Rabiu Kwankwaso, the New Nigerian Political Party (NNPP) presidential candidate, criticized the extension of the deadline to discontinue the use of old N200, N500 and N1,000 naira notes.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on January 29, 2023, extended the deadline to suspend the use of old naira notes of the denominations N200, N500 and N1,000 by ten days to February 10, 2023.
According to CBN, the goal was to clean up excess cash in circulation, combat terrorism and money laundering, fight inflation, and encourage the use of electronic cash instead of physical cash for transactions.
Consequently, many Nigerians have complained about the unavailability of new or old naira notes at many ATMs, banks, and even outlet operators. The untold hardships brought about by poor cash flow have caused many Nigerians to adjust their lifestyle to accommodate the new reality.
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as a guest at TV Channels Sunrise Daily On Thursday, Kwankwaso offered his opinion on the deadline extension and CBN’s entire cashless policy, saying the government should extend the deadline by six months.
“Actually, in the New Nigerian Political Party (NNPP) we are not comfortable with the three months, or even the 10 days that they talk about,” he said. “You see, many people in Abuja who are in the comfort of their offices or houses would not understand what is happening outside. Those of us who now have the opportunity to travel throughout the country, from town to town, from town to town… are in contact with people, and over the years I have had many opportunities to meet and interact with people, and not only that .”
He explained that it was the first Nigerian government to introduce an electronic payment system in the country, noting that the federal government could have borrowed their experiences prior to implementation.
“We were the first government to start electronic payment in this country,” he said. “And when we made the decision to start, we realized that we had serious problems. These problems had to do with the banks themselves. At that time, many of our local governments did not have a single bank and so before we started implementation, we had to go to the central bank to register 37 microfinance banks to make it easier for people in those local governments to secure that our facilities are there for them.
“Now if you ask them to do it for three months, even before the information reaches them, it’s very difficult,” he said of the difficulty small merchants, local businesses and others dealing with cash handling would face. daily even with a three-month extension.
However, he further took issue with the CBN extension, basing his argument on an aspect of CBN law that states that “people should have at least six months” for a currency exchange to be functional.
He said: “For me, six months is even a short period of time, especially when you take into account our circumstances. Even the people in Lagos, Kano, Kaduna and other places… Look what is happening in other places; they go there, they lose all the time, they give numbers, and before they get halfway there, the money would be gone.
“So, as you can see, the government should be in place to solve the problems of its people, not inflict unnecessary hardship. And the government must have an agenda from day one; these are things that should have started earlier.
“Now we know from the NBS that we have more than 133 million poor people in this country. These are people who are struggling to make a living; these are people who are law abiding; they are not bandits; they are not criminals. So why should you come up with this?
He rejected the government’s claim that the policy was intended to frustrate the political elite. “Leaders don’t know that many of our colleagues, especially those who are contesting the presidential election, and by extension, own the banks,” he said. “Not only that, but the people close to them have banks everywhere, so they wouldn’t lose anything.”