As the naira scarcity lingers with its attendant effect on Nigerians, financial experts have warned that the country may slip into a cash-induced recession.
For many Nigerians, the currency scarcity hardship has become a nightmare without an end.
Accessing cash is now a miracle everyone desires. Some commercial banks’ Automated Teller Machines have turned into graveyards due to the non-availability of money, a situation some Point of Sales agents have taken to their advantage by charging outrageous fees.
February 10 was earmarked as a deadline by the Central Bank of Nigeria to phase out the old Naira notes. However, the Supreme Court, in an ex parte order, stopped the CBN from implementing the deadline pending a substantive hearing on Wednesday.
The development compounded the currency crisis for many Nigerians as some traders are in limbo on whether to accept or reject the old naira notes.
The Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, continues to run from pillar to post looking for a solution, the crisis lingers.
On Monday, Emefiele was reported to have met with President Muhammadu Buhari for the third time since the currency crisis started.
Despite assurance from the CBN and Buhari on the availability of the new Naira notes, the effect of its scarcity bites harder, with rural dwellers resorting to trade by barter and the currency of neighbouring countries for transactions.
Network failure and unsuccessful transactions have marred alternative banking platforms, especially the USSD.
On Monday, a Financial Inclusion/Wealth Management expert, Mr Idakolo Gbolade disclosed that the country risks a real cash-induced recession because its economy mainly depends on cash.
“The risk of a cash-induced recession is real because our economy is still largely cash-based and the cost of food items being reduced due to low patronage and even in many occasions no patronage.
“Nigerians spend long hours in the queue in the banks and ATMs. Many hours that should have been used for productive ventures to oil the economy, billions are being lost daily as the cash crunch bites harder.
“The amount of cash in circulation presently cannot aid an effective business cycle in the economy. If these pressures continue, we could witness a cash drought aided by the CBN. The consequences of allowing these cash shortages to continue are dire for the economy, and with inflation already high, the recession is imminent.
“I want Nigerians to be proactive and embrace alternatives to cash since the government is trying to fast-track cashless policies without a solid network backbone to aid seamless banking.
“We should also put pressure on the government to reduce the hardship this policy is causing the ordinary Nigerians by ensuring we vote for the right candidate that can lessen these burdens on the people”, he stated.
Also, a Professor of Management and Accounting at Lead City University, Ibadan, Godwin Oyedokun said the currency crisis is a self-inflicted plague.
He stated that commercial banks’ and saboteurs’ attitude had succeeded in making the CBN’s Naira redesign cumbersome.
“The issue of scarcity of Naira is now getting beyond any theory because I want to believe that the problem is a self-inflicted plague.
“POS making outrageous profits from charges showed that the policy has created more problems for Nigerians.
“Solve the problem of scarcity of cash, every other thing will fall in place, but with the attitude of those in authority, mainly commercial banks, they have succeeded in making a mockery of the policy.
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“The CBN is advised to wake up to its responsibility. I had said it before when the CBN said it had dispensed enough money to banks, it should make public the list of the banks and amount disbursed.
“Compel the banks also to account for the money to avoid hoarding.
“I know when the court resumes hearing, it would consider the issue of jurisdiction and rule on it before a substantive case would commence.
“Let’s see how it will pan out with the Supreme Court because legal luminaries have divergent views,” he added.
Also speaking, Malachy Ugwumadu, a human rights lawyer and past national president of the Committee for Defense of Human Rights, CDHR, disclosed that while Nigerians await a Supreme Court ruling on Naira redesign, the new and old naira notes can continue to exist.
Ugwumadu made this disclosure during an Arise Television interview on Monday.
“With the Supreme Court ruling, the old and the new notes can continue to exist as legal tender in Nigeria pending the determination of the matter.
“It would be contemptuous if the CBN and the Federal government give further directives contrary to the existing ex parte order”, he stated.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, CPPE, Dr Muda Yusuf, urged the CBN to comply with the Supreme Court’s order.
“The restraining order by the Supreme Court on this matter is unambiguous. What I expect is for the CBN to comply with this order. Failure to do so could amount to contempt of court. If the order had been obeyed, the currency crisis would have eased considerably”, he stated.
Earlier, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, warned that the nationwide cash crunch could result in a CBN-induced recession.
In all this dilemma, Nigerians have remained resilient, even amidst suffering, earnestly seeking solutions from the Federal Government.