OPEN LETTER: NIGERIA AT CROSSROADS OF THE NAIRA REDESIGN
Wednesday, 8 February 2023
Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR
President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces
Aso Rock Villa, 3 Arms Zone
Garki – Abuja
Federal Republic of Nigeria
NIGERIA AT CROSSROADS OF THE NAIRA REDESIGN
For some days now, Nigerians have been facing the reality of scarcity of cash. Our banks are overwhelmed by angry customers demanding money, the ATMs are flooded with furious Nigerians struggling to withdraw cash, and some spend the whole day hoping to get a few Naira notes to pay bills. POS operators complain of lack of money; a few have charged between 15% and 20% to customers to get some cash. Most Nigerians are stranded because the bank apps for transfers need to be fixed, and most cannot make or receive transferred money. Naira notes are in high demand, and the newly redesigned notes are rare to get unless by a privileged few. There is confusion everywhere, and people are coming to terms with this reality.
However, the pressure this exerts on Nigeria’s fragile socio-political and economic conditions is enormous and gradually heading to a tipping point. Social media are awash with harrowing videos of people’s reactions in various parts of Nigeria, and they all point to the pervading rage, frustration, and hardship people are going through. All these are happening at a time of heightened political activities near the 2023 general elections, with various permutations, intrigues and strategies of political parties and their candidates to win the voters. Without being the intendment of this letter to you, the current situation is a recipe for upheaval if not checked. The political ramifications of the Naira redesign are evident, but the implications, intended and unintended consequences, are unfolding.
A Few days ago, there was a protest in the city of Ibadan where various properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed, as if that was not enough, the peace enveloping Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital was on Tuesday shattered as angry youths took to the street destroying public infrastructures in protest of the scarcity of the new redesigned Naira notes and fuel, at least one person was reportedly shot, though we have not confirmed if it resulted to fatality or not. If this problem is not nipped in the bud, it may escalate to other states and become a nationwide crisis.
Mr. President, if the redesigned notes are in short supply, what happened to the N100, N50, N20, N10, N5 notes and even our coins that were not redesigned? You will recall that there was a time that the twenty naira note was the highest currency denomination in the country and we were living fine.
We believe if for logistics reasons the newly redesigned notes are not available, making N100 the highest denomination in the country for now, will be understandable.
In addition, we feel the pains and agony being encountered by cash-strapped members of the public who have had to endure both the physical, emotional and psychological trauma caused by no fault of their own having been forced to return their old notes to the bank and searching all over again for either the old or the new notes.
We commend the judgment of the Supreme Court which ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to end the use of old naira notes on 10 February. We are looking forward to hearing from the federal government the modalities for the implementation of the landmark judgment.
Your Excellency, the pains and agony members of the public are enduring as a result of the cash scarcity on a daily basis are enormous and can only be mitigated by the commitment of the federal government to make these notes available in various parts of the country.
Therefore, we are calling on your office to immediately swing into action by directing and mobilizing the Central Bank Nigeria (CBN) to provide palliative measures for temporary relief of the current scarcity so as to prevent the impending pandemonium which will negatively affect the already battered economy of the country.
Yours in the service of Humanity,