Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in a “new naira note” speech to the nation on February 16, 2023, approved the re-introduction of the N200 notes into circulation alongside the new N200, N500, and N,1000 notes.
- “To further ease the supply pressures, particularly to our citizens, I have given approval to the CBN that the old N200 bank notes be released back into circulation and that it should also be allowed to circulate as legal tender with the new N200, N500, and N1000 banknotes for 60 days from February 10, 2023, to April 10, 2023, when the old N200 notes cease to be legal tender.”
The speech appeared to allay the concerns of Nigerians who faced hardship in securing the new naira notes often queuing for hours just to get as little as N10,000 cash. It also suggests that the President believes the lower denominations are harder to influence vote buying connoting that targeted politicians only have larger denominations for their election-rigging plans.
But the speech is also in defiance of the Supreme Court order that halted the expiration of the old naira notes pending the determination of a suit brought to it by state governors. The President cited alluded to this defiance when he stated that the decision to implement the policy was within the ambit of the constitution the CBN Act.
- “These activities are being carried out within the ambit of the Constitution, the relevant law under the CBN Act 2007, and in line with global best practices.”
Lawyers and political commentators will likely continue to debate about the potential impact of the president’s decision to defy the Supreme Court as his speech clearly indicates the old N500 and N1000 notes remain banned for legitimate transactions.
The 1,271 words speech will however be more remembered for two important paragraphs.
- “Fellow citizens, on the 25th of February, 2023 the nation would be electing a new President and National Assembly members. I am aware that this new monetary policy has also contributed immensely to the minimization of the influence of money in politics.”
- “This is a positive departure from the past and represents a bold legacy step by this administration, towards laying a strong foundation for free and fair elections.” President Muhammadu Buhari 16/02/2023.
In case you have any doubts as to who is behind the policy of introducing new naira notes, it is the president himself and not Godwin Emefiele, the central bank governor.
Having lost the elections himself 4 times, the president understands the role money plays in Nigeria’s politics and is determined to erode it despite the challenges of doing so. The stakes are very high for the 2023 elections and the president understands this.
Having led this country for eight frustrating years he also understands that the country needs a leader that is determined largely by the vote of the people and not by political godfathers and cabals who ironically also brought him to power.
Make no mistakes about it, President Buhari’s tenure will be remembered as one of the words economically. The data proves this fact and he cannot change it. However, it is also important that the president leaves with a legacy that is not just personal to him but important to the future of our democracy.
In 2023, elections should never be bought and vote buying should be a thing of the past. It is an arduous but important step in the democratic process and every Nigerian should embrace it.
Agreed, the introduction of the new naira notes has been a disaster for the central bank. The apex bank’s inability to ensure the new notes are available for Nigerians is a failure in policy implementation and one that cannot be forgotten. In saner climes, officials in charge of implementing this process should either have resigned or been fired for bringing so much hardship to the people.
Sadly, as good as the president’s intent is for the introduction of this policy, his legacy is also marred by how poorly the policy has been implemented.
However, the central bank has a few days to redeem its image ms repair the damage done by this policy implementation. The president in his speech also laid an instruction to Emefiele and his team.
- “The CBN shall ensure that new notes become more available and accessible to our citizens through the banks.”
This suggests Nigerians should expect more cash in circulation as soon as possible. Evidence of this will be the disappearance of long queues and the restoration of confidence in the banking sector.
We are ready to bear any hardship for the sake of a free and fair election. Buhari’s administration have been a disaster to say the least. But if he can give us this one thing: a free and fair election, where the candidate of the people is who emerges winner; then perhaps all sins may be forgiven. Because the truth is, we can’t afford to have another incompetent leader.