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CBN Made Critical Mistakes that Doomed its Currency Redesign



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By Stephen Onyeiwu

Nigeria has successfully introduced new banknotes on about 10 occasions since independence in 1960. So why has the latest attempt been so controversial and traumatic? And what measures need to be taken to avoid a future debacle?

CBN Made Critical Mistakes that Doomed its Currency Redesign

Godwin Emefiele

Nigeria’s central bank announced the introduction of new banknotes last November, with the changeover to new notes scheduled for mid-December.

The rollout of the policy disintegrated into chaos, amid mounting anger among ordinary Nigerians.

The rollout of the currency change was disastrous. The fallout included:

  • Severe shortages of the new banknotes.
  • Precipitous declines in business transactions (especially in the informal sector).
  • Long queues at bank premises and overcrowded banking halls
  • Attacks on bank staff and destruction of bank property, including ATMs that failed to dispense cash.

The policy also led to lawsuits by some state governors against the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Government.

I have identified five factors that marred the redesign policy, most of which could have been avoided by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Litany of errors

Cost-benefit: An egregious error committed by the central bank was its violation of the principle of cost-benefit analysis. This is a simple rule in economics that implores policy makers to undertake an initiative only when the benefits exceed the costs. One should ask: What were the benefits of introducing the policy? What were the potential costs at the time of implementation?

The central bank justified the redesign policy as follows: to rein in counterfeiting, promote a cashless economy by limiting the amount of the new banknotes that can be withdrawn, reduce the large quantity of dirty notes circulating in the economy, discourage hoarding, curb crimes like kidnapping and terrorism, and head off illicit financial transactions.

It also saw the policy as a way of addressing the huge amount of currency outside the formal financial sector; 85% of banknotes circulate outside the banking system, largely because of hoarding and illicit financial transactions.

And the cost? If indeed the central bank considered the cost, it obviously underestimated it. How would anyone ignore the large-scale disruptions in the economy and loss of productivity that the policy caused, not to speak of the stress and anxiety inflicted on Nigerians?

Communication: Of all the pitfalls that doomed the currency redesign policy, at least as conceived originally, the lack of effective communication about the overarching goals and modus operandi of the exercise was the most devastating.

Nigeria’s central bank threw a basic element of strategic planning and communication to the winds when it failed woefully to communicate and educate the public about expectations, prior to launching the policy. According to strategic planners, a major policy initiative that is not well communicated, from the top of the strategy planning pyramid to the bottom, is bound to fail.

The central bank should have sought the buy-in of major stakeholders, especially the National Economic Council and the National Assembly. The central bank would have had a better chance of avoiding the ferocious push-back it got.

The central bank finally began rolling out a communication plan by late December 2022. But this was too little too late. By then Nigerians had already characterised the policy as decidedly punitive. The narrative that had gained ground was that the change was designed to curtail the ability of politicians to buy votes during the 2023 elections.

This inevitably raised the question of why millions of Nigerians should suffer because of politicians?

The central bank’s mishandling of communication was also manifested in the fact that it failed to issue policy guidelines to commercial banks and the public days after the Supreme Court nullified the bank’s earlier deadline. This has exacerbated the confusion associated with the policy, as merchants and businesses continue to reject the old notes, despite the court’s rulings.

Inappropriate timeframe: The timeframe for implementation was unrealistic and impracticable. By setting a very short timeframe for phasing out the old notes, the Central Bank of Nigeria appeared to have adopted textbook assumptions about how the Nigerian banking system works.

Anyone who has been to a typical commercial bank in Nigeria would know it would have been impossible for the banks to undertake the monumental task of collecting old notes and dispensing the new ones within the one-and-a-half month window originally allowed by the central bank. Overcrowding, chaos, excruciatingly slow service and unnecessary bureaucratic red tape are quite common during normal banking hours. It is not uncommon to observe people with “connection” circumvent queues and obtain preferential access to bank staff. Although Nigerian banks pride themselves as being digitised, a lot of paper-pushing still goes on within the banking system.

The central bank should have considered this fact and allowed for a longer timeframe for implementation.

There was also no persuasive rationale for the rushed implementation of the policy. Neither was the central bank able to explain why the old and new notes could not coexist, a measure the Supreme Court has now mandated the bank to implement.

