Casualties of Buhari’s painful naira redesign - OPID News

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Friday, 17 March 2023

Casualties of Buhari’s painful naira redesign

 Casualties of Buhari’s painful naira redesign

As he did in 1984 when he was a military head of state, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), introduced a naira redesign policy, which left in its wake tales of deaths, sorrow and anguish, DEBORAH TOLU-KOLAWOLE writes

Nigerians who were alive during the introduction of the naira redesign policy by the Muhammadu Buhari military junta of 1984 are not exactly surprised at the re-introduction of the same policy by the same man as a civilian President.

A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN,  recalled that the redesign policy of 1984 led to the loss of lives. “In 1984, the Buhari military junta changed the colour of the naira. In a country of 81 million people, bank customers and other citizens were given only two weeks to deposit old notes and replace them with new ones. The poor implementation of the policy caused loss of lives in many parts of the country,” he said.

As it was in the beginning, it remains. On November 23, 2022, Buhari alongside the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, unveiled new naira notes in denominations of N200, N500 and N1,000. Fielding questions from journalists after the event, Emefiele, insisted that the move was not targeted at anyone.

Rather, he said the redesigned notes would give the apex bank ample control over the amount of money in circulation. He also noted that a deadline of January 31, 2023, would be put in place.

Following the CBN’s directives, Nigerians began to make moves to ensure that the old notes were safely behind the coffers of the banks.

“The funny aspect of the matter was that when we went to the banks then we were told that they didn’t have new notes to go around. Banks would pay you both in old notes and new notes”, a point of sale operator in Abuja, Andrew Peter, told our correspondent.

Speaking with our correspondent, OluwaDarasimi said, “This was a dark period in our history and we hope it never repeats itself. It is highly unfortunate that lives and businesses had to crumble before the president and the CBN listened to the voice of reason.”

On March 12, 2023, Femi Aina, the father of a National Youth Service Corps member, Oreoluwa, who was one of those who died in the Lagos train crash said the lingering naira scarcity contributed to the unfortunate situation that led to his daughter’s unfortunate death.

In an interview with The PUNCH, Aina said his daughter did not usually board the staff bus every day, but did not have enough cash on her on that fateful day.

“I know she boarded the staff bus, but not every day. If not for this cashless policy, she would not have board that bus. But she did not have cash, so she had to follow the bus. She had just N200. They just kill people anyhow in this country,” Oreoluwa’s father told our correspondent.

Speaking on how he got to know of the incident, he said, “I was in Abuja watching the television around 9 am when I saw the incident. An hour after that, I got a call that my daughter was involved in it. That was when I knew what I saw on TV was actually happening to me. Then, I immediately called my younger brother and sister in Lagos. I later received two more calls in another 10 minutes and by then, she was already in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). They were attending to her and at the same time calling me from there. I even heard some of the staff members praying for her. So, I rushed to the airport to get any available flight back to Lagos but when my plane was ready to take off by 4 pm, I was told that she had passed away.”

On February 19, 2023, The PUNCH reported how a 32-year-old woman, Shema’u Labaran, died along with her nine-month pregnancy at the Abdullahi Wase Specialist Hospital, Kano, reportedly due to the inability of her husband to pay medical bills in the new naira notes in time.

Labaran was allegedly left in pain for more than eight hours without attention from the medical personnel on duty.

Narrating the unfortunate incident that led to his wife’s death, the 42-year-old husband of the deceased, Bello Baffa, noted that his wife (Shema’u) bled to death while he was struggling to settle medical bills at the pharmacy through transfer.

Baffa revealed how he spent hours waiting for the cashier to confirm the payment of N8,528 for drugs because the hospital had stopped receiving the old naira notes.

The bereaved husband regretted that the medical personnel insisted they would not attend to his late wife until he deposited money and provided evidence before his wife would be attended to.

Baffa said he had earlier provided N8,500 old naira notes to the cashier but he was told the hospital management had placed an embargo on the old currency and refused to provide a point-of-sale service except payment through transfer.

Commenting on the matter, a former Central Bank of Nigeria Deputy Governor, Kingsley Moghalu,  expressed dissatisfaction over the series of crises created by the naira redesign policy of the apex bank.

Moghalu noted that the terrible suffering and economic loss Nigerians experienced as a result of the faulty implementation of the CBN’s naira redesign policy and the entry of the judiciary into central banking functions showed “clearly how our institutions and Nigeria fail when institutions that are meant to be operationally independent become politicised.”

In a statement on Wednesday, he said currency functions were a core part of any central bank’s mandate, and to that extent, he had no problem with the policy except for two vital issues:

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