By Francis Ogunbowale
125 Ogba Road
Opp. Mobil Round About,
Ikeja, Lagos. Tel 08023116163.
So much frustration has been expressed regarding the mindless cashless policy, introduced by the CBN, which took currency away from the innocent masses and made them to either queue up strangely in banks, to beg for a fraction of the money they have been forced to surrender or wonder to the parallel market, of the POS Operators or Petrol Station Attendants, to repurchase their hard-earned money, at a high and irritating rate.
President Buhari’s intervention that only the old N200 note should remain in circulation till April 2023, after the gubernatorial election in March 2023, did not in any way help the matter. The President’s broadcast did not depict the masses as Kings, as it indicated a tacit approval of the ignoble policy of the CBN. It is a case of a country that is divided against itself. The CBN and the Ministry of Finance, the Executive and the National Assembly, the Executive and the Judiciary, the President and the Governors, the President and the political party (APC) that produced him, all divided against themselves.
To be candid, the policy was good and obviously determined the narrative which later played out in the 2023 Presidential and the National Assembly election. If there had been surplus cash in the hands of the politicians, there was no way Bola Ahmed Tinubu would have lost in Lagos or El Rufai in Kaduna or Ganduje In Kano. The masses would not have had the opportunity to vote freely according to their conscience.
But if the political gain of the cashless policy is placed side by side with the social pain and the suffering of the masses during the election period, one will not hesitate to conclude that the policy ought not to have been implemented. The cashless policy was ill timed and highly misplaced. Customers died at the entrance of banks as a result of prolonged standing and waiting to collect money. Market women could not sell, citizens had no money to pay for transport; the POS Operators and the Petrol Station Attendants became Kings and Queens.
But one wonders what the President and the CBN will do now that the Supreme Court has nullified the Naira Redesign Policy, on the ground that it contravenes Section 20(3) of the CBN Act, 2007 and consequently overruled the Presidential order that only N200 old note should circulate, side by side with the new currency notes, up till April 2023.
Will the President obey the supreme court now or will he wait until after the March 11, 2023? Whatever option, the gubernatorial election will also come and go. President Buhari will be remembered for organizing a Presidential election where the masses voted freely for candidates of their choice without the influence of money. But above all, he will be remembered as a President who forced the citizens to surrender all their cash to banks and make them to repurchase it at the parallel market of the POS Operators or the Petrol Station Attendants. He will be remembered as a President who made the citizens to queue up in banks and suffer to collect a fraction of their money, under a humiliating condition.
There is high hope that the President elect will perform magic. But Bola Ahmed Tinubu we know will hold the carrot and at the same time a big stick. During his tenour, the IGR of the country will increase. But he will remove petroleum subsidy. He will create many more government agencies and parastatals, like the Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LATSMA) where its officials will arrest your vehicle for a mere traffic offence and auction it the next day; like the Lagos Building & Control Agency (LABSCA) that will mark your building today, demolish it the next day and re-allocate it to private developers for Housing Projects and like the Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) that will pursue budding Entrepreneurs and slam them with all sorts of multiple and compulsory taxes. These agencies will employ children of party loyalists with employment.
In any case, change we asked and change we have gotten.
Ogunbowale is a Lawyer in Lagos.