The Pains and Gains of Naira Redesign

The Pains and Gains of Naira Redesign

Sunday, April 2, 2023 8:03 am

President Buhari unveils new redesigned naira notes

New Naira

By Jethro Ibileke

Alfonsus, a very dear friend is a man of few words. But, deep down in him, he is a very intelligent, philosophical who thinks deeply. One cool evening, over 30 years ago, we happened to engage in ‘men’s gisting’ which centred on a man who had a live-in girlfriend. The girl in question perhaps took undue advantage of the man’s timid and mild dispositions and overstayed her welcome, and it appeared he had no idea how he could quietly discharge her.

After some deep thinking, Alfonsus came up with what was to me, a novel idea. He said: “Discharging the girl is the easiest thing to do”. And how do you do that, I asked. He simply said: “Create artificial scarcity”. Artificial scarcity? What do you mean, I asked. His response shocked me.

He said: “Create artificial scarcity in the house, scarcity of things that make living comfortably in an apartment. For instance, find a way to cut off the water supply into the apartment by locking it at the entry point. There will be no water to bathe or do the laundry and dishes in the kitchen. Make drinking water and beverages scarce in the fridge; empty food shelves in the kitchen. That way, life in the apartment becomes most uncomfortable and unbearable for anyone.”

That was Alfonsus’ suggestion for a tactful eviction of a guest who had overstayed her welcome.

After some thoughtful meditation, I agreed with my friend that that might solve the guy’s problem.

Savagery, you say? Perhaps so! Perhaps not!

The slang ‘savage’ carries both positive and negative, sweet and bitter meanings. Going by the British definition of the ‘savage’, it could mean unfair, unpleasant, barbaric, not civilized, brutal, vicious or merciless. But to Americans and the Irish people, savage could mean great, brilliant, excellent or amazing.

The announcement of the redesign of the N200, N500 and N1000 denominations by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele, was not the first time such a thing will happen. The Apex bank did the same during the first coming of General Buhari as Head of State. The difference this time is that the announcement came too suddenly, with the new naira notes in short supply. And worst of all, the short period allowed for exchanging old notes for new ones came with brutal and unpleasant experiences for Nigerians.

According to the federal government, the reason for the naira redesign and withdrawal of a huge sum of the naira in circulation was to check vote buying by politicians in the just concluded general elections and check the rising inflation. Thus, the artificial scarcity of naira notes, both in the vaults of commercial banks and in the hands of the citizens came with some brutal and unpleasant experiences for Nigerians, it brought untold hardships, sorrow and tears to the people.

After mopping up the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes in the public, the federal government’s few available new notes were rationed to minions of Nigerians. People spent hours or even days at the banks to get their monies. Businesses nosedived, and many could not afford transportation to their respective places of work or businesses. Many could no longer feed their families or afford the necessities of life.

Unscrupulous Nigerians who are always very quick at taking undue advantage of bad situations took advantage of the naira scarcity to exploit their fellow citizens. For instance, many points of sale (POS) operators turned themselves to Shylocks, as they charged between 30 and 40 per cent for withdrawal of money. Fuel station attendants and managers also fed fat from naira scarcity; they not only sold fuels at higher costs but also refused to sell fuel without cash, which they, in turn, sold to POS operators.

To this moment, many continue to grapple with the harsh effects of the naira redesign. Even with the Supreme Court decision which pronounced the old naira notes valid till December this year, we still do not have enough money in circulation. Businesses are still down. More people are still hungry.

However, it is pertinent to state that the naira redesign also came with some excellent results. For one thing, more people are now aware of the cashless policy, one of the federal government’s aims. People are gradually getting used to transferring cash for goods purchased. It was also reported that the naira made appreciable gains in exchange for most foreign currencies, compared to late last year.

Another pleasant effect of naira scarcity is that people either learned or were forced to learn how to manage as well as avoid wastage! People no longer spend money carelessly. Many families had to manage whatever they could get. A woman told me that the naira scarcity brought out the ingenuity in her, as she had to improvise to feed her family, especially her kids who before then were used to having so assorted sweetened artificial beverages in their school lunch boxes. Now, they had to make do with her homemade fruits juices and they have been enjoying it since then.

In the heat of the naira scarcity, I also noticed that police checkpoints were drastically reduced. On a normal day, one could count up to 20 checkpoints between Ore and Benin, perhaps due to low patronage from drivers. While travelling on the same route in February, I counted just eight checkpoints. I also noticed that the roads were also empty, as motorists strictly reduced trips to very important ones and people cut down on nonessentials, including avoidable travel.

Indeed, the artificial naira scarcity that followed the naira redesign came with both sweet and bitter tastes, with pains and gains to the people.

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