CBN’s cashless policy: Rich gains, fresh challenges

By Editor on 25/09/2019

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One thing that cannot be taken away from Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is the fact that he is neither a novice nor a journey man just strolling past, but a well-cooked expert with hands-on experience in his environment. What this means is that whatever he decides to do in that office is not for lack of the requisite experience or knowledge. Such a man can hardly be deceived or harangued into taking hasty actions, which he doesn’t believe in.

So, the recent uproar about the cashless policy that he rolled out a few days ago may be totally misplaced if it is all about absolutes rather than part of the debates. Of course absolutes do not survive in a thriving public space as debates. It ought not. Naturally, just like in the academia, the financial sector is also an area with scant acceptance of absolutes, as there are as many views on issues as those who propound them.

It is said that only intellectuals disagree on virtually everything, but remain friends. This is also a truism in the financial sector. There must be debates and disagreements. But even at that, there must also be a reservation for the person who has a bird’s-eye view of the entire scenario. In the instant case that reservation is the exclusive preserve of the CBN governor. It is his to collate all the viewpoints and come to an aggregate while taking his decision. He must do so as boldly and forthrightly as possible.

For, if divergent views scare him, he will never take any decision at all because there must always be those who disagree with him, either genuinely or for different negative reasons, including intimidating him into failure.

It is also evident that some of the commentators on the issue did not have the entire story or grasped its full import. That was why during the debate in the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives, all manner of comments came up some bothering on the manifestly funny, outlandish and the comical, as some members tried to shoot the idea down.

For instance a particular commentator, who described the policy as nothing short of armed robbery, wondered how a farmer with just N300,000 capital, would have N15,000 deducted from his money, just for trying to deposit it into the banks, ending by saying that such a depositor, may eventually be forced into penury after stripping him off his entire money in the process.

However, it is gladdening to note that the CBN boss, during his report on last week’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), meeting, came out to dismiss such a contention and ended up disabusing the minds of many people, when he clearly explained that the charges for which many people have become so afraid, would be made on the extras above the N500,000 deposits and withdrawals.

Since then, much of the criticisms, appear to have waned and it looks as if Nigerians are ready to run with the new policy. Not that the idea is totally new. In the first place many bank customers appear to have since embraced it. Most transactions even far below the N500,000 ceiling are currently being done electronically even from those least expected to know much about it. Transfers as low as N1,000 are now done through individual phones of customers, while the big cash users make their transfers through the banks, which is what the policy is all about.

Those who still carry huge cash around, are the ones the policy is meant for and at this stage, it is a matter of choice. Even the illiterates among them cannot give that as an excuse, because they know there are various windows to escape being entrapped. In the first place, many banks have established their branches right inside markets, especially those with huge cash flows while many of them have account officers that deal directly with all manner of customers in a symbiotic way that ensures nobody loses in the entire process.

Therefore, it is expected that nobody would have a problem dealing with the policy and it would be a win-win situation for everybody, except those who insist on sticking to the old ways, who must then be ready to bear the brunt of their stubbornness. Thus, the hullaballoo, may actually be misplaced.

However, the snag, appears to have a completely different hue. A very senior police officer – a retired police commissioner, gave a totally revealing, but shocking perspective to the entire story in the course of the debate. He was emphatic that the cashless policy, which he acknowledged has been on for some years now, was actually responsible for the high level of kidnapping currently ravaging the country.

He claimed that since the kidnappers could no longer stop passengers and motorists, especially businessmen carrying big cash on the road and rob them, neither could they break into their homes for the same purpose, they have now taken to kidnapping, to collect the money as ransom, which is paying off in most cases, even more than the era before its introduction.

This has totally taken the issue outside the turf of the CBN and its managers into a completely different department. Yes, the apex bank has done its own part in ensuring that huge cash are no longer moved on the road or stored in homes, which in a way, is, apart from following the global trend is also part of the process of curing a major, but peculiar disease in the country – corruption.

Of course, before now, part of the Nigerian reality is the movement of the usual Ghana Must Go bags filled with raw cash amongst politicians and other high-network individuals for payment either for bribery or some less than noble activities, which have caused a lot of dislocations in the socio-political and economic climate in the country. Now, this is no longer the case. If they insist on doing so, they must also pay a heavy price for it.

Otherwise, the electronic system of moving money no longer encourages movements of such slush funds. Rather, it becomes an avenue for proper monitoring and accountability of the entire financial process that puts everybody inside one basket and ensuring that bank transactions are no longer like winking in darkness.

But as it is true in all human activities that the solution to one problem throws up another, the ball has been played into another part of the field. It is now in the territory of security agencies. They must now find a way of solving the security challenges so that the cashless policy, laudable as it is does not pose greater problems.

In the end, not only must the rich gains of this policy be harvested, the concomitant sparks that fly off the iron while welding the structure into place, must be prevented from striking and blinding the eyes or causing other bodily injuries. That is the new challenge indeed.




Posted on September, 25 2019

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