Conflicting goals and lack of prioritisation: Policy targeting is a major precondition for success. The focus on one unambiguous objective in past redesign policies enabled the central bank to conduct a seamless and less dramatic exercise.

The current redesign policy had too many goals, and it was unclear which one was the target goal.

Identifying target goals enables policy makers to select appropriate instruments for achieving those goals. But when there are too many goals, the danger is that an instrument designed for one goal may undermine another goal.

For instance, the goal of reining in money laundering and illicit financial transactions meant that the Central Bank of Nigeria needed to deliberately restrict access to the new banknotes. But this inflicted unintended hardships on innocent Nigerians who simply wanted to access their hard-earned money.

The central bank should have focused on one major goal. If the goal was to phase out old notes, as the bank is statutorily mandated to do, then the old and new notes could have circulated alongside each other until the old notes were phased out.

A casual announcement that new notes would be circulating from a given date would have been all that was needed. People would not have panicked and rushed to the banks to withdraw money.

Economic headwinds: It is very difficult to implement a major policy initiative that negatively affects people during a period of macroeconomic instability. The central bank policy came at a bad time. Nigeria’s economy is in a shambles, with a 22% inflation rate, 33% unemployment rate – 43% among young Nigerians – and a growth rate of 3%.

These economic challenges have been compounded by a 17.5% interest rate, steep declines in the value of the Naira, and widespread poverty.

Nigerians’ tolerance for economic shocks was already at its limit when the redesign policy was launched. The policy and the confusion that accompanied it tipped them over the edge.

The challenge of credibility

The central bank needs to reestablish its credibility as the “people’s bank,” to reverse a self-inflicted image of an organisation that’s partisan.

The bank has a fiduciary responsibility of catering to the interests of its main “shareholder,” the Nigerian people. But the perception is that the bank lacks independence. To effectively discharge its statutory duties, the Central Bank of Nigeria should initiate a process of re-asserting its independence and regaining the people’s trust and confidence.

Stephen Onyeiwu is professor of Economics & Business, Allegheny College

This article is republished from The Conversation  Read the original article.


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CBN Vows to Promote Adoption of e-Naira



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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has taken the sensitisation drive of e-Naira to women during the Law Ladies Day programme at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Yaba Lagos.

The move according to the apex bank, is to further promote the adoption of e-Naira into the country’s Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), and to sensitise women, students, law students and other Nigerians who gathered for the 2023 Law Ladies Day programme.

In line with the Law Ladies Day programme themed: ‘Defying Stereotypes: Celebrating the Different Shades of Femininity’, CBN used the occasion to reach out to students and others within the university campus to sensitise them on the benefits and importance of e-Naira transactions and why they should use the channel.

Mary Fasheitan, the Special Adviser Payment Systems to the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, who took women through the importance of e-Naira, advantages and opportunities the digital currency offers to the financial community and women, stated that it was high time women embraced e-Naira  for transactions.

According to her, e-Naira offers financial freedom and women inclusivity where other financial instruments do not provide and offers fast transaction time, cross board payment option and gives women financial inclusion.

She said: “e-Naira provides a unique form of money denominated in Naira. e-Naira serves as both a medium of exchange and a store of value, offering better payment prospects in retail transactions when compared to cash payments. It has an exclusive operational structure that is both remarkable and nothing like other forms of central bank money.”

She observed that the whole world was going digital, hence the CBN was responding appropriately to the innovation by introducing a lot of cashless policies, of which e-Naira is one, noting that the apex bank is the first to introduce e-Naira in Africa and only the second in the world.

Fasheitan encouraged female law students to embrace e-Naira and transact with it because it is safe, secure and fully digitalised. “You have nothing to be afraid of because it is one of the most secured channels from the apex bank for transactions,” she assured.

Also speaking at the event, the Managing Partner of Hilton Top Solicitors, Deborah Enyone Oni, said e-Naira remained a great innovation of CBN that should be lauded.

According to her, “e-Naira offers various advantages and opportunities to its users. Its block chain technology feature also enables users to make cross border transactions easily.”

She reiterated that the e-Naira will foster women financial and economic empowerment. Enyone Oni added: “We have partnered with the CBN on the e-Naira and one of our main focuses is to leverage the opportunity to empower women by sensitising them on the advantages of the e-Naira in light of digitalisation.”

