They also fear that the CBN action may set the masses against the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari,and could constitute an unpalatable exit package for him when his second term expires on May 29, 2023.
Consequently, they have resolved to send a delegation to the President to direct the CBN to review the policy, according to an investigation by The Nation. The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) met on Thursday in Abuja to deliberate on the matter and take appropriate decision. A source at the session said the governors also resolved to appeal to Buhari to retain the prevailing cash withdrawal limits in the country and extend the January 30th, 2023 deadline for the phasing out of the redesigned Naira notes.
“Our decision was across party lines. We were all united that the policy will adversely affect the poor in the rural areas which Buhari administration seeks to protect,” the source said.
He added: “With likely job losses of about 1.4million by POS operators, there is no way the rural populace can survive this policy. It is like bringing down the ceiling on the economy.
“It is becoming ridiculous that some banks now issue out as low as N2,000 to a customer. Also, no matter how influential you are, banks may only give N200,000 new notes under the table.
“As governors, we are closer to the grassroots more than the President. This policy may set the masses against Buhari. It is not a good exit package from a President who has enjoyed the confidence of the masses.”
Another governor also said: “We agreed to beg the President to have a rethink and retain the status quo cash limits to save the economy.
“Having tried his best to salvage this economy, no individual should ruin Buhari’s achievements with a stroke of the pen.
“The CBN policy is unpopular but those profiting from it do not want him to see the other side of the coin.”
A governor from the North-East said: “The NGF opted to send a delegation to the President to tell him our feelings and the implications of the CBN policy on the economy.
“For instance, we also recommended that the new notes should be in operation side by side with the old notes for about six months.
“There is too much confusion at the grassroots. It is just unfortunate that the CBN has led us to this level.
“In a country with low access to banks in rural areas and high illiteracy, how do you implement a cashless policy? Already, the middle class is gone and now some people somewhere are out to neutralise the poor class.
“The implication is that crime rate will be higher. Can we afford this? No.
“We want audience with the President. If possible, let the CBN Governor be there. We will lay all the cards on the table and what the nation should do to save the economy from collapse.”
Asked if the governors chose to gang up against the CBN because of lack of access to illicit funds for campaign, the source responded: “Not at all. Governors from all the parties opposed the policy at our meeting.”
“We are talking of the survival of a country; you are attributing our position to the 2023 polls which will come and go.
“After the 2023 polls, the political class can effect changes in CBN. So, at any point, those in charge of the apex bank cannot have the last laugh. There will be life after the elections.
“We believe that they have not told the truth to the President. The CBN’s action is anti-people but the President is pro-people. This is an indication that something is wrong somewhere.”
Some other Nigerians and institutions including the two chambers of the National Assembly had earlier asked the CBN to review the cash withdrawal limit policy immediately, citing the danger it portends for the economy and the generality of Nigerians.
On Friday the Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria (AMMBAN) sent a petition to President Buhari calling for the suspension of the policy to save 1.4million bank agents from losing their means of livelihood.
On the same day the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) said in a statement that
CBN’s insistence on implementing the policy would lead to a catastrophic collapse of the informal sector of the economy.
The forum said while the CBN might mean well for the country with the policy, it “evidently failed to consider the unintended consequences of implementing it in the way they have planned; consequences that may be extremely grave.”
It said: “If the CBN insists on implementing this wholly unrealistic policy of restricting individual’s cash withdrawal from the banks to N20,000 per day and N100,000 for a week or N500,000 in the case of corporate bodies, it won’t be long before we suffer a catastrophic collapse of the informal sector of the economy. More than anyone, CBN knows that transactions in commodity markets especially in the rural areas are entirely cash based.
“The villager that brings to the market his chickens, beans, onions, goat or cows does not typically have a bank account or internet skills. Cash remains the overwhelming medium of exchange for much of the country particularly in the North. This should surprise no one as bank offices are largely unavailable even for people who are keen and have the skills to use them.
“Even by the CBN’s reports, over 38 million adults in Nigeria do not currently have access to banking services with “women, rural dwellers, Micro-Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Northern Nigeria” being among the most disproportionately excluded. And despite its pious pretensions, it is on record that the CBN under the present management, apparently out of desire to safeguard the interests of the commercial banks, has done much to undermine and stifle the progress of financial inclusion in Nigeria.”