifies a festering gangrenous sore of the nation that must be promptly removed.
Femi Odere is Head of Media and Publicity, DIASPORA DIRECTORATE,
APC PCC, Abuja.