The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, said on Thursday that the apex bank has not ruled out possible adjustments to the recently announced limited cash withdrawal policy that has stirred criticism.
Emefiele, who disclosed this to State House Correspondents in Daura, Katsina State, where he’d had a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, said that while the policy could be adjusted, there is no going back on the Jan. 9 kickoff date.
The CBN had on Tuesday announced a new ATM and over the counter withdrawal limit of N100,000 per week and N20,000 per day for POS for individuals, a move Emefiele said it’s part of the regulator’s broader monetary policy. Companies are given cash withdrawal allowance of N500,000 under the new policy.
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The policy has become a subject of controversy, prompting the intervention of the House of Representatives. The House on Thursday summoned Emefiele, after asking him to suspend the policy.
Against the backdrop that it will deeply limit spending; experts say the policy will impact the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), compounding Nigeria’s economic woes as those in rural areas, who rely on cash for business, will find it hard to cope.
But Emefiele allays the concerns, after informing the Nigerian public that the policy has the backing of Buhari. He said the fear being expressed that the policy will exclude rural dwellers is needless. According to him, many financial platforms that will make the operation of the policy painless have found their way to remote places in the country.
Addressing the concerns raised by the House, which includes the need for the CBN to heed required sections of the CBN Act in implementing its policies, the governor said it will be working with the National Assembly to make the policy work. He assured the Nigerian public that the central bank “will be reviewing from time to time how [the policy] is working”.
As part of efforts to ensure that the policy succeeds, Emefiele said that the central bank will not be rigid, “but this is not to say it will be reversed; nor that we will change the timing.”
“But whether it’s about tweaking some amount to be a little bit higher or a little bit lower and the rest of them; we will do so because we are human, we want to make life good for our people; we do not want to make life difficult for them,” he said.
“I can assure everyone that we are alive to our responsibility and we will do what is right for Nigeria and Nigerians.”
Besides his assurance that the CBN will work with the National Assembly to ensure that key policies such as this is implemented in way that it will not hurt the public, Emefiele said that the CBN will be monitoring developments as the policy comes into effect.
“From time to time we brief them (National Assembly) about what is happening and about our policies.
“I’m aware that they have asked for some briefings and we will brief them, but I think it’s important for me to say that the cashless policy started in 2012.
“Almost three to four occasions we have had to step down the policy because we felt that there is a need for us to prepare ourselves and deepen our payment system infrastructure in Nigeria.
“Between 2012 and now 2022, almost about 10 years, we believe that a lot of electronic channels have been put in place that will aid people in conducting banking and financial service transactions in Nigeria.
“We heard people talk about some of the people in the rural areas and the truth is that even online banking, as I was coming out to Daura, I saw a kiosk that has super agent today.
“It’s because of the way we felt that there was a need for us to deepen the payment system infrastructure.
“We have 1.4 million super agents that are all over different parts of the country, all local governments, and all villages in this country.
“I have told my colleagues, some of their names are already on the CBN website and we will publish all the names of all the super agents, which is different from the banks, which is different from microfinance banks, which is different from other financial institutions.
“Having 1.4 million of them is as good as having 1.4 million banking points where people can conduct services and we think, Nigeria as a big country, the biggest economy in Africa, that we need to leapfrog into the cashless economy.
“We cannot continue to allow a situation where over 85 per cent of the cash that is in circulation is outside the bank. More and more countries that are embracing digitization have gone cashless.
“I said it at different fora, that this is not targeted at anybody, it’s just meant for the good and development of the Nigerian economy and we can only continue to appeal to Nigerians to please see this policy the way we have presented it.
“We will be reviewing from time to time how this is working because I cannot say that we are going to be rigid.
“But it is not to say that we will reverse it. It is not to say that we will change the timing, but whether it is about tweaking some amount to be a little bit higher or a little bit lower, and all the rest of them (we will do it).
“We will do so because we are humans, we want to make sure that we make life good for our people. We do not want to make life difficult for them.
“So, there is no need for anybody to worry, the Central Bank is monitoring what is happening and I can assure everyone that we are up and alive to our responsibilities and we will do what is right for Nigeria and Nigerians,” he said.