The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Friday in Abuja, expressed doubts about the commitment of banks, in particular, to the success of the new naira policy.
He said some “inefficient banks” are making the policy unnecessarily difficult through “selfishness and greed.”
According to him, challenges associated with selfishness and greed cannot be resolved with more extensions to the naira swap deadline of February 10.
Therefore, he appealed to Nigerians to give him seven days to resolve the cash crunch experienced nationwide.
“Some banks are inefficient and only concerned about themselves…even if a year is added, problems associated with selfishness and greed won’t go away,” Buhari told members of the Progressive Governors Forum who were at the Presidential Villa to seek solutions to the cash crunch which they said was making their constituents impatient.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement he signed on Friday titled, ‘President Buhari asks for 7 days for a major decision on currency redesign’.
Buhari’s comments came barely one week after he approved the Central Bank of Nigeria’s extension of the naira swap deadline from January 31 to February 10, 2023.
After a meeting with the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, in Daura on January 28, Buhari also approved a seven-day grace period from February 10 -17, 2023, within which the public could return old notes to the CBN directly.
However, findings by The PUNCH showed that the scarcity of the new naira notes had worsened as currency racketeers now exploit desperate Nigerians.
In Abuja, the nation’s capital, Lagos, Anambra and other states, black marketers were observed selling the new notes to those who could not endure the long queues at the Automated Teller Machine stands.
The President said he had seen television reports about cash shortages and hardship to local businesses and ordinary people and promised that the balance of seven of the 10-day extension would be used to crack down on whatever stood in the way of successful implementation.
“I will revert to the CBN and the Minting Company. There will be a decision one way or the other in the remaining seven days of the 10-day extension,” the President assured.
The governors told the President that, although they supported his decision to renew the naira, its execution had been botched and their constituents were becoming increasingly upset.
They said as leaders of the government and party in their respective states, they were becoming anxious about a slump in the economy and the series of elections that were coming.
Therefore, they requested the President to prevail on the CBN to allow the concurrent circulation of the new and old notes till the end of 2023.
Buhari revealed that when he considered approving the policy, he demanded an undertaking from the CBN that no new notes would be printed in a foreign country and they, in turn, assured him that there was enough capacity, manpower and equipment to print the currency for local needs.
He said he must go back to find out what was actually happening.
The President also told the governors that being closer to the people, he had heard their cries and will resolve the challenges.