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Shareholders Applaud Fidelity Bank for Exceptional Performance in 2022 FY



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Shareholders of leading financial institution, Fidelity Bank Plc, have commended the board and management of the bank for delivering an exceptional performance in FY 2022.

This was made known at the bank’s 35th Annual General Meeting (AGM) held virtually on Tuesday, May 23, 2023.

Speaking at the AGM, the Chairman Emeritus of the Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Sir Sunny Nwosu applauded the bank’s management for “listening to shareholders and declaring an interim dividend”.

On his own part, National Chairman of The Progressive Shareholders Association Mr. Okezie Boniface lauded the bank for coming to customers’ aid during the period of the Naira redesign policy, explaining that the bank’s branches and Automated Teller Machines (ATM) always provided customers with Naira notes. He also commended the bank’s leadership for prioritizing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives across its focus areas of youth empowerment, health and social welfare, education and environmental conservation and sustainability.

According to the bank’s 2022 annual report uploaded on its website and distributed to shareholders, the bank grew by double digits along all the major indicators. Customer deposits increased by 27.4% from N2.0 trillion in 2021FY to N2.6 trillion. Net Loans and Advances rose by 27.6% from N1.7 trillion in 2021FY to N2.1 trillion in 2022 FY. Total Assets grew by 21.6% from N3.3 trillion in 2021 FY to N4.0 trillion in the period under review.

Giving his remarks at the meeting, Mr. Mustafa Chike-Obi, Chairman, Board of Directors, Fidelity Bank Plc said, “When we set the audacious target of attaining Tier 1 status a few years ago, we did not expect a smooth ride due to the endemic challenges in our operating environment.

However, we were able to weather the storm because our business is built on a foundation of good corporate governance, effective risk management and shareholders’ value enhancement.

In response to a shareholder’s question on the deployment of capital raised during the recent private placement exercise, Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe said, “The bank is growing in leaps and bounds and the capital would enhance our capacity to accommodate the business volumes coming our way.

This is in addition to improving our technology especially in the light of the Cashless drive and creating more secured platforms that can handle the challenges posed by cybercrime.

Several resolutions were considered at the AGM including the declaration of a final dividend of 40kobo, re-election of non-executive directors -Mrs. Amaka Onwughalu and Chief Nelson Nweke, election of an Executive Director -Mrs Pamela Shodipo; amongst others.

Fidelity Bank is a full-fledged customer commercial bank operating in Nigeria with over 8million customers serviced across its 250 business offices and digital banking channels.

The bank was recognized as the Best Payment Solution Provider Nigeria 2023 and Best SME Bank Nigeria 2022 by the Global Banking and Finance Awards.

The bank has also won awards for the “Fastest Growing Bank” and “MSME & Entrepreneurship Financing Bank of the Year” at the 2021 BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards.

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CBN Revokes Licences of 132 Microfinance Banks, Others



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Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has revoked the operating licences of 132 microfinance banks, four primary mortgage banks, and three finance companies in the country.

CBN Revokes Licences of 132 Microfinance Banks, Others

The revocation exercise was disclosed in the official gazette of the Federal Government published on the website of the CBN on Tuesday.

According to the gazette, the licences of the financial institutions were revoked because they ceased to carry on in Nigeria, the type of business for which their licences were issued for a continuous period of six months.

They were also alleged to have “failed to fulfil or comply with the conditions subject to which their licences were granted; or failed to comply with the obligations imposed upon them by the Central Bank of Nigeria in accordance with the provisions of Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) 2020, Act No. 5.”

The four primary mortgage banks whose licences were revoked are Resort Savings & Loans, Safetrust Mortgage Bank, Adamawa Savings & Loans and Kogi Savings & Loans.

The finance companies whose licences were revoked include HHL Invest & Trust Limited, TFS Finance Limited and Treasures & Trust Limited.

Some of the microfinance banks listed include Bluewhales Microfinance Bank, Igangan Microfinance Bank, Mainsail Microfinance Bank, Everest Microfinance Bank, Merit Microfinance Bank, Musharaka Microfinance Bank, Nopov Microfinance Bank, among others.

The gazette showed that Godwin Emefiele, governor, CBN revoked the licences in the exercise of the powers conferred on the Central Bank of Nigeria under Section 12 of BOFIA 2020, Act No. 5.







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